Cusco region’s mask makers have been honored

The mask making tradition of Paucartambo has been declared part of Peru’s National Heritage

Cusco, June 25nd 2018: The Peruvian government has acknowledged the importance of the centuries-old mask masking tradition of the Cusco village of Paucartambo by declaring it part of Peru’s National Heritage.

One of the Cusco’s region’s most picturesque villages, Paucartambo has been home since the 17th century to what many consider Cusco’s most joyful and colorful annual festivity: the fiesta in honor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, whose image is housed in the local church.

The central day of this four-day round of seemingly endless music and dancing is July 16th, and in addition to the hundreds of dancers who take part, the event attracts tens of thousands of visitors from throughout the Cusco region and far beyond. In recent years, more and more foreign travelers have been drawn to Paucartambo’s annual fiesta by well-founded stories of just how splendidly photogenic these celebrations are.

The Spanish introduced the custom of honoring Our Lady of Mount Carmel throughout their colonies in the Americas, but it was in the Andes, where local people were encouraged to identify the Virgin Mary with the Mother Earth (or Pachamama) figure so central to their own religious practices, that the July 16th celebration took on particular significance.

What makes Paucartambo’s Fiesta of Our Lady of Mount Carmel so attractive to visitors is the coming together of nineteen different dance groups, each with their distinctive elaborate costumes, and their own band of musicians.

And the faces of these dancers have been covered with traditional locally made masks since the fiesta was first celebrated in the village of Paucartambo in the 17th century. Now, the Peruvian government has finally acknowledged this mask making tradition, honoring the creativity of local artists which gave rise to a cottage industry some now see as threatened by the growing homogeneity of an increasingly globalized world.

The text of the government decree acknowledging the significance of Paucartambo’s traditional masks highlights the variety of materials and techniques employed in their manufacture, and the importance of that manufacturing process as a reflection of the social roles and rituals that continue to define those Andean customs which have survived in our own 21st century world.

To find out how you can enjoy Peru’s living culture, and even see Paucartambo’s magnificent annual celebration for yourself, contact us directly at Andean Adventures Peru.

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