A Centuries-Old Peruvian Festival Changes With the Climate
Peru's Snow Star Festival keeps tradition without the ice.
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Published May 31, 2018
Published 18 days ago
Photographs by Dan Kitwood
Every year for the last 235 years, thousands of pilgrims from the Peruvian Andes and beyond have gathered at the foot of Mt. Ausugante to celebrate Qoyllur Rit’i, or the Snow Star Festival. Since its inception, the three-day festival has centered around the local glacier, which is believed to hold healing powers. But due to rising temperatures caused by climate change, some traditions have had to be abandoned as the region's revered glacier slowly disappears. Here, a look at the 2018 festivities, without the ice.
Dan Kitwood/Getty ImagesRELIGIOUS ROOTSThe traditions associated with Qoyllur Rit'i, which are made up of a mix of Catholic, Incan, and other indigenous beliefs, include the wearing of traditional garments and performances from local delegations. (Pictured: Dancers in multi-layered skirts perform on the first day of Qoyllur Rit'i on May 27, 2018.)
Dan Kitwood/Getty ImagesPRAISING MOTHER EARTHMore than just three days of music and dancing, the ancient festival is also a celebration of the earth and the indigenous people's spiritual connection with the land. (Pictured: A pilgrim carries a cross to the site of the final sunrise ceremony on May 29, 2018.)Dan Kitwood/Getty ImagesTIMES THEY ARE A CHANGIN'Until recent years, local men would travel up the mountains to cut off large blocks of ice from the glacier. They would then carry the pieces to their local communities, believing the melted water held healing powers. This ancient tradition, however, no longer takes place, as glacier sizes have dropped significantly. (Pictured: A delegation from Ocongate leaves a sanctuary on May 28, 2018.)
Dan Kitwood/Getty ImagesDan Kitwood/Getty ImagesSHRINKINGIn 1997, the Peruvian government studied the country's glaciers and found that they had shrunk by more than 20 percent over a 30-year period. The National Commission on Climate Change predicts that Peru could lose all of its glaciers within 40 years.Dan Kitwood/Getty ImagesRAINBOW CONNECTIONA pilgrim is seen wearing a traditional headpiece and a brightly-colored robe on May 30, 2018.
Dan Kitwood/Getty ImagesGOING THROUGH THE MOTIONSMen dressed as “Ukukus" (mythical half-man, half-bear creatures) descend the Qullqip'unqu mountain (where previously there was ice) on May 29, 2018.Dan Kitwood/Getty ImagesFACETIMEUp close and personal with a local “Ukuku" on May 30, 2018.Dan Kitwood/Getty ImagesPRAISE AND WORSHIPDancers pray during the first day of Qoyllur Rit’i on May 27, 2018.
Dan Kitwood/Getty ImagesDan Kitwood/Getty ImagesWHIP ITA ritualistic whip fight takes place on May 28, 2018. During the ceremony, new recruits promise to make the long pilgrimage three years in a row.
Dan Kitwood/Getty ImagesSAND INSTEAD OF SNOWDelegations line up to dance after celebrating the sunrise on the final day of the annual Qoyllur Rit'i festival on May 30, 2018.Dan Kitwood/Getty ImagesONE FOR THE ROAD