Andean Indigenous Cultures Adapt To A Changing Climate

A Centuries-Old Peruvian Festival Changes With the Climate

Peru's Snow Star Festival keeps tradition without the ice.

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.

RELIGIOUS ROOTS Dan Kitwood/Getty Images RELIGIOUS ROOTS The 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.) PRAISING MOTHER EARTH Dan Kitwood/Getty Images PRAISING MOTHER EARTH More 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.) TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGIN' Dan Kitwood/Getty Images TIMES 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.)
Andean Indigenous Cultures Adapt To A Changing Climate
Andean Indigenous Cultures Adapt To A Changing Climate
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images SHRINKING Dan Kitwood/Getty Images SHRINKING In 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. RAINBOW CONNECTION Dan Kitwood/Getty Images RAINBOW CONNECTION A pilgrim is seen wearing a traditional headpiece and a brightly-colored robe on May 30, 2018. GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS Dan Kitwood/Getty Images GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS Men dressed as “Ukukus" (mythical half-man, half-bear creatures) descend the Qullqip'unqu mountain (where previously there was ice) on May 29, 2018. FACETIME Dan Kitwood/Getty Images FACETIME Up close and personal with a local “Ukuku" on May 30, 2018. PRAISE AND WORSHIP Dan Kitwood/Getty Images PRAISE AND WORSHIP Dancers pray during the first day of Qoyllur Rit’i on May 27, 2018.
Andean Indigenous Cultures Adapt To A Changing Climate
Andean Indigenous Cultures Adapt To A Changing Climate
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images WHIP IT Dan Kitwood/Getty Images WHIP IT A 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. SAND INSTEAD OF SNOW Dan Kitwood/Getty Images SAND INSTEAD OF SNOW Delegations line up to dance after celebrating the sunrise on the final day of the annual Qoyllur Rit'i festival on May 30, 2018. ONE FOR THE ROAD Dan Kitwood/Getty Images ONE FOR THE ROAD



For more FOTO stories directly in your inbox, sign up for our weekly newsletter.