Life is hard in the high plains of southern Peru. Few animals survive here. Endless seas of grass stretch as far as the eye can see, interrupted only by patches of lifeless rock in the brilliant red and purple hues of volcanic upheaval.
We had been gently inquiring about religious festivals for weeks. We had mixed feeling about attending. Valerie and I always seek to minimize any disruption or burden that our presence ay cause. Outsiders and cameras can change things. For many people a camera is an invasion, even if they are too polite to say it. It was important to us to avoid this, stay out of the way, and observe quietly.
The festival spanned over a week. We joined for three days, the traditional length of pilgrimage, and immersed ourselves in song, dance, and ritual of the highlands. Our tent was among thousands of others, some simple tarps while others were elaborate structures with multiple rooms.
Many villages from the surrounding hills sent brightly colored envoys to represent them and ask for the blessings of their ancestors and the mountains. They sang, enacted ritual combat, danced, and prayed. Most of what we saw we did not understand. Many of these groups climbed all the way to the glacier, a giver of life, and prayed to the sacred snows there. We did not try to get close to this part of the ceremony.
As a photographer I can tell you that these pictures do not do justice to the grandeur and chaos of the event. Nonetheless, capturing a few moments in the lives of these Peruvian highlanders was a true pleasure and feast for the eyes and spirits.