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Snow Star Festival - 2016

Tens of thousands of pilgrims crowd an Andean valley, with dancers in multi-layered skirts and musicians with drums and flutes performing non-stop over three days. The native melodies resound throughout a snow-capped mountain range long adored by the Quechua people.

Known as the Snow Star festival, the gathering is held every year shortly before the Christian feast of Corpus Christi and draws as many as 100,000 people to the Quispicanchis province in Peru's Cuzco region. It also coincides with the reappearance of the star cluster Pleiades in the Southern Hemisphere, signaling the abundance of the harvest season.

Inscribed on UNESCO'S Intangible Cultural Heritage list, the festival features a pilgrimage by local people to the sanctuary where a boulder features an image of Jesus Christ known as the Lord of Qoyllur Rit'i (pronounced KOL-yer REE-chee), or Snow Star in the Quechua language.

The sanctuary is in the Sinakara Valley at the base of the Qullqip'unqu mountain in the Andes. Parish churches in the area provide food for the pilgrims, who camp out in the valley.

The celebration mixing Roman Catholic and indigenous beliefs honors Jesus as well as the area's glacier, which is considered sacred among some indigenous people. While the native celebration is far older, the Christian part of the ritual stretches back to the 1700s, when Jesus is said to have appeared to a young shepherd in the form of another boy.

On the last night of the festival, men known as "ukukus" climb more than 4,500 meters (about 14,765 feet) in freezing temperatures up to the Qullqip'unqu mountain's glacier. They dress as half-bear, half-man creatures and carry crosses up the slope to spend the night at the top. They descend with their crosses as first rays of the morning sun spread across the mountain range and are met by groups of women and children.

The ukukus are organized into militaristic groups with strict rules overseen by a "corporal." When new recruits reach the glacier, each kneels before a cross and places their hands on the ice.

In recent years, the pilgrims have noted a decline in the size of the glacier because of warming trends. In hopes of preventing additional melting, the ukukus no longer use the large candles that were once common in the ritual. The ukukus also used to cut away ice cubes to bring down, but no longer do so.

Jose Luis Mamani, president of the Paucartambo, one of numerous "nations" making the pilgrimage, said members of his group "are very worried about the state of this sacred place."

Still, after praying to the Lord of Qoyllur Rit'i for health, peace and prosperity, the pilgrims head home with their hope intact and the expectation they will perform the ritual again next year.

The Bridge at Q'eswachaka
Every year, communities of the Apurimac River Canyon in Peru use traditional engineering techniques to rebuild the Q'eswachaka Bridge.
Watch this amazing video!

Weird weather events: unusual cold in Peru kills 200,000 alpacas

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(NaturalNews) The start to 2015 was the warmest ever recorded. But an unusually cold, and likely engineered, freak weather event in Peru recently killed some 200,000 alpacas in the southeastern lakeside city of Puno, while at the same time Norway, a Nordic country that normally has an arctic-like climate, got hit with a tropical storm that experts say typically only occurs "in the jungle." reports that Peru's unexpected cold spell brought such large amounts of snow and ice that the Regional Council of Puno declared a 10-day state of emergency. Though alpacas are generally accustomed to colder weather -- the coldest day of the year in Puno, Peru, is July 26, according to WeatherSpark, with an average low of 22 degrees Fahrenheit -- extreme cold and wind resulted in literally hundreds of thousands of these warm-coated animals perishing

Peru- Nebraska

Lima, May 06 (ANDINA). A contingent of Peruvian celebrities -including chefs, athletes and performers- converged last month on Peru, Nebraska, to take the South American country's culture to another part of the world that shares the name but not the same landscape or customs.
Acclaimed chefs Gaston Acurio, Christian Bravo, Ivan Kisic and Javier Wong; performers Magaly Solier, Carlos Alcantara, Gonzalo Torres and Dina Paucar; as well as world champion surfers Sofia Mulanovich and Gabriel Villaran arrived in this small town of 569 people on a red and white bus bearing Peru's new country-brand logo
Drawn by the common name, the mission of the visitors from the culturally and geographically diverse nation was to shoot a 15-minute commercial that encourages national pride and shows how the Peruvian culture influences people around the world.
At the beginning of the commercial, the new ambassadors of Peru invite locals of all ages to enjoy our delectable dishes such as ceviche, papa a la huancaina, ocopa, anticucho and papa rellena as well as the country's traditional drink called chicha morada and the famous "bubble-gum-flavored" Inca Kola.
Other scenes show a flamboyantly dressed Dina Paucar traipsing into the local post office with a live llama, surfers Sofia Mulanovich and Gabriel Villaran trying to catch a wave in the Peru State College's paved parking lot, the sheriff trading his doughnuts for picarones with comedian Carlos Alcantara, Afro-Peruvian music and dance ensemble Peru Negro teaching cajón drumming, and a man climbing the water tower to paint an accent mark over the “u” in “Peru.” Scenes were also shot in New York City and Omaha.
Peruvian tourism officials chose Peru, Neb., after considering other U.S. communities named Peru, such as those in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Wisconsin, New York, Vermont, West Virginia and Massachusetts. The commercial was aired in Peru on Thursday afternoon and is also available.

Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa wins literature Nobel

Peruvian writer and one-time presidential candidate Mario Vargas Llosa, a chronicler of human struggles against authoritarian power in Latin America, won the 2010 Nobel prize for literature.

An outstanding member of the a generation of writers that led a resurgence in Latin American literature in the 1960s, Vargas Llosa was a champion of the left in his youth and later evolved into an outspoken conservative, a shift that infuriated much of Latin America's leftist intelligentsia.

"I hope they gave it to me more for my literary work and not my political opinions," the 74-year-old author said at a news conference in New York.

"I think Latin American literature deals with power and politics and this was inevitable. We in Latin America have not solved basic problems such as freedom," Vargas Llosa said.
"Literature is an expression of life and you can't eradicate politics from life," he added.

The Swedish Academy awarding the 10 million crown ($1.5 million) prize said Vargas Llosa had been chosen "for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt and defeat."

The author of more than 30 novels, plays and essays, Vargas Llosa made his international breakthrough in the 1960s with "The Time of the Hero", a novel about cadets at a military academy. Many of his works are built on his experiences of life in Peru in the late 1940s and the 1950s

Susan Sarandon reopens Machu Picchu with Andean locals after flooding

The ceremony took place two months after rail links to the site were washed away in devastating floods trapping 4,000 tourists and forcing Peru's most popular tourist attraction to close.
After Ms Sarandon attended the ancient ceremony asking for the blessing of mother Earth and other rituals at the ruins, hundreds of visitors returned delighted that they could once again enjoy the ancient city.
The Hollywood superstar then posed for photos with young girls wearing traditional Andean dress and sipped coca tea that many locals use to ward off the effects of altitude at nearly 8,000 feet above sea level.
The downpour which had continued for most of the morning was replaced by bright sunshine in the afternoon, reflecting the optimistic atmosphere as Machu Picchu welcomed tourists again.
Workers have now finished rehabilitating the last 17 miles of the tracks, though service has not been restored all the way to Cuzco.
Officials have said the entire route is not expected to reopen until June. Until then, tourists can travel by bus from Cuzco to Piscachuco and from there by train to Machu Picchu Pueblo at the base of the ruins.
The train is the only form of transportation to the fortress, though hardier tourists can also hike there along the steep Inca Trail.
Machu Picchu, nestled atop a verdant mountain in the Andes, averages 1,500 to 2,000 visitors a day.

By Sarah Gordon