Between July 15 and 18 of every year, thousands of devotees and visitors gather to celebrate the Virgin of Carmen Feast. This festivity takes place every year in the colonial town of Paucartambo, 110 km from the city of Cusco. It is a typical and beautiful city of adobe and tile. The festival of the Virgin of Carmen in Paucartambo Cusco, is a celebration that brings together many parishioners and visitors from all over the world leading the town and its 12 groups of dancers that radiate faith, charm, color and joy. Dances that are offered to "Mamacha Carmen" sacrifice of the faithful who perform with love and devotion in exchange for her blessing and protection.The feast of the Virgin of Carmen in Paucartambo was declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage by the National Institute of Culture on April 11, 2006. The sacred image of the also known "Patroness of the Mestizos", is located in the district of Paucartambo 3 017 m.a.s.l To get to the town, you must travel four hours by bus from the city of Cusco. Paucartambo is considered as the folkloric capital of this region, for its magnificent history and miscegenation. Its countless dances, recognized nationally, accompany the tour of the Virgin of Carmen. Among them are Saqra, Chuncho, Contradanza, Tarpuy, Qollacha, Qapac negro, Panaderos, Auqa Chileno, Los huaca huaca, among others. In addition, its dancers dance for three days in a row as a tribute to the Virgin, in search of receiving blessings and protection.
It is believed that the origins of the Virgin of Carmen occurred in the seventeenth century, when the inhabitants of the highlands came to the province of Paucartambo with their herds of llamas to barter with the settlers, it is in one of their many trips that migrants and natives of this district observed the face of a virgin in one of the earthen vessels. From that appearance the settlers carved an image and built a temple to venerate it. The sculpture of the Virgin is very important for the inhabitants of Paucartambo, according to the traditions, it is believed that the colors of their cheeks denote different meanings. If they are pink, it will be a good sign for the villagers but if they are pale in color, bad times are predicted for the town. The Virgin of Carmen de Paucartambo was recognized as the "Patron of folk dances" in 1972 and has been decorated by the Supreme Pontiff Juan Pablo II in 1985.
Program of Paucartambo Feast:
It is celebrated during 5 days, starting on July 15 and finishing at July 19 of every year. Now we will show you the activities done day per day.You can not miss the opportunity to discover the colorful and devotion feast of the Virgin of Carmen.
July 15 :
- The party starts with a fireworks show and the sound of bells. Then a comparsa (group of musicians) enters and the night becomes an accomplice to make a bonfire. Then a group of villagers staged the purgatory through acrobatic jumps, races and different pranks. At 11:00 p.m. the band of musicians plays a serenade to the Virgin until the next day.
- It is the central day of this majestic festival. It starts at 5:00 a.m. with a mass from Aurora, then at 10:00 a.m. the festival mass is given where they interpret the songs of the Qollas and the Qhapac negro (Ancient cultures of Paucartambo). To end this sacred day in the streets you can hear comparsas, dances and songs.
July 17th :
- Day of the great procession of the Virgin of Carmen and begins at 3:00 p.m. the wonderful and unique of this festivity is the unfolding of the dancers dressed in bright colors and masks, they climb to the ceilings and balconies making movement that follow the musical figure of the band. There are also the saqras who are in charge of waiting for the "Patron of the mestizos". This day is considered the blessing and the parade goes to the cemetery, to show their gratitude to the deceased dancers.
July 18 :
- Date in which the virgin is taken to the temple and the children wait to be blessed by the priest, performing the traditional "ocarikuy". At 4:00 pm. The celebration ends with the blessing of the priest to the entire population.
July 19 :
- It is the last day of jubilation. From 11:00 a.m. the image is placed on its altar and the change of clothes of the sacred sculpture begins, a very special ceremony for the inhabitants. They say goodbye praying and accompanying until the last moment to the Virgin of Carmen.
What to see and do in Paucartambo?
Paucartambo is not only the province and capital of folklore Cusco, and the famous festival of the Virgin of Carmen, its attractions are varied. National and foreign tourists can enjoy a touristic circuit and know its natural landscapes and pre-Inca, Inca and colonial remains. Let´s see some of Paucartambo atractions:
- Three Crosses of Golden: It is a natural balcony of Akhanaku, entrance control to the National Park of Manu, about 35 kilometers from Paucartambo, on the 3,739 masl, here you can see the imposing sunrise of the Sun, unique in the world, on a sea of clouds. All a natural spectacle.
- The Carlos III bridge: The city of Paucartambo, has the imposing colonial bridge of lime and ridge "Carlos III", architectural jewel built on the river Mapacho by order of King Carlos III of Spain in 1775, this hard work was delayed in building about five years.
- The temple of Paucartambo: The Virgen del Rosario colonial temple is the one that houses the Virgin of Carmen, it shows a beauty of the time, a tower attached to the nave, an imposing stone doorway with a semicircular arch flanked by two pilasters that hold an open chapel with balusters.
- Chulpas of Ninamarca: The Chulpas of pre-Inca architecture are at the edge of the Cusco-Paucartambo road, above 3,600 meters above sea level, these are circular, built with irregular polyhedrons with clay mortar, with cantilevered roofs like eaves. In the area there are about 17 chullpas from 2.50 to one meter in height.
- Archaeological complex of Watoqto: Monument of Inca architecture 100 kilometers from the Cusco-Paucartambo route, is about 2,930 meters above sea level, accessed by a colossal door, in the place you can see structures of a large rectangular temple with trapezoidal niches .
- Temple of Caicay: It is a beautiful colonial precinct and a bell tower that is only 31 kilometers from the city of Cusco, in the interior they highlight beautiful works of art, such as the altar altarpieces, imagery, canvases of the Cusco school and others that will leave the audience dazzled .
- The Petroglyphs of Kosñipata: Kosñipata is a district of Paucartambo, in it vestiges of the Inca Trail are located with their respective canals, here there are petroglyphs that represent human figures, animals and unknown signs, these are scattered in a large area. Adventure tourists usually enjoy these representations.