August in Peru is bursting with events, including Catholic pilgrimages, Inca rituals and a number of important anniversaries. As always, you can expect a touch of solemnity mixed with a healthy dose of singing and dancing.
Santísima Cruz de Chalpón
First Week of August, Motupe, Lambayeque
The history of the Cruz de Chalpón (Cross of Chalpón) dates back to the 1860s, from which time various miracles have been attributed to the wooden cross. The area has since become an important pilgrimage center, with the main pilgrimage taking place during the first week of August. On August 2, the faithful carry the cross down from Cerro Chalpón, eventually arriving in Motupe (about 55 miles north of Chiclayo) on August 4. On the central day (August 5), thousands of devotees gather to pay homage to the cross, after which it is carried through the principal streets until the early hours of the following day. Concerts, gastronomic fairs and a Peruvian Paso horse contest take place during the multiday festival.
Día de la Pachamama (Mother Earth Day)
August 1, Throughout the Andean Highlands
Throughout the Andean highlands, Peruvians celebrate August 1 as the Día de la Pachamama, or Mother Earth Day. In honor of the “Earth mother,” the faithful take part in pago a la tierra (payment to the earth) ceremonies, making offerings of traditional items such as coca leaves, huayruro seeds and chicha de jora. The festivities are particularly important in the Cusco region of Peru, with districts organizing their own traditional festivities and forms of tribute to Pachamama.
Nuestra Señora de las Nieves
August 5, Central and Southern Highlands
August 5 is celebrated as Nuestra Señora de las Nieves (Our Lady of the Snows) throughout various parts of Italy, Spain, Portugal and Latin America. In Peru, the religious festival often features cultural exhibitions, gastronomic fairs, folk dances, processions and, in some regions, bullfights. The celebrations are particularly notable in Cusco, Ayacucho and Junín (where the day is known as Virgen de las Nieves, or Virgin of the Snows).
Anniversary of Arequipa
August 15, Arequipa
Garcí Manuel de Carbajal, a Spanish lieutenant and emissary of the conquistador Francisco Pizarro, founded the city of Arequipa on August 15, 1540. Residents of Arequipa, the second largest city in Peru, celebrate the anniversary in spectacular fashion. The city organizes gastronomic fairs and cultural festivals, with massed processions marching and dancing their way through the streets of the “White City.” Events begin at least a week before the main day, culminating with the Corso de la Amistad (Friendship Parade) on August 15.
Virgen de la Asunción
August 15 (Central Day), Various Regions
In the Orthodox and Catholic churches, August 15 marks the day on which the Virgin Mary was taken into Heaven at the end of her life (known as the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary). In Peru, the festival of the Virgen de la Asunción typically features a variety of cultural events and processions held on the days before and after August 15. Dances, bullfights and Peruvian Paso horse contests are popular, depending on the region. Locations famous for their Virgen de la Asunción festivities include Chachapoyas (Amazonas), Cangallo (Ayacucho) and Chacas (Ancash, where locals refer to the virgin as Mama Ashu).
Anniversary of Huánuco
August 15, Huánuco
The city of Huánuco, capital of the Huánuco region of central Peru, celebrates its Spanish foundation on August 15 (the original settlement was founded in 1539 on the site of the Inca town of Yarowilca). Today’s anniversary celebrations typically begin on August 12, with daily concerts -- featuring major Peruvian bands -- leading up to the central day. On August 15, civic and military parades follow the flag of Huánuco through the city streets to the main square. The 2012 event is expected to attract 25,000 visitors from across Peru and beyond (if you want to attend, it’s a good idea to book your hotel in advance).
Anniversary of Callao
August 20, Callao, Lima Metropolitan Area
The Callao Littoral Province was created on August 20, 1836, giving the region political autonomy for the first time in its history. The major port area, now known as the Constitutional Province of Callao, remains an autonomous province alongside the 24 administrative regions of Peru (also known as departments). Callao’s anniversary celebrations feature major Peruvian musical acts (typically música criolla, salsa, cumbia and merengue), a large gastronomic fair and a salsa dance festival. Parades and boat races also take place on the central day. If you head to the anniversary celebrations, keep in mind that various parts of Callao are not particularly safe.
Regional Festival for Día Mundial del Folclore (World Folklore Day)
August 20 to 22, Yarinacocha and Pucallpa, Ucayali Region
In honor of World Folklore Day on August 22, Pucallpa and the neighboring district of Yarinacocha hold various events, including dance contests, cultural exhibitions, beauty pageants (to crown the annual Miss Folklore) and gastronomic fairs.
Yaku Raymi (Fiesta del Agua)
August 20 to 26, Carmen Salcedo District, Andamarca, Ayacucho
The Yaku Raymi festival is a traditional celebration in honor of Pachamama and the importance of water in this dry region. The week begins with the annual cleaning of the water canals in preparation of the forthcoming rains. Food fairs, arts and crafts exhibitions, scissor dance (danza de las tijeras) contests and ritual offerings take place throughout the week, as well as re-enactments of scenes from pre-Inca and Inca history.
Reincorporation of Tacna into Peru
August 28, Tacna
During the War of Pacific (1879 to 1883), Peru lost the territory of Tacna to Chilean forces. Chile occupied the disputed territory until the signing of the 1929 Treaty of Lima, an act that returned Tacna to Peru and gave Chile total control of the more southerly region of Arica (US President Herbert Hoover helped mediate the treaty). Military and civic parades take place each year on August 28, marking the reincorporation of Tacna into Peru. The principal parade is the Procesión de la Bandera (Procession of the Flag), which makes its way through the streets of Tacna to the city’s central plaza de armas. In previous years, the weeklong Feria Internacional de Tacna (FERITAC) festival has also taken place during the last week of August; the 2012 event has yet to be confirmed.
Oxapampa Tourism Week
August 25 to 31, Oxapampa, Pasco
Oxapampa’s semana turística (tourist week) begins with a procession and mass in honor of the town’s patron saint, Saint Rose of Lima. Throughout the week, you’ll find food, crafts and agricultural fairs celebrating the region’s rich culture, much of which still displays the settlement’s German origins. Beauty pageants, motocross competitions and other sporting events also take place during the multiday celebrations.
Saint Rose of Lima Day
August 30, National Holiday
Saint Rose of Lima (1586 to 1617) was the first Catholic saint native to the Americas. Born in Lima, Rose began severe penances while still only a young girl, dedicating herself to the service of God and to helping the poor. She was later canonized by Pope Clement X in 1671. Her feast day -- August 23 -- is recognized throughout much of the world, while Peru and some other Latin American countries honor her on August 30. August 30 is a national holiday in Peru.