On last August 19th, I had the pleasure of witnessing an interesting event that united faith and tradition – pagan and catholic -, a parade that has been taking place in many cities in these South American territories since colonial times, to commemorate the beloved “Virgen de Copacabana”. Here the story:
This devotion started in Bolivia in the 16th century, the locals of the town of Copacabana, located on the margin of the Titicaca Lake, decide to make an image of the Madonna (Virgin) modeled in a more indigenous way to make her friendlier to the indigenous of that zone, devotion towards this representation of Mary was spread rapidly soon after and many miracles granted to her. Also called Mamacha (meaning mother in the Andes, and said always in a very sweet and respectful way), every year the patroness of Bolivia is celebrated on feb. 2nd and aug. 5th.
Back in the colonial times, our ancestors worshiped female deities, Wiracocha, Pachacamac, Inti, the Apus… the beloved Pachamama (or mother earth) was one of them, eventually, and during the horrible, bloody and crazy days of the conquest and early colonial times, she turned into Virgin Mary, in this way Spaniards happy establishing the faith towards the Virgin and to convert the natives to their religion, and indigenous were able to keep their Goddess. I call this fairtrade.
The band was playing loud at the atrium of famous Saint Francis Church (Iglesia de San Francisco) in Lima, home of the worldwide known Convent and Catacombs of San Francisco, the first public cemetery in the city, and of over 25000 skeletons, and of other colonial religious treasures.
The music reached the very church, where few were in, most of the concentration of people was with the band and the image of the virgin, taken out to the crowds. This minor Basilica is of great beauty, in and out… a must visit. But this time we will focus on the party and the people outside: people of all ages and social backgrounds, locals and tourists, catholics and curious, all united around The Mamacha of Copacabana.
Musicians play loud along with the dancers moving their bodies dressed in multi-colored costumes in a gracious way and with the rhythm of the music, and minutes after it is started a band-fight. This festival happens every year and is organized by the brotherhood of the Virgin in Lima – Peru, the band, dresses, drinks, and food are paid by them, this is considered a great honor for all people involved.
Mothers with their children and grandparents with their grandkids, participating in this never-ending circle of ancestral knowledge and tradition, passed carefully from generation to generation, with respect and devotion, after all, there is a local saying that can explain such display of faith in this 21 century: “La Fe mueve montañas” – Faith move mountains – we say … Some people have proven that their faith is bigger than Everest.
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