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.
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.
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.
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.