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Home/Stories and articles/Recovery
December 2002

Virgen del Carmen celebration:
Multicolour devotion

Take a look at the pictures of what is known as the “chinos dances”, in Chile’s northern regions. They’re part of the annual celebration in honor of Cabildo’s Virgen del Carmen, at the Aconcagua valley. It is a rite that combines faith, tradition, brotherhood and joy in a virtual explosion of shapes, sounds and colours.

By Rosario Mena

Click on the picture to view the whole album.

Each July 16, the day of the Virgen del Carmen, Chile’s Patron, the city of Cabildo holds its biggest celebration, which goes from dusk til dawn to honor who they consider is the Mother of the valley’s fertile cropland. There are masses, vigils, and streets decorated with paper-flowers and small altars right there in the sidewalk. This is the stage for the Virgin procession, which is led by the dances of the “chinos” groups, both from the city and from nearby towns. Their costumes are bright, colourful, just like their instruments and banners.

The celebration gathers families from all over the region, and you can see grandparents dancing with the youngest of children. Some other play music, sew, decorate and cook what can not be missed: food and drinks.

It is a unique experience in which people put up to date with great energy and enthusiasm with the old tradition of a religious rite that combines the Indian cosmovision with the imaginery of the Catholic gospel spread by the Spaniards. Archeologist Claudio Mercado explains there’s a part of all this that comes from native cultures: musical instruments, dances, making a relation between the ritual and special conscience states. On the other hand, the “alferez” song, the Holy Scriptures, the Catholic institution, the sacred images and the ritual calendar are part of the Spanish domain.

According to Mercado, “the first registers of ‘chinos’ dances were found on the flutes of the so called ‘Complejo Aconcagua’, a culture that inhabitated Chile’s Central Zone between the years 900 and 1400. Then we became aware of this rite during the Conquest and the Colony through chronicles and travellers, and we see its current development as a tradition that gathers socially, culturally and religiously the descendants of those natives”.


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