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Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria

Celebrated in Bolivia, Peru, Uruguay, Chile and Venezuela


Copacabana Cathedral Altar

Copacabana Cathedral Altar


The festival of the Virgen de la Candelaria, in many images, is celebrated on February 2 in various Hispanic Catholic countries, including Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Venezuela and Uruguay.

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The celebrations in Peru and Bolivia are centered around Lake Titicaca, in Puno and the small village of Copacabana. In Bolivia, the Virgen is also known as the Dark Virgin of the Lake, and the Patroness Of Bolivia. She is revered for a series of miracles, recounted in Nuestra Señora de Copacabana and has another festival on August 5. Normally, Copacabana is a quiet, rural village with fishing and agriculture the mainstays. However, the week before and the day of the fiesta, the village changes.

There are parades, colorful costumes, music and a lot of drinking and celebrating. New vehicles are brought in from all over Bolivia to be blessed with beer. People gather for days ahead to pray and to celebrate in a mixture of Catholic and native religions. Bolivian celebrants believe the Virgen prefers to stay inside the Basilica erected in her honor. When taken outside, there is a risk of storm or other calamity.

For photos of the area, click on Bolivia, and Hotel Gloria, Copacabana for a description and map of the city.

In Peru, Puno is known as the Folkloric Capital of Peru and lives up to this reputation in grand manor during this fiesta which lasts for days, as this schedule shows. The rites are centered around the observance of February second, and then a week later with the famed dances. Peruvian celebrants are not hesitant to take their statue of the Virgen around the streets of Puno in a staged procession.

The mixing of Christian and pagan is very evident here. Mamacha Candelaria, Mamita Canticha, and MamáCandi, are all names for the Virgen of Candelaria, the patron saint of Puno. She is also associated with Lake Titicaca as the birth of the Inca empire, with the cult of the earth, Pachamama. Men, women and children dance in her honor, to show their devotion and their thanks for her blessings. The celebration continues as a prelude to Carnival, as described in Máximo Esplendor Festivo.

The festival has two main phases. The first is described in El Día Principal Y Sus Ritos in which a procession carries the statue of the Virgen around the city, and dancers in lavish costumes from all walks of life join the parade. The dancers, by group, pause in front of the cathedral to be blessed with holy water, after which they are cooled with water thrown from nearby houses.

The second phase occurs on the Sunday after February second, called the Octava. On this day, El Segundo Gran Día : La Octava, costumed groups from the neighborhoods of Puno dance day and night in religious fervor and competitive spirit.

Please read the next page for celebrations in other countries.

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