Peru's Snow Star Festival

Every year, tens of thousands of pilgrims gather in Sinakara Valley, high in the Peruvian Andes, to celebrate Qoyllur Rit’i, or the Snow Star Festival. Dancers in multi-layered skirts and musicians with drums and flutes perform during the three-day festival, a celebration combining Catholic, Incan, and other indigenous beliefs. The centuries-old festival celebrates the stars, notes the reappearance of the Pleiades star cluster marking the start of the harvest season, honors Jesus Christ, and also honors the local glacier, which is held to be sacredUkukus (men dressed as mythical half-man, half-bear creatures) used to cut blocks of ice from the glacier to share with the community, believing the melted water had healing powers, but have now stopped, noting a decline in the size of the glaciers because of warming trends.

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