I knew this would be big but I wasn’t expecting it to be humungus. The fiesta venerates the Virgin of Candelaria and is held roughly in the first two weeks of February. The key dates are the first Thursday in February when the statue of the Virgin is marched through the streets.
The following Sunday, the day after I arrived, there is a huge music and dance competition in the main stadium. It starts at 7am and finishes at 4pm. Watch HERE
After each group has performed they march through the streets from the stadium to the main square. This process takes until at least 1am on the Sunday. Watch HERE.
On the following Monday, my second day here, the grand parade is held. It starts at 8am and by the time all of the groups and bands have passed, I have now discovered, it is 3.30am on Tuesday! The event involves 40,000 dancers, 5,000 musicians and 25,000 ancillaries, putting it on a par with Rio and the carnaval de Oruro in Bolivia, and making it one of the three largest fiestas in South America.
My hotel is 50 metres from the parade route so for two days I hear the boom boom of the base drums. The streets are so narrow that there is little room to pass and spectators who have grabbed one of the thousands of chairs along the route shout for you to move. Temporary portaloos are set up at side streets along the route issuing a distinct aroma as you pass.