Virgin of Candelaria



To try to discover the origins of the sacred image of the virgin of Camdelaria, it is to get in a very fragile and complex web made of legends and oral traditionss passed from generation to generation.

When the Spanish coloninsts arrived trying to impose the principle " for the holy cross or for the sword" ,an agressive way to impose their culture and believings to a completely different population with their own cultural and social references. The catholic missionaries imposed catholicism and the cult for virgin Mary, along every conquered territory. In the beginning, the native people of Puno had a very strong faith and believing in mother earth or Pacha mama, so they pretended they changed their cult giving some characteristics of Pacha mama to virgin Mary, a kind of syncretism.

As the time passed by, this syncretism grew and nowadays it is very common religion practice along the Andean plateau.

Many are the legends that wanted to tell that the virgin came out from the sacred waters of the lake, giving her a mystical origin as the Incas Manco Cápac and Mama Occlo did. one of these legends tells the virgin showed up in the old port, after a stormy night and the lightnings tore down the sky during the XVII century.

Other legends try to relate her origins to the mining life.

It is important to remember that Puno was, during its beginning, a mining settlement, Laykakota  was one of them, the silver foundry of the Salcedo brothers at San Luis de Alba, located on the west side of Cancharani hill, during the colony times, Azoguini hill was important to to the extraction of the valuable mercury, which gives the name to the hill, "azogue" was the former name of  mercury.

Another legend tells that virgin mary showed up in Puno, Dionisio Quispe tells "The virgin showed herself  with the face of a serene and elegant lady holding a child in her arms"  and a local young man saw her while he was guarding a local manor near a creek next to huajasapata hill  in some point of the XVII. During those times the colonists use to sanction the locals drastically if they refuse to work in the mines, so the population felt they were in a  dilema to obey their masters or to disobey them. this young man told the lady asked him to wash her baby boy clothes in the creek and while she guarded the placeuuntil the moment he returns.When he came back with his master, they couldnt believe what they were seeing, a statue of the virgin dressed all in white, holding a baby in her arms and with the clothes yet wet.

All of these legends have the purpose to reaffirm the generous personality of virgin Mary in their culture, assimilating it with their cult for Pacha mama, nowadays the people call her "Mamita Candelaria"in a colloquial way.

El primer escrito por ahora conocido, y que habla de la imagen de la Virgen de la Candelaria sería, según Ignacio Frisancho, una escritura de arrendamiento firmada en 1707 por el Licenciado Phelipe de Valdés quien declara "Otorgo que arriendo y doy en arrendamiento al señor marques de villa rica de salcedo es a saber las dichas casas de vivienda que fueron del dicho don silvestre de valdes (…) y se incluyen (…) en la recamara una cuja dorada dos tabernáculos dorados con sus imágenes en bulto en el uno de la de un crucifijo y en el otro de una señora de la candelaria...".

EThis image could have been the current image of Virgin de la Candelaria from the San Juan temple, beacuse of its small size, it is made of wood and iron fibers, only the heads and the hands are made in porcelain. Definitely this image wanst supossed to be the main image of a colonial altar, it was supossed to be send to a small church or something, but due to the awarded miracles people told she did, it is why the city of Puno proclaimed her their tutelary saint.

Tupac Amaru

Tupac Amaru

EThe most important miracle and the one that justified the tittle the people gave her, was an event that happened in 1781, during the revolution, leaded by Túpac Amaru II, the city of Puno, which former name was Villa de Nuestra Señora de la Concepción y san Carlos de Puno, under the command of Corregidor don Joaquin de Orellana, resisted the first two assults given by the thousands of rebel indians of Tupac Amaru II, since Mars 10th to April 10th and since May 7th to May 12th, the rebel troops of Túpac Amaru, under the command of Pedro Vilcapaza and Tupac Katari, could finally in a third attack to get into the city, and retreating near the lake waiting for the last attack.

The citizens of Puno, were exhausted and about to give up, they decided to take the image of the virgin around the city in a procession with candles, sicuris and trumpeters, praying for protection. because of the big noise and lights turned on during the night, the, also tired, rebels from  outside the city, thought it was a bigger army that arrived to help the city people, so they decided to leave before the sun rises.

LThe people of Puno considered this as a miracle the virgin did to protect them, so since that day the cult for this humble tiny image grew until the moment they decided to proclaim her their tutelary divinity, leaving behind the cult imposed by the colonists for another virgin ,Nuestra Señora de la Concepción.

© Christian Nonis