The great festivity attracts thousands of visitors and followers. Within the July 12th and 18th, this beautiful northern town, undergoes a complete metamorphosis in which believers play music and dance as offerings to the Virgin. Around 230.000 pilgrims arrive to La Tirana during this huge festivity. The 207 brotherhoods of religious dances come from all over the north from Arica to Copiapó, with masks and plateau-like attires, and present their offerings to the Virgin. This is an extraordinary and unique spectacle in the country.
Other celebrations takes place on 5th and 6th January for the Epiphany (Pascua de los Negros), to which arrive about 30.000 pilgrims. During Holy Week arrive 5.000 pilgrims and by the end of September arrive 10.000 pilgrims for the Prayer for Chile (Oración por Chile).
The origins of La Tirana Festival in the Pampa del Tamarugal date back to 1540. During Diego de Almagro’s expedition (the discoverer of Chile), a group of natives established in this place in the desert. Within the natives, there was an Incaican princess, called Huillac Humu, also known as La Tirana for her despotism towards the Spanish. She fell in love with Almeyda, an Spanish soldier who was captured by the natives and condemned to death. Nevertheless, the princess wanted to get married to the soldier and became to Christianity. However, this betrayal was not forgiven by her community and the lovers had to die under a rain of arrows.
Around the year 1650, Antonio Rondón built an hermitage next to the cross of her grave. In the XVII century a church was built and around it, the town began to arise, reaching its current form before 1879. The lovers remain buried in the place where the festivity of La Tirana is celebrated.
The Sanctuary of La Tirana is located in Ceremonial Square surrounded by restaurants and snack bars. The hot spots of La Tirana are the Church, which was built in wood covered by mill scale between the years 1872 and 1886, following the model of the Matilla Church with a cross shaped floor. In the altarpiece, carved in golden wood, there is the image of the Crucified Christ of the XVIII century; on the altars aside there are the images of the Virgin of El Carmen, of La Tirana and Jesus of Nazareth. La Tirana Church is on restoration and enlargement process. The mass schedule is Tuesday at 19:00 and Saturdays and Sundays at 12:00 and 19:00.
To a side of the church there is the Virgin of La Tirana Museum, where the offerings of the believers and the dances attires are kept. This Institution also organizes the festivities. In front of the Church there is the Museum of La Tirana (Museo de La Tirana), created by Andrés “Cacique” Farías, who has compiled a great number of pieces from the peak of saltpeter period.
To get to the town of La Tirana, follow the South Panamericana and in the 61st km, take the detour to Pica. Ahead, aside of the road there are metallic crosses every one kilometer, which in time of pilgrimage they show the road of 10 km to La Tirana.
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