Archive for April, 2012
When: The festival lasts about 9 days, it begins this year on May 1st, but the main day is always May 3rd
Where: Both the Alasitas Fair and the Festivity of the Bellavista Cross will take place in the neighborhood of Bellavista (ask for Barrio Bellavista), which is close to Puno’s city center and thus within walking distance from the train station and most hotels. Stalls will be set up along Avenida Floral, up to the height of La Paccha (Zampoña)
This May, more than a thousand eight hundred artisans and vendors will be participating in the Alasitas Fair, an Aymara tradition dedicated to the fulfillment of dreams and practiced in the buying and selling of miniatures. Common items include homes, vehicles, money, construction materials, grocery stores, diplomas and licenses, travel documents and more.
Many of these miniatures are destined to be bestowed on statues of the Aymara deity of abundance and prosperity, Ekkekko (dwarf). These represent the wishes of each person, which they hope the Ekkekko will grant them in the coming year. Once families have received an Ekkekko statue (you’re supposed to receive them, or give them as gifts, but not buy one for yourself), they’re responsible for giving him cigarettes and speaking to him to ensure his good graces. You’ll see Ekkekkos throughout the fair, dressed in traditional ponchos, with characteristically open mouths so that you can offer him pleasing cigarettes, and with open arms that you can fill them with miniature goods. In order to help the items bring you luck, it is customary for vendors to bless your purchase, performing a ritualistic ceremony for you in which he or she blows a charcoal and incense smoke over them, sprays them with alcohol, sprinkles confetti, and them wraps them in long thin ribbons while chanting.
The Alasitas fair is an interesting stop thanks to the ingenious variety of miniatures, the carnavalesque atmosphere, and parties that continue into the night. It runs at the same time as the Festivity of the Bellavista Cross, in a classic representation of the syncretism of Andean beliefs.
It all begins on May 1st with the Popular Miniature Art Fair’s inauguration, reception of the musical bands and the welcome to the Lord of the Bellavista Cross. Before the ceremony there’ll be a colorful parade and the entry of the Ekkekko.
On the 2nd, the day will break to the burning of the castles, so expect to hear loud booms throughout Puno as these wooden constructions laden with fireworks are lit. May 3rd is always the main day, which will see the mass and procession in honor of the Bellavista cross. Some sources say that the miniature craftsmen competition and the awarding of prizeswill take place on May 3rd in Parque de la Madre, others on May 9rd.
Surely you’re wondering where you should stay during your visit to Puno, and why yes, we do have a suggestion- check out Pirwa Puno Backpackers here! If you need any help arranging your travel plans- from bus transport and flights to excursions throughout Puno, it’s outskirts, and stunning Lake Titicaca- Pirwa Hostels has it’s own travel agency, Pirwa Travel Service, with tour specialists eager to help!
At our newest hostel, Pirwa La Paz, we’re excited for of the biggest festivals in La Paz is the Fiesta del Gran Poder. El Gran Poder means the all powerful, as the festival is based on Christ the All Powerful, the 2nd figure in an early 17th century painting of the trinity in which the three entities display Indian or mestizo features. The artist is unknown; a novice nun had brought the painting with her it as her offering upon entering a convent, after which the painting changed hands many times amidst a growing reputation for granting miracles. Devotion grew and in 1939 the Parochial Church of the All Powerful was founded in its name. What began in the 1930’s with a handful of dancers has exploded through the years into a riotous celebration reminiscent of Carnaval, which falls a couple of months earlier.
Parades and processions with the figure of Christ, music and costumed dancers honoring cultural and ethnic backgrounds and performing selections from Bolivia’s rich folkloric legacy, such as the famous Morenada. The atmosphere is like a street party , with endless beer flowing as is commonly seen in many of South America’s religious celebrations! Dates change, but the festival always lands in the latter half of May or beginning of June. This year, the celebration falls on June 22nd.
These days, dancers and musicians alone surpass 60,000 people- not bad for a festival which began as a simple candlelit procession! The procession with the painting is followed by 53 folkloric fraternities which represent different parts of the city or groups of people. Each fraternity is accompanied by a brass band in the middle and another in the back, and many dancers have instruments called matracas which click to the music. Their costumes can be the voluminous (or, for the younger dancers, voluminous in width but nonexistent in length!) skirts of the chola, costumes referencing historical figures from conquistadors to colonialists, Incas, African slaves, native indigenous groups, and more. They’ll follow a route through the streets of the popular zone and then arrive at the Hernando Siles stadium. (Where you can get seats but it won’t be free.) Those who dance make a promise to do so for three years as an act of thanksgiving, generally asking favors of the Christ before the festival day. Dancers continue for 5 hours, in costumes averaging 25.5kg!
Some of the most popular dances include the Morenada, the Diablada (Devil’s Dance) with it’s elaborate and colorful costumes, where the Devil represents the guardian to the Bolivian mines and receives coca leaves and other offerings in exchange for safe passage, and the Waca Takhoris, or Dancing Bulls, which requires a dancer to don a stuffed bull’s head and dried bull’s skin.
- Make reservations in advance! This is a high season for La Paz, and foresight will allow you to ensure availability and resist price gouging.
- Expect main avenues and streets in central la Paz to be shut down, so moving around will be easiest by foot.
- Prepare for strong afternoon sun and cold evenings- sun protection and light layers are essential.
- Don’t overexert yourself if you’re newly arrived- hydration and rest are essential for combating altitude sickness.
- Be wary of pickpockets- no more than small change in the outer pockets, and definitely no little electronics such as cameras, mp3s, or phones in outer pockets.
