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Latin America’s most colourful festivals

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The world is full of colourful festivals and none come as colourful as those in Latin America. While Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, the world’s largest street party, is perhaps the best known (and for good reason), there are plenty of festivals throughout the continent and throughout the year. Here are 11 of our favourite festivals to look out for.

Carnival

carnival

Carnival is celebrated throughout the towns and villages of Brazil and the rest of Latin America, but the largest and best known is the celebrations in Rio de Janeiro. With millions of people hitting the streets in February, it’s the largest street party in the world. The city hosts over 500,000 foreign tourists who come to enjoy famed parade of colourful dancers and musicians in the sambodrome.

Tango championship

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Buenos Aires plays host to the annual World Tango Championship. This famous dance originated in the 19th century in the nightclubs around the district of River Plate. It’s quickly becoming one of Argentina’s most valued culture exports with more enthusiasm into the tango around the world than ever before. During the festival, every bar, ballroom and milonga throughout the city comes alive with dancers and the sound of tango music. Held in August, it’s one of the best times to visit the city.

Day of the Dead

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Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is often confused with Halloween as the dates are very close. However, the event which is celebrated throughout Mexico stems from an Aztec festival that honours the goddess Michacacihuatl. Mexicans believe that the souls of lost loved ones return to earth on the 2nd November to be with their family once more. Families visit the graves of lost ones to pay their respects and leave food and drink.

Inti Raymi

Another famous festival in Peru which sees thousands of people descend upon Cuzco to take the pilgrimage to the ruins of Sacsayhuaman. The festival lasts for nine days between the winter solstice and the Inca New Year. Inti Raymi means ‘Sun Festival’ in Quechuan, and that is exactly what this festival is about. Honouring the sun god and hoping for the quick return in the darker days as well as a good crop and harvest in the coming months. It’s now the second largest festival in Latin America with well over 200,000 visitors last year.

Qoyllur Rit’i

Q’oyllur Riti is one of the least know and intriguing festivals in the Andes. A combination of Pre-Columbian fertility ceremonies and Catholic processions with colorful dancers and Andean panpipe music make this festival special. The main ceremony is held at the foot of Mount Ausangate. At almost 5,000 metres above sea level, the temperatures plunge to below freezing at night. That doesn’t stop worshippers from turning up to gather at the shrine which is said to be where the infant Christ appeared to a young Indian boy.

Flower festival

August sees the annual flower festival called La Feria de los Flores in Medellin. The colourful fair is attended by visitors from all over the world who eagerly descend upon the ‘City of Eternal Spring’ to see the huge flower festivals, parades, dance performances and theatre. Each year the displays and events get larger and more impressive. The event was original planned for one year in 1957, but was such a success it’s now an annual fixture.

Tapati Rapa Nui festival

Easter Island has few cultural connections with Chile and more with the Polynesian islands that surround it. During Tapati Rapa Nui festival, the ancient ancestral traditions are recreated. These include Takona (body painting), singing competitions, Haka Pei (where people slide down the cliff on a banana tree) and Tau’a Rapa Nui (sports on Rano Raraku volcano). It’s one of the most interesting festivals anywhere in the world as well as being one of the most remote.

Santa Semana

Like Carnival, Santa Semana (Holy Week) has celebrations throughout Latin America (as well as many other parts of the world). One of the most colourful is Antigua in Gautemala. This pretty colonial town comes alive with colour. Intricate designs using petals and coloured sawdust carpet the cobbled streets. These are destroyed by bare-footed, purple-robed men carrying statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. Other excellent places to celebrate Santa Semana include Quito in Ecuador and Copacabana in Bolivia.

To visit any of the above festivals or any place in Latin America contact one of our travel experts on +(0) 207 407 1478 or email us here. Alternatively, can view some example tours here.

7 amazing religious statues in Latin America

Many countries around the world love to erect religious monuments, but in Latin America they are particularly impressive. While most will have heard of Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer that towers over the city from Corcovado, there are plenty more throughout the continent.

Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro
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This is arguably one of the world’s most iconic statues. Christ the Redeemer was created by French sculptor Paul Landowski in collaboration with Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa. It may not be the largest statue at 30 metres high, but it’s fantastic location on top of the 700-metre-high Corcovado Mountain mean that can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. Weighing 635 metric tons, it was built from reinforced concrete and soapstone between 1922 and 1931.

Virgin Mary, Santiago

Smaller than Chris the Redeemer, but no less important. Perched on San Cristóbal Hill in Chile’s capital Santiago, this 22-metre-high statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary sits alongside a chapel and an amphitheatre, all dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. It weighs 36 tons and stretches up 14 metres (or over 22 metres if you include the pedestal).

Cristo Rey, Guanajuato

Flickr: Russ Bowling

Flickr: Russ Bowling

This Mexican statue of Jesus on Cerro del Cubilete in Guanajuato is one of the country’s most important. Created by artists Nicholas Mariscal in 1944 and stands at 23-metres-high from its base.

