If you have your own transport, and are looking to get well off the beaten track, you may want to take a diversion to the unspoilt village of Casabindo, particularly if you can time your visit to coincide with the August 15 Feast of the Assumption, among the most fascinating and colourful of all the Northwest’s festivals. Some 80km north of Humahuaca you pass through the crossroads village of Abra Pampa, a forlorn place of llama herdsmen living in adobe houses, from where the rough-surfaced RP-11 leads to Casabindo, 60km southwest. The tiny village is dwarfed by a huge church, the Iglesia de la Asunción, so large it’s nicknamed La Catedral de la Puna (“the cathedral of the puna”). It houses a collection of Altoperuvian paintings of ángeles militares, or angels in armour, similar to those in Uquía. Its several chapels are the theatre of major celebrations on the August 15 festival. Plume-hatted angels and a bull-headed demon lead a procession around the village, accompanied by drummers. The climax of the festival is a bloodless corrida, a colonial custom. The bull, representing the Devil, has a rosette hung with coins stuck on his horns and the Virgin’s “defenders” have to try and remove it. Coca leaves and fermented maize are buried in another ceremony on the same day, as an offering to Pachamama, the Earth Mother.

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