La Fiesta de la Virgen del Carmen is celebrated in July in honor of the patron saint of Paucartambo, la Mamacha Carmen. Troupes of masked dancers, which trace their origin to Spanish processions brought to the Americas, reenact cultural, social, and economic events in Paucartambo, a town that was once a commercial center between the Amazon and the Andes. Each of the thirteen groups recreates a particular story, such as the encounter of Andean migrants, who wanted to steal the Virgin, with local lowland communities, who are her guardians. These community members live in the historical imagination of the town through dance and stylized acting.
Although Paucartambo is much less populated today, during the fiesta it fills with thousands of tourists and returning residents who come to celebrate the Mamacha Carmen.
The contradanza troupe performs intricate dances in quadrilles to music that combines rhythms and melodies of Andean huaynos and pasacalle with European mazurka tunes. This Virgen del Carmen troupe features a Spanish machu, or captain, enjoying himself with his soldiers, poking fun at their European features and mannerisms.
Costumes and Masks
Members of the contradanza fiesta group work throughout the year to customize their costumes, each year adding details. Mask making is also an important craft tradition to the Virgen del Carmen celebration. Every dancer wears a mask, and certain characters, including the machu or caporal (chief) have exaggerated features, such as an elongated nose.