Carnaval of Tirana

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The Desert Festival of the Andes

Carnaval of Tirana takes place on July 16 in the small village of Tirana in the Chilean desert – sounds, colours, rhythms, song and movement.

The Andean festival of Tirana is held in the village of the same name, a place with roughly 800 inhabitants located in the region of Tarapacá, Chile. Very well known by the locals of the neighbouring countries (Chile, Bolivia, Peru), it has become one of the biggest assemblies of Andean festivities and rituals. This event, gathering over 200’000 people, is a tribute to Virgen del Carmen.

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Unlike many classical processions that are usually associated with the worship of a saint, here it’s the captivating carnival which leaves room for homage to the Virgin. Originally a procession for the dead, the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors lead to the identification of the Pachamama, the Andean spirit of “Mother Earth”, with the Virgin Mary, thus creating an interesting mix of cultures and religions. The enchanting dances and choreographies, such as the spectacular “La Diablada”, succeed each other strictly following the ancient Andean rites. The colorful and extravagant costumes are made with great love to the detail and are paraded through the three main streets offered by this small village.

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During these three days this cultural fusion transforms the village into an ephemeral, magical performance. Here, time stops to make room for the madness of dance, rhythm and choreography of the high plateaus of Latin America, evoking the identity and culture of the ancestral Andean tribes.

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Emmanuelle Mariès is an architect and documentary photographer based in Copenhagen, Denmark. Check her work here: