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Festival de San Juan

Posted 7/6/2019

The Festival of San Juan, when Peru's jungle residents will be making the mass exodus out of their respective towns and cities to head to the riverside to eat juanes, drink beer and go swimming.

 

In Peru, June 24 is the central feast day, which also ties in to the southern hemisphere's winter solstice (not that you'll see any signs of winter in the jungle). The day is celebrated to varying extents throughout the country, but nowhere are the festivities more pronounced than in the jungle, where the celebrations rival -- and often surpass -- those of Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

John k Baptist is the most prominent saint in the Peruvian Amazon. His association with water is particularly relevant in the jungle regions of Peru, where rivers are vital to the economies of many communities.

By midday on June 24, Peruvians in towns and cities throughout the jungle have relocated to the riverbanks. They spend the day swimming in the river and relaxing in the shade, while copious amounts of beer and cups of locally produced aguardiente (fire water) are passed from hand to hand.

People leave the riverbanks as the sun begins to set, but the festivities are far from over. The night of San Juan is one big party; people dance and knock back chelas (Peruvian slang for “beers”) until the early hours.

There are traditional dances known as pandillas, as well as lively nights in all the nearby discotecas. Fueled by beer and juanes, the revelers somehow manage to dance throughout the night -- quite an accomplishment considering the hours of daytime drinking beforehand.

Unsurprisingly, the following day tends to get off to a sluggish start, but June 25 is rarely devoid of activities. Colorful processions and parades snake their way through the streets in the afternoon, marking the end of the San Juan celebrations.