Paucartambo is a pleasant rural village in the Southern Valleys of Cusco, with houses painted in white with balconies and doorframes painted in bright blue. At the entrance of the village you find a XVIII century stone bridge built during the time Charles III was king in Spain.
Paucartambo patron saint is La Virgen del Carmen which is called Mamacha Carmen (Little Mother Carmen) as they considered its their mother. The XVIII century virgin image is a lady with downcast eyes wearing a brown Carmelite congregation habit and is covered by a white mantle.
The legends says that King Charles III sent 2 images of Virgin Mary : 1 should stay in Puno and the other go to Paucartambo and when it entered Peru through Puno the packages where confused and the image that should have stayed in Puno was sent to Paucartambo.
Another story says it used to be in Amazon Native plantations fields but as masters did not take proper care and the church was burnt out. The image was thrown into the Amazon river and miraculously it was laid on a sandbank close to Paucartambo and the river name was switched to Madre de Dios (Mother of God).
On July 15 the people celebrates a colorful festival to honour La Mamacha Carmen and takes 3 days. The festival offers great opportunities to appreciate groups dancing with their black masks and gloves or groups with coloured masks, or dressed up dancers with typical costumes. There are traditional songs and dances performed by local folklore bands. Also there are groups dressed as demons.
During the first day of the festival, the virgin is dressed up and bejeweled and there are some religious activities such as mass and also there is a big lunch with church and government authorities sharing traditional dishes such as moraya, tamales, suckling pig, turrones besides a large variety of breads specially baked for the occasion such as the ayuyas and costraayuyas.
After lunch a play takes place and actors throw jungle goods to public such as coffee beansm peanuts, coca leaves, fruit and wooden objects.
After the play the Mamacha Carmen goes out on a procession through Paucartambo main streets and on her way, demons appear from everywhere staring at the virgin in terror. Also some sajras appear covering their eyes as they can not see the virgin. Once the procession ends the town explodes in happiness and people party and the priest guests enjoy dancing huainos, marineras and kashuas.
On July 16 the festival is basically devoted to the performance of traditional folklore dancers holding their masks in their hands showing respect and singing beautiful songs in praise to Mamacha Carmen. Some of the favorite dancers are the Collas who represent the pilgrimage from Puno to Paucartambo and the Chunchos or natives from the jungle. Later on the dancers go to the cementery to honor their maestros dancers (the persons who mastered the dancing art) who are buried there.
On July 17, the last day the Mamacha Carmen is escorted to Charles III bridge in the outskirts of the town to bless the surroundings bowing in each direction. Dancers and musician follow the virgin to entertain The Virgin Mary.
After her last outing everybody gets ready for the Guerilla or clash between the Collas and the chunchos in which they measure their strengths. The collas read the coca leaves to asking to know who will be the winner, while the chunchos carry in shoulders offering gifts with the intention of robbings the Imilla, the woman of the Colla group. This will spark the fight and during the riot the sajras or demons appear to carry away the bodies of the dead and wounded in their burning carts.
After the guerilla has ended a Farewell mass to Mamacha Carmen , it takes place and farewell celebration to thank for all good things the inhabitants have received. Dancers perform calmly and proudly the quadrille.
The fervor and the faith of a town makes Paucartambo an interesting place to visit during festivities.
If you ever travel to Cusco and would like to take part of the celebration just
© Photos by Oscar Mujica