La Tirana Festival in Chile

By: Emmy Tran

This time I want to go further and out of Santiago city because I have found a unique festival called La Tirana Festival or La Tirana Virgin Festival in northern Chile. 

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La Tirana Festival is the biggest Chilean celebration for the religion. It is held in the second week of July every year, in the small town of La Tirana, located in the Tarapacá region.  This festival lasts for 4-10 days. However, for this year 2021, the celebration will begin on Thursday, July 15th at 10 pm and finishes on Friday, July 19th. The event attracts more than 200,000 visitors while the population of the village is around 1,200 inhabitants. They come to the festival in La Tirana,  the Tarapacá region to honor exclusive gratitude to the patron saint of Chile, La Virgen del Carmen. They can enjoy dancing with the performances.   

There is a historical story behind the La Tirana Festival. In 1540, an Incaican Princess, named Huillac Humu or La Tirana (in English, tyrant) met a Spanish expedition in Chile with the leader Diego de Almagro. These expeditors as her hostiles and she was known as La Tirana or the tyrant in English. Ironically, she extremely fell in love with Almeyda, one of her Spanish prisoners, and wanted to marry him. Therefore, her community was angry and killed both of them. A century later, around 1650, a hermitage was built next to the cross of her grave by Antonio Rondon. It could be a reason that the little town and church were created in the 18th century in this place. It could be considered a historical relic of the people of this place, so a museum was also formed in front of the church in La Tirana. Nowadays, they hold a festival annually to commemorate the Virgin of Carmen with many traditions related to the historic significance of the native Andean people. 

During the La Tirana Virgin Festival,  many religious ceremonies are held with musical instruments, singing, dancing performances, parades, and firework. Two major roles in this event are the beauties and devils. The beautiful groups dress both traditional costumes and glitter colorful customers. They are combined with about 200 different dancing groups from many places gathered to fulfill the promise with the Virgin of Carmen that they come back and visit her to receive her blessings. In contrast, other groups wear the masks of devils which is incredible, but scary at the same time for some people. The masks are scary because of the convex eyes, curved horns, and bright colors. Besides, the Danza de Los Diablos ( Dance of the Devils), uses fearsome masks, the most important parts of the festival. These devil-style costumes are a symbol for eliminating demon spirits and bad lucks. The contrast between righteousness and evil makes this festival unique.

Devil masks in La Tirana Festival

This cultural event is very interesting to me. When I saw their mask pictures, it reminded me of Chinese Buddhist culture. Devil masks are symbolized by bad images of people who did terrible things in their past lives, so the signification of Chinese masks is completely different from the masks of the La Tirana Festival. However, both cultures dress very similarly. At first, I thought it was a Chinese festival in Chile, but it was not. I was a little bit surprised about Chilean culture. Therefore, I want to share with other students to know more about indigenous Chileans.

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