Festival de la Virgen in Huanchaco, Peru
One morning while on our usual walk along the malecon in Huanchaco, we passed some guys building a big tower out of bamboo on the side of the road. We stopped to take a look and realized the bamboo structure was loaded with fireworks with fuses running all along the sides. It was maybe 30 feet tall, and had big wheels and squares jutting out of the tower, all covered in fireworks as well. Lacey, being somewhat obsessed with fireworks, got excited and asked the guys what it was all about. It turns out today was the festival of the Virgen del Sucorro in the town.
The firework towers were being put up all over town, paid for by different restaurants as an offering to the virgin. The guys working on the tower told us the celebration would take place that night, so Lacey was left to impatiently wait out the rest of the day for the big show. After sunset we were walking around wondering when the “celebration” was going to start and what exactly was going to take place. Finally we stopped to ask a lady who was setting up an altar in front of her restaurant when it would start and what was going to happen. Actually it was more like, “when are they going to start the fireworks?”, as we still didn’t understand what exactly the celebration was all about. The lady informed us the fireworks would be after dark but that the virgin was going to be coming down the street first. We were slowly walking down the beach trying to figure out what the lady meant by “the virgin coming down the street,” when up ahead we saw a procession come around the corner with a band, a bunch of people, and a big statue of the virgin covered in flowers. Aha, this is what she meant!
It turns out that Huanchaco is home to the second oldest church in Peru, the Santuario de la Virgen del Socorro. The church’s statue of the Holy Virgin, the Virgen de la Candeleria, was made in Spain. The statue is believed to have floated ashore from a shipwreck, spawning a cult of worship among the town’s fishermen. Our understanding from talking to local townsfolk is that the festival consisting of the procession with the virgin around town is intended for the local businesses to give offerings to the virgin in hopes of receiving good luck and fortune in the coming year. Many business owners all over town had set up altars in front of their business with flowers, candles and such.
The procession, including the virgin, being carried by a bunch of people (it looked quite heavy), marched around and stopped at each altar. The business owner would give a short speech and give some flowers to the virgin as an offering in the hopes of receiving good luck and fortune in the coming year. Sometimes there was a traditional dance performed by children, who were actually quite good.
After watching the procession for awhile, we decided to go wait at the firework towers for the next part of the show. After what seemed like hours of the procession marching along to the business on the north end of town (we had time to enjoy a beer and hang out on the side of the road forEVER), the procession finally arrived to the first firework tower where we were waiting. It was a quite a show! Having never seen a firework tower before, I have to say I was quite impressed. The fireworks were all set up on different fuses so they would go off at different times. We got to see spinning wheel of fire, fountains of fire, cascading fire almost like a waterfall, and even the name of the sponsoring restaurant lit up with fireworks. Also the fact that they were lighting the fireworks (and we are talking quite a bit of firepower here) off within 20 feet of a huge crowd of people made it all a little crazy and added to the show.
At the end of the show, the procession moved on to the next altar and we decided we had had enough. As we started walking away not 5 minutes after the show we were totally amazed to look up and see that they already had most of the tower dismantled and packed away. Quite efficient! We headed back to camp feeling lucky we got this small glimpse into the customs of this small town.
Here are a few more pictures to enjoy: