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Afro-Peruvians honor heritage with religious fete

Rodrigo Abd / AP

Norma Vargas Portillo, right, and Milagros Gallardo walk hand in hand before performing a traditional Afro-Peruvian dance during festivities in honor of Santa Efigenia in La Quebrada, Peru, Sept. 23, 2012.

Associated Press reports — Every year, Peruvians descended from African slaves come to La Quebrada to celebrate an adored black saint.

The devotees join in a procession for Santa Efigenia, enthusiastically singing Afro-Peruvian songs interspersed with solemn Roman Catholic hymns as they walk the dusty streets of this Pacific coastal town 85 miles (138 kilometers) south of Lima.

Standing next to the bier holding a statue of the only African saint venerated in Peru, a young boy recites verses about the arrival of slaves rom "Angola, Mozambique and Timbuktu" to work in the region's sugar cane fields.

Girls in bright traditional dresses from a group called "La Carimba," for the brand burned by a hot iron on the skin of slaves, dance to a beat produced by the jawbone of a donkey on a wooden box.

Cat races, a fireworks dance and a night of eating and drinking close out the celebration.

A chapel was built in La Quebrada in the 18th century dedicated to Santa Efigenia, who was popular among the then Spanish colony's African slaves. Fervor for the saint faded over the years, until in 1994 efforts by black activists to honor the Afro-Peruvian culture led to a festival being held for Efigenia in La Quebrada.

EDITOR’S NOTE: These images were made available to NBC News on Oct. 9

Rodrigo Abd / AP

A man dances "La Vaca Loca" or "The Crazy Cow" during festivities in honor of Santa Efigenia in La Quebrada, Peru, Sept. 23.

Rodrigo Abd / AP

Villagers gather in a bar in La Quebrada, Peru, Sept. 22.

Rodrigo Abd / AP

People carry the statue of Santa Efigenia during a procession in La Quebrada, Peru, Sept. 23.

Rodrigo Abd / AP

A woman watches the procession of Santa Efigenia in La Quebrada, Peru, Sept. 23.

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