Gorilla dancing in the Festival de Candelaria parade

It´s show time. And, unfortunately, the show had to start for my team of dancing gorillas at 7AM…kind of rough after another night of feeling like my hotel bed was actually in the middle of the main street. But, it´s hard to stay salty when you walk into unbridled enthusiasm in costumes of every color first thing in the morning. If I didn´t clarify in my earlier posts, Candelaria is a festival exclusive to Puno and to say it´s a BIG DEAL would be an understatement. This is a quiet city on the shores of Lake Titicaca, and for much of the year there´s not a whole lot going on. When these dancers show up for the actual festival they´re bringing with them an entire year´s worth of practice and energy – and they´re not about to let trifling physical needs like sleep or hunger stop them from brining the house down during these 9 days in February.
I, however, knew I was going to have to rise to the occasion just to get in to my gorilla suit… that was strangely so much heavier and more awkward than I remembered.
Our dancing started at 10AM. The crowd was already out in full force, offering us shots (ok, actually full pocket sized bottles) of rum, beer, and encouragement. As perhaps the only gringa to ever dance in the gorilla suit, I was more popular for photo takers when I had my mask off. I find it kind of funny to think that there in households across Puno people are reviewing their pictures and saying ¨look how red and sweaty that crazy girl was!¨
As the sun got hotter and the suit got heavier it was more of a challenge to dance with our earlier enthusiasm. I´ll be honest, it was a challenge to keep moving at all. But, just like the dancers wait all year to demonstrate their best moves, the Candelaria crowd waits all year to cheer on the flagging dancers. With shouts of ¨Fuerza!¨Fuerza!¨ we crossed the finish line a little after 1…and I was out of my gorilla suit pretty soon thereafter.
The party continued all day and night, with the last of the 71 groups of dancers making their way through the streets…well, way after I had passed out for the night.
My body was literally aching, and the music had left a ringing impression in my head, but I can honestly say I am grateful I had the chance to dance as a gorilla in a Peruvian street parade. But, if there´s a next time I´ll choose a lighter costume…the mini dresses with fairy wings looked nice.

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