Ayamara winter solstice festival
June 26, 2010, 1:03 am
Filed under: chile, culture, dance, events, festivals, south america, travel

On Saturday evening we happened to be on the main street of Arica, 21 de Mayo, when we saw a suspicious number of people wandering around in intricately sequinned outfits or with feathered hats. I was compelled to ask a lady about half my height, but with a feathered hat that made us equal, at what time they were parading.

I knew there would be a parade because there are parades almost every day in Arica, as you might have seen if you keep an eye on my photostream. Sometimes it’s hard to discern what they’re for, though of late they’re mostly related to the World Cup.

The tiny lady with the large feathered hat confirmed that they would be parading in “about ten minutes” this can mean anything from in fifteen minutes to in a couple of hours, in reality. So we strolled along the main street anticipating a parade at some point.

We were not disappointed. Rather than a half hour flash in the pan as happens most days, this festival involved people dancing for four hours down the main street, and then dancing for late into the madrugada (Spanish for 1-5am). I’ve never seen so many astounding costumes or so many colours.

On Monday I discovered it had been an Aymara winter solstice festival. However it wasn’t just Ayamaran dancing (the Ayamara are one of the indigenous communities in the Andes near here). We also saw Tinkus, Marinera and even some African dancing. But these words will mean little to those outside of the region – here are some photos that will give an idea of the different styles.

My favourite was the Tinkus. It reminded me a little of Maori hakas but much more colourful and a bit less scary. But if I’d been a conquistador coming across some of these guys it would have been pretty intimidating.

This experience was my biggest South American cultural education so far, and it was completely free as well as hugely entertaining. South Americans know how to party and celebrate their heritage better than anywhere I’ve been so far.


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