La Virgen de Chavin

One late evening at the Galaxia hotel (our first hotel in Huaraz before B&B My House and La Casa de Zarela) after a rich supper, Andy passes by. We dress up and together we walk to playgrounds 200m away from the hotel. The rumor that was audible from the hotel has turned into the powerful and rythmed sounds of a music band with brass wind and percussion. On a basketball court, people are dancing, only illuminated by streetlights. On the lawn, next to the basketball court, a 10m high structure made of thin wooden sticks is standing. We join three friends of Andy who soon hand to us a bottle filled with warm, sweet, alcoholic drink. It is called calentito and is made of Pisco, honey, dates and different spices. You fill a shot glass of it and pass the bottle to the person next to you who will wait until you have emptied your glass to help him- or herself. Waiters bustle about, bringing filled bottles to people and taking away empty ones. They all are celebrating La Virgen de Chavin, the patron saint of a city located 80km away bird’s-eye on the other side of the Cordillera Blanca. At 12pm, four men start running and shouting among dancers and groups of people. Above their head they carry boxes looking like accordions but which belch flames and sparkles instead of music notes. After the vesuvius-accordions have died out, the pyrotechnists move to the curious structure and set fire to wicks hanging down below it, kicking off 20min long fireworks. Stage by stage, the structure bursts into flames, with explosions, fire wheels, rockets, vesuvius, … the band keeping on playing in the background like in a light show.

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