Peru's Colonial Icons: Marinera Dance & Paso Horse

Published: 02nd December 2011
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The Colonial era in Peru had many effects on the country as a whole: the Paso horse and Marinera dance are just two of those. These cultural icons are great for the South American country, and give northern Peru a rather distinct heritage.

The Paso Horse

The Peruvian Paso is a truly beautiful breed distinguished most by its very individual gait. They are sometimes nicknamed the dancing horse as they truly prance when they move. They are known to offer an extremely smooth ride.

The Paso horse has been developed for over 500 years from those brought by the Spanish conquistadors. The most distinctive of their characteristics is their gait, which is a four-beat one. This means that each foot falls in sequence, rather than the two at a time gait of the typical horse. The result is an extremely smooth ride.

What's even more interesting about this gait is that the horses are born with it, rather than having to be taught. Another aspect of their gait is that they raise their forelegs extremely high while they walk so that they seem to be dancing.

When in traditional competition, the rider is called a chalán and there is a complete costume for both horse and rider. This includes the saddle and how it's trimmed as well as the white shirt, trousers, straw hot, wool poncho, handkerchief, boots and spurs of the chalán.

The tradition has been taken to other parts of the world but competitions can be found in particular along the coast of Peru as well as some areas in the highlands. The key competition each year is the National El Paso Horse Competition. This is held near Pachacámac, at the Mamacona stables. The simplest way to reach this will be to hire a car from Lima to take you the approximately 30 km south of the city.

The Marinera: National Dance of Peru

Although there are a few theories about where the dance comes from originally, there is no doubt that the Marinera is all Peruvian and is often referred to as the National Dance of Peru. Coming from the coast, it is a couple's dance with one of its signature characteristics being the use of handkerchiefs.

For more than 50 years, there has been a National Contest of Marinera Norteña held in Trujillo each January. While this is the most important competition, there are many others held at other times and in other locations.

Popular opinion holds that the dance traces its roots back to the Zamacueca, a dance that was in existence in pre-Inca times. There is some evidence for this as there are ancient artifacts that portray dancers in zamacueca positions.

There are different styles of the Marinera, depending on where they are from. The three main types are the Marinera Limeña, the Marinera Norteña and the Marinera Serrana. It is sometimes danced with a Chalán riding on a Peruvian Paso, an especially entrancing sight.

The Marinera Limeña is a little slower than the other varieties and has been taken over in popularity by the Marinera Norteña. It can be seen during festivals in October or for Lima's anniversary.

The Marinera Norteña comes from Piura as a variation of that from Lima. It's faster than the Limeña and an interesting characteristic is that the men wear shoes while the women dance barefoot. Although it originated on the coasts in the north of Peru, it is now danced all throughout the country. The Marinera Serrana is specifically from the mountain regions of the country.

If you can't make it to Trujillo in January, you can go to a folkloric dance show at the cultural association, Brisas del Titicaca, where you have dinner and enjoy many Peruvian dances include the marinera.


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