The biggest part of the Festival de la Candelaria is over. Today and yesterday were the biggest and most important days. Yesterday was the procession of the Virgin de La Candelaria and there were dances in the stadium with an entrance fee of about $10. Today, there was a free parade with all the dancers throughout the Plaza de Armas and more. As it was our day off, some of us went down to see the costumes and dances. The festival is cultural and interesting and fun. The problem is the amount of beer that is consumed during this time along with cheating spouses, children left alone, hundreds of dollars blown and more.
Here are a few facts about the festival....
* Last year this festival generated $7 million in revenue
* There are over 30,000 people participating in the dances
* The costumes are rented and the daily prices start at $100 (to put this price in perspective, an average daily wage might be about $15)
* Each costume typically is used for at least 2 days
* There are fees to enter into the parade
* The government distributed 100,000 condoms to homosexuals and prostitutes to prevent the spread of AIDS
* The casual sex occurences during this festival are a well known fact around the counrty
Having a beer in your hand or pocket while performing is normal. There are also people walking with the dancers and their job is to give them a beer while stopped.
Cusquena is a brand of beer and has advertising everywhere.
These gals were my favorite. They wear up to 30 skirts and swish them around until the top skirt gets stuck on their head. They were colorful and fun.
We have been told the girls skirts get shorter and shorter every year.
This is beer on the street. The tradition is that you drink your beer but leave a little at the bottom of the cup or bottle and spill that bit left on the ground to give beer to La Pachamama, mother earth.
The dancers drink during the parade.
These belts are creepy and I'm not sure what they symbolize. Everyone in the blue outfits like this are from Huascar, one of Franci and my locations.
I've heard band music all over the city and in my house for over a week at all hours, literally, and it is sure to continue for another week or so.
This cute little girl is wearing typical Andian clothing and stopped to pose for me!
This guy is frequently at this corner playing his mini guitar with a tiny plastic spoon as a pick.
Sitting around drinking like this is normal for all times of the year but is much more common to see during the festival.
These red crates are filled with 12 beers each.
A colorful diablo mask.
A young man in his diablito costume. The masks are very tall and heavy, they are carried more often than they are worn.
More drinking with a man passed out in his chair.
You can get 4 beers for 10 soles (about $3.60)
320,000 crates of beer were sold in 2010, at 12 beers per crates, that's 3.84 million beers consumed in a matter of about 2 weeks.
Here is a drunk man being lead out of the crowded street by the police.
The city of Puno will have many lives shattered over the next few days. Women will find their husbands with other women, people will get infected with AIDS, children will be left without clothes for school or even food because their parents just spent all their money on the festival. Our hope is not to see lives shattered, but to see people hit rock bottom and realize this is no way to live life. Our hope is to be there with compassion and mercy to show them that there is a better way to live, it involves taking a different path but is worth the change in direction.