Every August 1st, Peruvians celebrate National Alpaca Day, a unique day of fun, culture and celebration! Ask anyone who has ever visited Peru which animal they remember most. I guarantee there are very few who won’t mention the alpaca in their response. An icon for the country, the alpaca has become a national treasure in Peru and an animal that the citizens hold dear to their identities. So much so that they have even started to celebrate a National Alpaca Day every year on the 1st of August!
Alpacas have inhabited Peru’s mountainous regions since pre-Inca times. However, this day devoted specifically to them was first celebrated in 2012 to appreciate all the hard work done by alpaca breeders. It is also an opportunity to further promote the sale of alpaca-based products, which have become a huge source of income to the country.
There are currently 3.6 million alpacas in the country, that’s a staggering figure of one alpaca to every 9 people. The government is so in love with this special animal that they are currently working to improve breeding practices to ensure the population of alpacas continues to grow. 80% of the world’s alpaca population currently resides in Peru, a testament to how important these animals are to the country… It’s no wonder that there’s a National Alpaca Day devoted to them!
The overwhelming majority of alpacas can be found in the southern cities of Puno and Cusco. For this reason, the south of Peru celebrate this holiday with great pride. To find out the best way to get to Cusco and Puno check out our passes page!
Alpacas aren’t just a pretty sight or the cover photo for Peruvian postcards. They have become a core, multifunctional animal for the Peruvian population.
*** Vegans and vegetarians skip to the celebrations section now ***
The alpaca is most commonly used for two things: 1) its succulent meat is used for many Peruvian dishes and 2) its thick, comfortable wool is used for fabric. The meat from an alpaca is an extremely healthy option as it is very lean, high in protein and contains very little cholesterol or other unhealthy attributes. In fact, alpacas have the lowest calories of any land-based meat (150 calories per 100g). It is a very popular option among both Peruvian locals and foreign tourists as it tastes like a succulent cut of beef, with a hint of sweetness. Meat lovers simply cannot visit Peru without trying a dish made with alpaca!
However, their main form of economic value comes from their unique, durable, silky fiber. Alpaca wool is made up of soft fibers with thermal properties, enabling them to withstand temperatures as low as -20 degrees Celsius. The versatile fiber can be used for almost anything from clothes and accessories to furniture and crafts. It is prized for its texture, form and colors (there are over 30 shades of it, ranging from light beige to dark), hence, why it has become hugely popular in the textile and fashion industry. Each year, during the shearing season, about 1,500 tons of alpaca wool is collected for processing. Much of this is kept in Peru, while an increasing amount is being exported worldwide. Peru exported an astonishing $160 million worth of alpaca fur in 2016 and $44 million worth of apparel made from alpaca.
In 2014 the Peruvian government announced the introduction of Alpaca del Peru, a special campaign dedicated to the promotion of alpaca fiber internationally among high end garment buyers. This has led to alpaca fiber being represented in fashion shows and garment markets all over the world.
If you are looking for a place to celebrate National Alpaca Day then look no further then the town of Macusani, or as it is better known “Peru’s Alpaca capital.” The city is in the region of Puno and is known for supposedly having the largest concentration of alpacas in the world. There are a number of entertaining customary games and competitions that take place on the day, including an arts and crafts competition, a food competition, an alpaca wool spinning competition and of course the alpaca parade. And if that’s not enough to entice you, there will also be the the traditional Señalacuy (breeding of animals) ceremony in which the animals are branded by ribbons being inserted in their ears. The whole day is run by local authorities alongside local alpaca producers and farmers. The Regional Agriculture offices in Puno also host an annual fair in the central courtyard to highlight the work done by alpaca producers.However, all hope is not lost if you can’t make it to Puno for the big day. Celebrations will be taking place all across the country, most notably in places where there is a high alpaca population. Cusco is another place very worthy of visiting for National Alpaca Day. If you do find yourself in Cusco be sure to use our Cusco City Guide to make sure you take in everything the city has to offer. So get a drink in hand, an alpaca wool hat on your head and be ready to enjoy one of the most unique celebrations in South America. Happy National Alpaca Day!