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In the jungle, Saint John the Baptist has taken on a major symbolic significance because of the importance of water as a vital element in the entire Amazon region. This is why June 24 (St. John's the Baptist's day) is the most important date on the festival calendar in the entire Peruvian jungle.
The northeastern city of Iquitos hosts a variety of festivals and public events: fiestas with typical local bands where cooks dish up some of the regional cuisine, featuring tacacho (baked banana) and juanes (rice pastries), named after the patron saint, San Juan Bautista. This carnival atmosphere, redolent with the warmth of the local hospitality, has given rise to the myth of a special sensuality to be found in Loreto.
It is widely held that the best aphrodisiacs are concocted in Iquitos, potions blended from fruits and herbs steeped in sugarcane alcohol, with strange and suggestive names. The best-known is without a doubt the chuchuhuasi, fermented from a local root.
In the highlands, the festival is also linked to the concept of fertility, but here the main theme is livestock, something that is easily associated with the image of Saint John as the pastor of souls. On this day, livestock are counted and branded, and llamas are sometimes even the object of prayer.
In Cusco, where peasant farmers used to bring their richly decorated sheep to Mass, the tradition has been shifted to June 25, yielding to Inti Raymi.
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