February's Virgén de la Candelaria is said to be one of the most important cultural events in South America, along with Brazil's Carnaval. And it's held in the continent's "folklore capital"--Puno!
While the Catholic festival (melded with Andean highland traditions) lasts for 18 days, we made it only for one weekend to see the dance competition.
More than 70 dance groups (including live bands) competed in the event held in Puno's stadium. Dancers and musicians traveled from Lima, Cuzco and even Bolivia to take part in the festivities.
The most famous of the dances, the "Diablada," is fabled to have originated with local miners, who, stuck at the bottom of a mine, entrusted their lives to the Virgén.
But the Candelaria is not an experience to write about. You need to see the costumes and hear the music to get even a taste of what this annual festival in Puno is all about.
Thus, here's my amateur filmmaker attempt to show you the dance competition, only one weekend in the two-and-a-half-week celebration: