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Festival dancers light up the streets even in the middle of the day.

Groups perform one of eight dances — from the Diablada and its fierce devils and fake-fur-costumed demons to the Waka Waka, the bullfighting dance that’s all hips and attitude. (And if it sounds familiar, Shakira did her own Waka Waka for a 2010 FIFA World Cup celebration.) Some groups put modern spins on their themes, wearing costumes inspired by Hollywood cop-and-gangster flicks like Dick Tracy.

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Reed huts, complete with a solar panel, on the floating totora islands on Lake Titicaca.
On the two competition days, the groups line up to perform in the stadium and then dance past crowds packed along a six-mile parade route. The first group starts early in the morning; the last ones finish long after dark. Many of the women dance it in stiletto heels, their smiles holding up nearly to the end.

The music comes from Peruvian folklore and history. As the performance days go on, even a first-time visitor can’t help but memorize the tunes; they are some of the stickiest earworms in history. They pull you in with their intensity, with their constant presence, and, quite simply, people along the route will pull you in by grabbing your arm and insisting that you join in. Resistance, as they say, is futile.

Built for soccer, the open-air Estadio Enrique Torres Belón holds up to 20,000 people on its concrete bleachers. For Candelaria, the green grass of the soccer field is covered with a dance floor. Dressed in brilliant red, firefighters cool down the floor with water from fire hoses every half hour or so. And, with intense summer sun a constant presence over the crowd’s head, the crowd cheers when the firefighters point the hoses at the stands and fire away.

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Churros, a sweet treat of fried dough that’s commonly sold on the street.
As each group takes to the dance floor, the resulting cheers and drums and bells make it easy to figure out where their biggest supporters are gathered. Two rows in front of me, a woman leaps up when she sees her husband and 3-year-old son on the floor below. Her enthusiasm infects all of us. We cheer as her son, dressed as a tiny conquistador, attempts to keep up with his 300-dancer team.

After six hours at the stadium, we head for the parade route. We sit in our covered bleachers section and watch as the dancers who had been in the soccer field now funnel their dancing onto the streets. The noise from the drums and horns is a constant in my ears.

A few days later and 46 miles away, it’s blessedly quieter as I watch as a giant cloud overtakes the sky above the village of Llachón. A storm blows in and quickly turns the waters of Lake Titicaca from calm blue glass into a whitecapped, angry green sea. After we visit two of the Uros Floating Islands, the boat drops us off in Llachón, on the peninsula of Capachica.

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Dancers in the streets of Puno.
I stay outside snapping photos until the storm becomes too intense, and then I retreat into the simple dining room of the small house where we’re staying. The wind rattles the window glass, held between simple nails, as I watch an alpaca named Pepe stand placidly through the tempest. The window rattling and thunder replace the drums and horns in my ears. And then the power goes out.

So I sit at the table with new friends and we do what any good modern travelers do: drink beer, discuss all we have seen and make fun of the music playlists on each other’s iPhones.