The Marinera Festival is one of the most important Peruvian cultural events. The festival is traditionally held in the city of Trujillo in (northern Peru) every January, and it focuses on a dance contest (the Marinera), along with different presentations, parades, and competitions of Peruvian Paso horses. The Peruvian government declared the Peruvian Paso horse and the Marinera dance to be a part of their national cultural heritage. The principal characters of the festival are – Queen of Marinera, Dance Champions (best dancers from the previous years), Dancers, and Bands of Musicians.
Previously it was called La Chilena (“The Chilean”), but the Marinera owes its name to the war. It was given that name in honor of the Peruvian Navy ("Marina" in spanish) going to war with Chile in 1879. The exact origin of the dance is uncertain, but it is unmistakably a blend of Spanish, African, and Latin American cultures.
The dance is one of the most elegant ones in Peru and involves flirting between a couple. While dancing a fairly complex choreography to the beat, each of them twitches a handkerchief in their right hand. The dance is accompanied by cajones (box-drums), bugles, and guitars, and it serves to re-enact the course of traditional courtship. There are several styles of the elegant and graceful Marinera dance (based on location) - Marinera Costeña (the south coast), Marinera Norteña (northern syle), and Marinera Serrana /highlands style). The dance steps include the cepillado footwork (which means “brushing”) and coqueteo (the couple dancing closely together and flirting).
Marinera (drawing by Pancho Fierro)
The Origin of the Marinera Dance
The Marinera dances is a spin-off from the Mozamala and the Zamacueca. Abelardo Gamarra (Peruvian journalist, writer, and composer) dubbed the dance the Marinera in 1893 in homage to Admiral Miguel Grau (Peru’s naval hero). He did it during a piano concert by a Lima maiden, Rosa Mercedes Ayarza de Morales, who later became a major exponent of the genre. That’s when the best-known marinera was born - “La Decana” (later renamed into "La Concheperla").
According to Romulo Cuneo Vidal, the Peruvian historian, the Zamacueca was a dance of rest (in some Pre-Inca cultures and during the Inca empire). However, the dance itself is a derivation of an ancient Peruvian dance, which is validated by the ancient huacos (ancient Peruvian pottery) depicting people resting in these Zamacueca positions.
Trujillo Marinera Festival
There are dance academies throughout Peru as well as many competitions, with the National Competition of the Marinera being the most important one. It is held every January during the National Festival of the Marinera in Trujillo The festival has been held there since the 1960s. October 7th is declared as Marinera Day in TrujilloCity by the Congress of the Peruvian Republic, and celebrated with dance expressions and a parade.
If you want to witness this marvelous and exciting festival, you should prepare to visit Trujillo during the last week of January. But if you can’t make it to Trujillo there’s no need to worry, because Marinera competitions are across the country during different times of the year.
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