I had the good luck of being in Toconao at the time of the festival of the village saint San Lucas (St. Luke, the physician and writer of the 3rd gospel as well as the book Acts of the Apostles).
Toconao is a village at 2,485 m (8,153 ft) in Chile, south of San Pedro de Atacama. The region is a desert, but Toconao is an oasis because of a stream of pure water. In 2006 the village had less than 800 inhabitants. “The most notable building in Toconao is its church [Iglesia de San Lucas]. The bell tower is separated from the main church structure and dates from 1750.” Says Wikipedia. And the festival of the patron of the village is in October (18.10.).
The dancers hardly get a break. And one of the bands already look like having played in the movie “They shoot horses, don’t they”. It’s more than what we see at carnival in Cologne. You need stamina. In between dancing to praise San Lucas, the dancers enter church and pray there. The nuns there pray, too, and talk about the saint. The village doesn’t have a steady priest, but of course someone is visiting the village regularly as only a priest can consecrate the host, which is kept afterwards in the tabernacle.
You might get the impression when looking at dancing to praise a saint as a thin roman-catholic layer on folk believes in South America, but you will find worldwide some non-Christian folk religion having entered Christianity. Or do you think that the Christmas tree has a Christian origin?
You might think that the people look rather Bolivian, which isn’t so far from the truth. The region had been a part of Bolivia until Chile won the War of the Pacific in 1884 and the area has been part of Chile since then or better after signing the peace treaty in 1904, or even as late as 1929. But that's better discussed on a history blog. Bolivia still claims access to the Pacific Ocean.
The Stream that nurtures Toconao
Ball Tower and Church in the background
Dancers - the biggest group
Sultans of Brass
The colored squares on the dresses resemble the new flag of Bolivia
Dancing is fun, too
Not as unusual as you might think ...
... have a look at this announcement in La Paz (Bolivia) for a folklore ballet staged by the catholic university of San Pablo