This feast is marked by a huge celebration in La Tirana in the far north of Chile, where many groups dance before the Virgin.
In La Tirana, northern Chile, in one of the driest deserts in the world, 200,000 people come together each July for 10 days of dancing at a sanctuary and feast dedicated to the Virgen del Carmen.
While the geographic heart of La Tirana is the "temple" or sanctuary of the Virgen del Carmen and the plaza where they dance, bailes spend most of their time outside the plaza in living compounds.
Though commonly referred to simply as bailes, the dance groups are really lay religious confraternities — sociedades religiosas — organized to express their devotion through dance. Typically about half of the members, called promesantes, are actually dancers.
Normally a town of fewer than 1,000 people, La Tirana fills with more than 200,000 people during the feast, which centers on the feast day of the Virgen del Carmen (July 16), but lasts from July 10-19.
The dance celebrations at La Tirana are organized around the feast day of the Virgen del Carmen, July 16. But the full schedule, from July 10-19, has a number of other high points that make it so meaningful to those who make the pilgrimage there.
The tradition of religious dance at La Tirana has both indigenous and Spanish roots. After the War of the Pacific, in the late 19th century, the feast at La Tirana became a feast for the Virgen del Carmen, the patroness of Chile.