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Celebrating the Festival of the Virgin of Ayquina: Tradition and Devotion

The Festival of the Virgin of Ayquina is one of the most emblematic and exciting celebrations of the second region of Chile. Every year, thousands of pilgrims (walkers and dancers) and visitors gather in this remote town in northern Chile to pay tribute to the Virgin of Ayquina and participate in a festivity full of color, music and spirituality. Ayquina is a town located in the province of Loa, II Region of Antofagasta, 150km from San Pedro de Atacama, a car trip of approximately 1h30. We will explore here a little more of the history and traditions of this unique festival, which combines religious faith with Chilean culture and we will leave our tribute to this beautiful celebration.


History of the Virgin of Ayquina

A shepherd boy named Casimiro Saire, on December 12, 1646, saw a woman appear, who than became his friend. When the adults arrived at the place, they found a small image of the Virgin and they reacted with religious fervor and decided to install the sacred image in the ruins of a nearby chapel. The Virgin of Ayquina is considered the patron saint of the miners of Chuquicamata, which is why a large number of them attend her celebration every year.


The Festival of the Virgin of Ayquina

The festival is celebrated every September 8, in honor of the Virgin of Ayquina. The festivities begin with the pilgrimage of faithful walkers who, year after year, fulfill their duty walking through the desert from the city of Calama to the town of Ayquina.

From September 1 to 4, the religious dances make their entrance to greet the Virgin of Ayquina, to begin what will be five days of celebration where an approximate of 50 dances accompanied by their brass bands, dance day after day and night to celebrate another year with the “chinita”, as her faithful devotees affectionately call her. On September 8, a procession takes place in which the image of the Virgin is carried on a litter through the streets of the town, accompanied by traditional musicians and dancers. Music and dance are essential elements of the celebration where they fill the small town of Ayquina with color, devotion and joy.

Religious Dances

One of the most notable traditions of the Festival of the Virgin of Ayquina are the religious dances. Groups of dancers, dressed in colorful costumes and caretas (masks), dance in honor of the Virgin. Each group represents a religious story or an aspect of life in the Atacama Desert. Dances are a form of artistic and spiritual expression that connects the community to its heritage and faith.


The festival continues

The Festival of the Virgin of Ayquina is an event that combines religion, culture and tradition in a festive atmosphere full of joy. It is a unique experience that shows the deep connection between faith and daily life in northern Chile. If you ever have the opportunity to visit Ayquina in September, don’t miss this celebration that will leave you with lasting memories and a renewed appreciation for Chile’s cultural diversity. Long live the Virgin of Ayquina!


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