Most Important Festivals in Latin America

03 Mar
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Most Important Festivals in Latin America

Tuesday March 03, 2020 - Posted by SSLA Team

Latin America offers the most colorful, lavish, unique and artistic festivals in the entire world. Take a look at our top choices below for festivals in Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Mexico and Panama – all great destinations for a Spanish immersion course.

Spanish immersion programs allow you to get a better sense of the cultural context and learn tips, tricks and conversational skills in Spanish to help you navigate and get by. There are hundreds of Spanish courses to choose from within Latin America. Take a look at some of the Spanish courses and Spanish immersion programs. Study Spanish while you celebrate with the locals and check out this overview of the Most Important Festivals in Latin America.

Most Important Festivals in Latin America

Peru Festivals: Inti Raymi

The Inti Raymi ceremony starts with the entrance of four armies from each part of the Inca Empire. Dancing with colorful costumes, hundreds of Inca soldiers go to the gardens of the Qorikancha Temple. Some minutes later the Inca Emperor announces the beginning of the Inti Raymi.

In the Main Square of Cusco, the Plaza de Armas, the Inca performs the coca leaves ceremony to show thanks to their god: The Sun. Later, the ceremony takes place at the Sacsayhuaman Fortress. All the dancers come together in an amazing performance that highlights the typical dances of the Inca Empire.

Inti Raymi is probably Peru’s most famous festival. Inti Raymi or the Festival of the Sun was the principal and most spectacular celebration in the Inca period. In Andean mythology, the Incas were considered the descendants of the Sun. Therefore, the people had to offer an extravagant celebration to him annually, thank the Sun for abundant harvests and to ask for plentiful harvests in the coming season. In addition, during the winter solstice when the sun was moving away from the earth, the people performed rituals to ask the Sun not to abandon them.

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Inti Raymi is celebrated every year on June 24th making June a very nice time of the year to Study Spanish in Cusco. A few weeks before Inti Raymi, the catholic festival Corpus Christi takes place; a few weeks later it is Independence Day in Peru. And finally, on July 15th, the village of Paucartambo, near Cusco, celebrates La Virgen Del Carmen.

Festival Inti Raymi Cusco Peru

Colombian Festivals: Carnival of Barranquilla

Carnival in Barranquilla was at first considered a holiday for slaves, and it grew over the years to be a major celebration of the region. The carnival reportedly originates from a combination of pagan rituals, catholic principles and ethnic diversity. Barranquilla is a location where European, African, and indigenous peoples and cultures met and blended. In 2002, Carnival in Barranquilla was declared a Colombian National Culture Heritage. And in 2003, Carnival of Barranquilla was declared by UNESCO as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

The Carnival of Barranquilla is the second-largest Carnival celebration in the world, after the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. It is also Colombia’s biggest street celebration in Colombia. The city of Barranquilla is located on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. The citizens of Barranquilla are given a special four-day vacation to celebrate their carnival.

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The Carnival in Colombia offers a spectacle of dances and music originating from an intermingling of numerous local traditions. Groups of masqueraded dancers, actors, singers and musicians bring enchantment and amusement to crowds through theatrical and musical presentations based on historical and contemporary events.

Carnival Barranquilla ColombiaGreat Fantasy Parade, photo by El Heraldo

Festivals Bolivia: Alasitas Festival

To ensure that their wishes are granted, Bolivians purchase a small statue of Ekeko, which means dwarf in Aymará, to put in their homes throughout the year. Next, Bolivians have the petite gifts blessed by a shaman, then pin them to Ekeko’s poncho while praying for prosperity and luck.

Along with providing Ekeko with miniature gifts, Bolivians also light a cigarette in his mouth and they occasionally throw some alcohol on the floor in front of him. In return for these gifts, Ekeko watches over their family, prevents misfortune and returns any generosity he receives before the year is over.

Every year on the 24th of January at noon, people from all over Bolivia go to the Alasitas Festival in La Paz to collect miniature banknotes, animals, tools, houses, cars, electronics, clothing, food, airline tickets, suitcases, love, marriage certificates and even university degrees, all for the economical price of a few bolivianos.

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The Alasitas Fair, which takes place just before Carnaval, is a month-long festival where locals purchase miniature items to give to Ekeko, the Aymara god of abundance, in hopes he will bring prosperity and joy to their lives.

Ekeko Festival Bolivia

Argentina Festivals: Tango Buenos Aires Festival

If you study Spanish in Argentina, you do not want to miss the annual Tango Festival in Buenos Aires, the largest Tango festival in the world. It attracts close to half a million tourists every year in August. Dancers and fans of tango music come together for a two-week festival of free concerts, classes, milongas, and other events.

