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Three Weeks in Peru

Author: Mike6725
Email: fenn6725@cox.net
Date of Trip: February 2006



After a couple of hours on the island we started down the 400-plus steps to the boat landing. We met several locals on the way up, carrying various loads on their backs.We sawtwo carrying barrels of chickens in preparation for a fiesta the following Sunday. We were pleased that they were stopping to rest frequently and seemed to be breathing heavily. We were still at about 13,000 feet and it doesn't take much effort to get winded.

We finally reached the lower gate (used as a good perch for another young man intent on his knitting) and embarked again for a three hour ride back to Puno. Luckily the wind had dropped and we had a calm ride all the way.

We returned to Puno on one of the more important days of the two-week Candlemas celebration. On Saturday a dance competition is held in the city stadium, and then on Sunday all of the dance groups have a parade through the city. We were offered the opportunity to sit in the stadium all day, but decided it would be better to visit Sillustani and then see the parade the next day.

Sillustani

The Colla people who once dominated the Lake Titicaca area (and later became the southeastern arm of the Incas) buried their nobility in funerary towers.

These towers often contained an entire family. From the stonework it appears that some Incas followed the tradition after they gained power.

This was our first look at Inca stone work, at the precise way they fit the blocks together. We were impressed, but little did we know what we would see later in the Inca cities!

We enjoyed the ride around the countryside, but we were still a bit tired after our two-day island adventure.

Back in Puno we found the dance competition in the stadium was sell under way. After each group competed they marched through town, and happened to pass our hotel.

It was pretty obvious that they had been working at their dance, and that some of the costumes were pretty hot. They were still enjoying themselves and responding to the crowds of spectators. We reciprocated.

Later we walked around town to watch them setting up bleachers for the parade. The town was full of people, and some were staking our their locations for the next day. The main plaza was to be the focus of the presentation of awards (the opportunity for the politicos to get their time in the spotlight) and there were lots of people hanging around looking as if they had nothing better to do (like us!).

Image of Cathedral is copyright Carlos Sala/www.Peru.info.

The Big Parade!

We had heard varying times for the parade to start, from 7 AM to 10 AM. As it turned out, the official start time was somewhere around nine. At least that is when the music started in the plaza, which was only two or three blocks from our hotel. We had arranged with our tour guide to get us seats along the parade route, so we were in place by ten.

We probably missed the first hour of the parade, but no big deal. There were 66 dance groups, each with its own band and 100 to 200 dancers. The parade went on and on.

It appears there are about 50 traditional categories of costume, ranging from devil dancers to gorillas. Most of the dance groups would have several of the costume categories represented. We lasted until about1 PM, when our butts could no longer tolerate the seats. We decided to head back to the hotel, have some lunch somewhere, and watch some more later. That turned out to be a little more difficult than expected. Crossing the parade route wasn't particularly difficult as people wandered through the dance groups at will, often providing glasses of beer to the dancers. The hard part was getting through the crowns of spectators. At one point we had to walk down the parade route about a block to exit to the other side. We found a gap between dance groups and followed along. My wife just couldn't resist the urge to dance (she watches way too much of the Ellen DeGeneres show). Suddenly a large block of spectators started cheering her on!

All of the groups were from the Puno area, so the crowds contained a lot of relatives and friends. The dancers were of all ages, from small children to people considerable older than we are. The dance groups represent schools, clubs and even an extremely large group (250 or more) called the "Friends of the PNP" (Policia Nacional de Peru).

Sixty-six dance groups, with as many bands, and they all played the same music. The dance steps were pretty much the same also, except when a group would cut loose with something fancy. It was truly one of those memorable experiences.



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