Press credentials for the big festival

A moment lived in Peru by Alison, a traveller from Canada

February 10th 2013. Puno, Peru. It’s a Sunday. Were standing in line outside the town stadium waiting to buy tickets for the first of two Sundays of the dance competition. It’s the Candelaria Festival, an annual event that draws fifty thousand dancers and twenty thousand musicians from all over the Andes to this small town on the shores of Lake Titicaca. The festival, although not as well known as Rio’s Carnival, is equally as big, and equally as colourful. It’s about ten in the morning, and although the competition started at seven, we’re not worried. We know it will continue throughout the day and into the evening.

We’d arrived in town the day before, and really don’t know much more about the festival except that today the dancing starts at the stadium.

Suddenly a miracle happens although we do not realize it as such at the time. A local woman who speaks English walks up to us and begins talking, introducing herself, and asking if she can help. This is what I learn: the stadium is divided into four quarters; you cannot move from one quarter to another; the best place for photography is the south quarter. I don’t realize how invaluable this information is until later when we enter the stadium.

We buy our tickets for the south quarter and go in. The first thing I notice is that between the concrete stadium seating and the field where the dancing takes place there is a high wire fence. Looking up I realize that to get any photographs without this fence in the way I will have to go to the top of the seating and then will be photographing dancing ants, even with my long lens. I’m momentarily disappointed, and then inwardly shrug: well I guess I won’t be taking any photos today.

As we walk along at the bottom of the seating looking for a place to sit I notice a gate in the fence. The gate leads to the athletic track that surrounds the field. Beyond the track is a low fence and beyond that is the dancing. And in that space I see photographers and cameramen. There is a man guarding the gate. Completely spontaneously I find myself, in my best halting Spanglish, asking if we could go in there, explaining that I have an online journal. The gatekeeper sends for a more important man who allows is into the media area for the day. Wait what? We’re press? We’re in the official media area! We have front row seats to the dancing with nothing obstructing our view!

Later I ask him if we could come back the following Sunday when the competition continues. He says we need to get press credentials from the Candelaria office and tells us where to find it. During the week we apply for, and are granted, press credentials and return the following Sunday for the rest of the dancing. You have no idea how wonderful it feels to be ushered in ahead of everyone else, and to get the best view because you have the right authorization hanging around your neck.

And all this because out of nowhere, like a miracle, a local woman came up to us while we waited in line and told us about the configuration of the stadium and the best place for photography. We actually didn’t even see her coming. Suddenly she was there, saying hello and introducing herself.
Even now as I write about it I still find it completely mind blowing. Without her information we would have arrived at the ticket window and not had a clue what tickets to buy, and probably not enough Spanish to find out. A truly amazing travel moment!

This traveler has a travel blog: Alison and Don

credit photo: Alison

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