Virgin of Quito, Quito

Flickr: cmjfjd

Flickr: cmjfjd

Another statue built to celebrate the mother of Jesus, the Virgin Mary statue in Ecuador’s capital Quito is perched on El Panecillo, a 200-metre-high mountain in the centre of the city. In 1976 the 45-metre tall statue was commissioned and built. Seven thousand pieces of aluminium were used in its construction and it’s possible to go inside the hollow structure.

El Gigante, Easter Island

Most will have heard of the mysterious Moai stone statues that inhabit all corners of Chile’s Easter Island. The largest is called ‘El Gigante’ which is almost 22-metres-tall and weighs over 200 tons. The statue was never quite finished and it is unclear whether it was ever intended to be or they realised that they would never be able to move it if completed.

Christ of the Pacific, Lima

Christ of the Pacific was built in 2011 making it the newest on the list. At 37-metres high it is also one of the largest. It was given to Lima (Peru’s capital) as a gift from a group of Brazilian companies under President Alan Garcia. Its installation has caused some controversy due to its similar to the Brazil’s own Christ the Redeemer as well as being seen as a government endorsement of Christianity.

Cristo de la Concorde, Cochacamba

Flickr: I Marañón

Flickr: I Marañón

When this was completed in 1994, the was the largest statues of Jesus Christ in the world. It has since been surpassed, but at over 40 metres it’s taller than Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer. The statue sits on a 265-metre-high mountain overlooking the Bolivian city of Cochabamba.

To go and see these statues for yourself, call one of our specialists on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or contact us via email here.

10 ancient South American wonders you absolutely need to visit

1. Machu Picchu
Machu PicchuPedro Szekely/Flickr

Where: Cuzco, Peru
What: Extremely well preserved (and restored) 15th century Inca settlement located in stunning mountainous surroundings.
How: In the Footsteps of Incas

2. Tiwanaku
TiwanakuFrançois Bianco/Flickr

Where: Lake Titicaca, Bolivia
What: Capital of a pre-Inca civilization which dominated a swathe of the southern Andes between 500 AD and 900 AD
How: Tiwanaku & Beyond

3. Kuelap Fortress
KuelapMihai/Flickr

Where: Chachapoyas, Peru
What: The remains of a vast walled complex that contained over 400 buildings dating back to the 6th century and occupied until the Spanish Invasion.
How: Warriors of the Clouds

4. Chan Chan
Chan ChanCarlos Adampol Galindo/Flickr

Where: Trujillo, Peru
What: Covering an area of over twenty 20 km², Chan Chan is biggest Pre-Columbian archaeological site in Latin America.
How: Warriors of the Clouds

5. Tierradentro
Tierradentroinyucho/Flickr

Where: Cauca, Colombia
What: Underground tombs and burial chambers decorated with motifs dating back to the 6th century.
How: In Search of El Dorado

6. Chavín de Huántar
Chavininyucho/Flickr

Where: Ancash Region, Peru
What: A place of worship and one of the oldest pre-Columbian sites dating back to 1500 BC located in the high Andes.
How: Contact us

7. Ingapirca
SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAJulia Rubini/Flickr

Where: Cañar Province, Ecuador
What: One of the only and largest Inca complexes built in southern Ecuador and used as a military outpost.
How: Cotopaxi & the Devil’s Nose

8. Ciudad Perdida
Ciudad PerdidaSarah Tz/Flickr

Where: Sierra Nevada, Colombia
What: The ‘Lost City’ founded around 800 AD and rediscovered in the early 70s by a group of local treasure looters.
How: Contact us

9. Nazca Lines
Nazca LinesVéronique Debord-Lazaro/Flickr

Where: Nasca, Peru
What: Gigantic geoglyphs etched into the desert between 500 BC and 500 AD and still a mystery to archaeologists.
How: Contact us

10. Moai Statues
MaoiArian Zwegers/Flickr

Where: Easter Island, Chile
What: Human statues created by the Rapa Nui people between the 13th and 16th century some of which weigh up to 82 tons.
How: Origins of Chile

The Last Supper with a Guinea Pig

Last Supper

Photo credit: Toño Zapata/Wikipedia

If you’ve ever visited the Cathedral in Cuzco you may have noticed a painting depicting Jesus and his disciples at The Last Supper. Although it looks like a piece of religious European art it was painted by a Peruvian man called Marcos Zapata in the 18th century. After the Spanish conquered the Inca Empire in 1534 they tried to convert the remaining Incas to Catholics and one of the ways they tried to do this was through art.  Religious artists from Spain were sent to Cuzco to open the Escuela Cuzqueña (Cuzco School) and teach indigenous Quechua people and mestizos how to draw and paint. What’s interesting about Zapata’s painting are the Andean cultural influences that may not be immediately apparent. Native Peruvian foods including peppers, corn and different coloured potatoes adorns the table as well as cuy (guinea pig), a typical Andean staple. It’s commonly considered that the drink is either chicha (fermented corn) or the local fire-water Pisco. To the forefront of the painting Judas can be seen holding a bag of money below the table. Some say that this figure looks very similar to Francisco Pizarro, the Conquistador who captured and murdered the Inca Emperor Athualpa.

Want to see the painting for yourself? Get in touch.

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