Tango dancers from all over the world compete for a place in the finals at Luna Park stadium. The competition has two categories: traditional tango salon (dancers improvise to the music that is played), and escenario (choreographed stage tango).

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The event also features a product fair, dozens of activities for dancers and non-dancers, including more than 50 special dance and music productions, appearances by internationally distinguished artists, shows from major dance companies, children’s events, and special events such as talks, book launches and presentations.

Tango Festival Buenos Aires Argentina

Chile Festivals: Tapati Festival

The Tapati Festival is the central cultural and sporting event that is celebrated on Easter Island every year during the first half of February. The celebration is a tribute to the ancestral traditions of the Rapanui people and is celebrated to relive, share and preserve the cultural identity of the local people. One of the main reasons for the festival is to appoint the queen of the Tapati. Two candidates for the title are presented and supported by their families, friends and visitors. Each group forms an alliance that will face the other through a series of competitions and events.

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Visitors can also view performances of storytelling, song and dance, parades, body painting with traditional motifs, Polynesian Canoeing, “Haka Honu” or gliding on the waves only with the body, sport fishing or underwater fishing, handicrafts (traditional costumes, crowns and necklaces), stone and wood carving, agricultural and gastronomic competitions.

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The Tau’a Rapa Nui or Rapa Nui Triathlon consists of three traditional exercises. The route, totalling 3 km, begins with “Vaka Ama“, in which participants cross the crater lagoon in small rafts built with water reeds. When they reach the shore, the “Aka Venga” begins, in which two bunches of bananas weighing about 20 kg are hung on necks of the participants, and they have to run once around the lake. Lastly, they have to cross the lake again swimming with the help of a float of reed fibres.

The Haka Pei is possibly the riskiest competition. The public meets at the foot of the hill Maunga Pu’I which has a height of 200 meters and a slope of 45º. Participants slide down the slope, lying on a sledge built with two trunks of bananas linked together. Competitors sometimes reach speeds of 80 km per hour. The winner is the person who travels the greatest distance from the start point.

Mexico Festivals: Guelaguetza Festival in Oaxaca

The Guelaguetza festival also called the Lunes del Cerro, or “Mondays on the Hill”, is a celebration of the plethora of communities of the state of Oaxaca. Guelaguetza is celebrated on the last 2 Mondays of July. The only exception to this is if July 18th, the date on which Mexico’s only indigenous president Benito Juárez passed away, falls on a Monday, the Guelaguetza schedule is pushed back by a week. This is not a unique opportunity to learn about Mexican culture for students learning Spanish in Oaxaca but for everyone traveling in Mexico.

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Everyone comes together to celebrate the diversity of their many traditions. Oaxaca has 16 different ethnolinguistic groups. Members of these groups gather together wearing their vibrant traditional clothing and perform dances that are particular to their area. At the end of the dance, they toss products from the region they represent to the onlookers.

The Guelaguetza festival is celebrated today for a combination of pre-hispanic celebrations of the corn goddess, Centeotl, and the Catholic feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on July 16th. Each year a young woman from one of the communities is selected to embody Centeotl, the corn goddess. This is not a beauty contest, but a contest to see which woman is most educated about the traditions of her community.

Many other events take place in Oaxaca during the two weeks of the Guelaguetza festival, including concerts, exhibits of artisanal crafts, fairs with typical foods of the region, conferences and a mezcal fair where you can sample different varieties of this alcoholic drink.

Read more about another important Festival in Mexico and Oaxaca: the Day of the Death.

Panama Festivals: Panama Jazz Festival

The annual Panama Jazz Festival, which takes place in January, is one of the most important jazz festivals in the world. The event brings in musical talent from across the globe with more than 400 performers. Featured performers have included The Wayne Shorter Quartet, Herbie Hancock, Chucho Valdés Quartet, John Patitucci, Joe Lovano, Rubén Blades, Randy Weston, Kenny Barron, Esperanza Spalding, Mike Stern, Lizz Wright, Jack DeJohnette, Stanley Jordan, Billy Cobham, Terry Lyne Carrington, Ran Blake, Phil Ranelin and Ellis Marsalis, among others.

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This festival also tries to raise awareness and responsiveness for social issues faced in Panama and Central and South America. The festival makes a positive impact on the lives of hundreds of Panamanians (who might not otherwise have had opportunities to develop and share their talents). Students and professionals of all ages from multiple countries and various social classes gather to share their talents and dreams and to learn from one another.

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