Peru’s rich culture combines Pre-Hispanic traditions and ways of life that arrived through conquest and immigration.
In addition to archaeological treasures like those of Cusco and Machu Picchu, Peru is rich in diverse folkloric expressions. Much of the music and dance performed today in Peru is derived from Inca and Pre-Inca traditions. In the elegant city of Arequipa, for example, the musical genre known as yaraví emerged from the harawi of the Incas; what since the 19th century has been a predominantly romantic genre dealing with lost love has its origins in the elegiac chants of Inca funerary rites. “El condor pasa”, made famous in a version by Simon and Garfunkel, has its roots in this tradition.
On the shores of Lake Titicaca, the Puno region is often described as the “Folkloric Capital of Peru”. The greatest expression of the music and dance of Puno is the annual festival of Our Lady of Candelaria, when some 20,000 visitors gather to watch as the entire city is transformed in honor of its patroness. Groups come from every tiny village in the province to perform in the competition held in the local football stadium. Aymara and Quechua people move to simple, graceful rhythms, having prepared for the central event of their calendar many months in advance, sewing elaborate costumes and rehearsing before traveling from villages in the Andes mountains and Amazon forests to the city of Puno.
In Cusco there are countless folkloric celebrations throughout the year. These range from the reenactment in June of the Inca sun festival, or Inti Raymi, to the synergy of Catholic and indigenous rites behind the Qoylloriti pilgrimage. Music and dance can be enjoyed everywhere in Cusco; in the folkloric evenings organized by many of Cusco’s restaurants, in theatrical presentations, and as an enduring part of the city’s everyday life, among young people keen to conserve the traditions passed down to them, and to take part in festivities like those held every July in the small town of Paucartambo.
Northern Peru has its own folklore, which is best expressed in the refined marinera dance, rooted in a combination of European, Amerindian and Afro-Peruvian traditions. An international marinera competition is held every January in the city of Trujillo, and one dramatic version of the dance is performed by a female dancer and a man mounted on a Peruvian Paso horse.