On the 3rd weekend in July many towns and villages in the Peruvian state of Cusco celebrate the Festival de las Virgenes de Carmen. I had the good fortune to observe the festival this year in the village of Pisac, near the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The heart of the festival was a procession that began at the church and encircled the village. Hundreds of villagers participated, at times there seemed to be more participants than observers.
Apparently, preparation for the festival starts a year in advance. The various neighborhoods in the village form "teams". Each team sponsors a specific group of participants. The groups consist of 10-20 people all of whom wear indentical costumes and march (or dance) in the procession. Each team selects one member to fill the roll of Majordomo. The Majordomo has many responsibilities including paying for and making the costumes for her group as well as hosting a 3 day feast/openhouse the weekend of the festival. As you can see in the pictures the costumes are extremely elaborate and beautiful. I had assumed they were recycled from year to year but instead they are made fresh. This clearly entails quite an expense on the part of the Majordomo. Supposedly, it costs the family of the Majordomo an entire year's earnings. However, it is believed that every $ spent will be returned to them in the form of good luck!
I was for some reason expecting the procession to involve "real virgins" a la Miss Peanut Festival or Miss Artichoke Festival in the USA. Rather, the virgins were inanimate "dolls", carried on a platform on the shoulders of participants. Pisac had two virgins.
The Cuckoos: This group dressed to resemble the cuckoo bird make bird sounds...they must not utter human words while in costume.
The Demons: Many groups represented various sorts of demons. They try to get close to the Virgins but are repelled by other groups. Demons and Virgins must never mix!
The Spaniards: Mocking the Conquistadores.
Blue Eyes: Not sure what this group represents but I found their blue eyes and pink skin interesting.
Hats: Throughout Peru the native tribes distinguish themselves from each other via their hats. These are particularly lovely.
The Feast: A majordomo sets-up for the 3 day feast.