Huacons perform the Huaconada in the Plaza of Mito, Peru. January 2, 2019. © J. Ashley Nixon.
Ten years ago today, on November 16, 2010, the Huaconada was recognized by UNESCO for its Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This ritual has been performed on the first few days of January for hundreds of years in Mito, a town of around 1,500 people located 3,286 m high in the Andes of Peru.
Cultural Heritage and Symbolism
A cultural space where a dialogue between modernity and tradition is played out.
The Huaconada is much more than a dance, a series of steps played out in a colourful, entertaining performance that evolved in one small Peruvian town. In the nomination to UNESCO, the Huaconada was described as “a cultural space where a dialogue between modernity and tradition is played out.” It is a ritual that brings traditions into the ongoing social life of the people of Mito. It reaffirms and maintains their collective identity, founded in indigenous, pre-Hispanic Andean culture, and adapted to later colonial and more modern influences. It is a representation of their past brought alive and current through the values embodied in the figure of the Huacon and the transfer and retention of their cultural knowledge through the generations.
More recently, the Huacon has been suggested as a national symbol in the fight against systemic corruption in Peru, whose ugly head threatens democracy in the country once again.
Behind the Mask
You can read more about the Huaconada of Mito in my book Behind the Mask (written in English and Spanish). Photographs from the book are on display in my online gallery.
The Mask and More
My documentary film The Mask and More featured in Aprendo en Casa (Learn at Home) on national television in Peru (TV Perú) in 2020. This educational program was established and broadcast by the Ministry of Education when schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seriously affected Peru. You can view the film (66 minutes, in Spanish with English subtitles) via this link.
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