Pirwa Puno Backpackers is offering the best prices of the year, with 15% off all rooms. With a variety of shared dorms and private rooms, all with private bath, you’re sure to find a room which suits you- and you’ll pay less for it too!With an enviable location not far from Lake Titicaca and all of the services you’ve come to expect from Pirwa Hostels, Pirwa Puno Backpackers is an excellent choice for those looking for a cozy and welcoming place to stay in Puno. You can access the discount by reserving through our booking page. And if you’re traveling through Peru, don’t overlook all that Puno has to offer. We’ve compiled a small list of interesting sights to see for those of you compiling your itinerary:
The Attractions of Lake Titicaca
Massive Lake Titicaca stretches between Bolivia and Peru. As a dominant part of the protected area of Titicaca National Reserve, the world’s highest navigable lake protects more than 60 bird species, including the parihuana, whose colors inspired those of the Peruvian flag. Some of the lake’s sights you can see without really leaving the shores. The pedestrian path known as the Ecotouristic Inca Seafront Bay (Malecón Ecoturístico Bahía de los Incas) boasts not only stunning views but also pre-Inca artifacts known as across sukankas, or intihuatanas, which functioned as solar clocks, played the central role in rituals, and marked inter-communal land borders. Another good stop is the Yaraví, which as built in 1861 in Great Britain and crossed the Andes in pieces on mule-back. Now the oldest single-propeller iron ship in the world, the Yaraví Ship Museum stays anchored in Lake Titicaca porter as a free naval museum.
The lake’s most famous destination are the forty Floating Islands of Uros, artificial islands crafted from the lake’s most prevalent plant, the tortora reed. Which for the Aymara-speaking Uros Tribe, the kot-suña, people of the lake, provide food and shelter in addition to a material for island construction. They support themselves through fishing, weaving and tourism and have clung to their traditional way of life. They are believed to be the oldest surviving culture in the Americas.
Atop the two mountain peaks on Amantani Island, Pachatata (Father Earth) and Pachamama (Mother Earth), one finds ruins dating back to the Inca Empire and the pre-Inca Kingdom of Tiwanaku. Every January 20th the Quechua-speaking population opens the temples for a feast day, with half congregating in each temple, for a race between the chosen representatives of each temple to a midpoint between the peaks. The nature of the year to come will be foretold depending on which temple wins. Aside from the temple ruins and colorfully dressed traditional population, you’ll also enjoy the beauty of the island’s terraced hillsides. Another very traditional island is Taquile Island is considered to produce some of the highest quality handicrafts in Peru. In fact, their traditional weavings were proclaimed “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” in 2005. It also boasts pre-Incan terraces and ruins. Islanders still wear a mix of Spanish colonial dress with Andean touches and manage the community collectively, subsisting mainly on fishing, farming, and tourism.
The Outskirts of Puno
You can reach the sacred pre-Inca Sillustani Chullpas, or burial towers, but about 45 minutes by car from Puno. These structures, the final resting place for noble mummies awaiting rebirth, populate a burial ground located on a cold hilltop overlooking Lake Umayo. The circular towers are wider on top than on bottom, making them unique in South America. Another popular site are the ruins of Inca Uyo (Aymara for Place of the Inca), which date to after the Inca Conquest of the Lupaka Kingdom of Tiahuanaku. Inside of the ceremonial complex you´ll find many phallic stones 2-3ft high arranged upright like mushrooms. Though both temple and stones are authentic, the placement of the stones inside the temple was a municipal decision, which has led to the site´s as yet unproven presentation as a fertility temple where virgins sat atop large stone phalluses.
In the City of Puno
For a nice overview of Puno and the clear flat waters of Lake Titicaca, take a moment to stop at Huajsapata Lookout. If you’re feeling ambitious, Kuntur Wasi, also known as Condor Hill, lookout is even better, although it’s a climb of more than 600 steps. Once you hit the Plaza, there are three sights right next to each other which are all worth a visit. One is the 18th century mestizo-baroque Cathedral houses the venerated image of the Lord of the Quinary, known as Lord of the Bullet ever since it was shot in a clash between the Biscayans and Andalusians. Another is the Carlos Dreyer Museum, which houses exhibits of gold, silver, pottery, woven textiles, Pre-Inca stone sculptures from around the country, indigenous handicrafts and colonial paintings. There’s even an exhibit showcasing mummies and gold recovered from the Sillustani Burial Towers. Lastly, you might be interested in stopping by the 17th century Corregidor´s House. This historical monument is one of Puno´s oldest residences, now housing an art gallery with permanent and changing exhibits, library with reading room and research service, and a café-bar frequented by artists and expats; it hosts workshops and concerts as well.
Remember: Pirwa Hostels is a Full-Service company, so if you need assistance with transport, or are interested in arranging guided tours or packages, don’t hesitate to contact our agency department, Pirwa Travel Service, for information or services regarding any aspect of your trip!
- The nearest airport is 28 miles north of Puno, in the city of Juliaca. Bus travel is popular for visitors to Puno, with buses by reputable companies such as Cruz del Sur and Ormeño arriving throughout the day from Cusco, Arequipa, and other cities.
- If you are not accustomed to high altitudes, you may experience nausea and fatigue, so it’s a good idea not to plan too much activity for the first day, to rest and to hydrate well, perhaps with the locally preferred remedy for altitude sickness: coca tea. If you need something stronger, stop by a pharmacy and ask for soroche pills, and if things feel quite bad, you can even pick up a personal mini-oxygen tank.
- Dress for the cold and dry weather of the high Andean plateau, or altiplano, where Puno is located. Temperatures average about 45 degrees, with 30 degree lows in the wintertime (June-August) and 60 degree highs in the summertime (Dec – Jan).
- Despite the cold weather, the sun is still a concern due to the high altitude, so don’t forget the sunscreen, sunglasses, and hat.