Sh*t just got real…istic in Arequipa, Peru

Nothing like wandering the streets of a new-to-me city and seeing this:

"El Lanlaco" cultural statue by Hnos. Yanqui. Arequipa, Peru photo

“El Lanlaco” by Hnos. Yanqui

This nightmare isn’t some Pan’s Labyrinth be-hoofed creature come to haunt the streets of Arequipa, Peru.

It’s Peruvian folklore, rendered large and hyper-realistic.

This statue and 11 others are part of “Caylloma y su Historia Milenaria” an art exhibition organized by the government of the Caylloma province to celebrate the region’s cultural diversity and promote tourism in the Colca area. The statues, lined up in Arequipa’s main square, are swarmed by Peruvians, not so much by gringos.

The snake-wielding, horned beast is El Lanlaco, a mythical creature depicted in Peruvian dance by a man wearing animal skins, horns, and bells.

Collagua woman and "La Soltera" statue by Hnos. Martinez, Arequipa, Peru

Real Collagua woman and “La Soltera” sculpture by Hnos. Martinez

The strangest thing about this art exhibit is that many of the real Peruvians are dressed up in the same outfits as the sculptures. History is alive and well in Peru.

"Negrillo" cultural statue, Arequipa, Peru photo

“Negrillo” by Raúl Yanque

Later I learn that Raúl Yanque, the sculptor of the Negrillo dancer, chose the face of Ciro Castillo Rojo, a young man who’d recently died on a Colca Canyon hike. The artist chose this tribute to Ciro because of his resemblance to the Negrillo, who is traditionally described as non-native to the region with dark skin, a prominent nose, and thick lips.

"La Danza el Chullcho" cultural sculpture, Arequipa, Peru photo

“La Danza el Chullcho”

Some of the statues show dancers in disguise, with outfits and accessories packed with symbolism and significance that I don’t grasp (but wish I did).

"El Turku Tusuy" cultural statue by Hnos. Huaypuna, Arequipa, Peru photo

“El Turku Tusuy” by Hnos. Huaypuna

"Sara Tarpuy," Cabana woman cultural statue, Arequipa, Peru

“Sara Tarpuy,” Cabana woman

Looking at these detailed, greater-than-life-size statues in the quickly dimming cloudy twilight is like watching the ultimate all-in-one Peruvian parade frozen in time.

"El Pinkullero" cultural sculpture by Hnos. Yanqui, Arequipa, Peru photo

“El Pinkullero” by Hnos. Yanqui

"Sancha Machu" cultural statue by Hnos. Yanqui, Arequipa, Peru photo

“Sancha Machu” by Hnos. Yanqui

"El Arriero" cultural statue by Hnos. Yanqui, Arequipa, Peru photo

“El Arriero” by Hnos. Yanqui

Which of these statues is your favorite? Which will give you nightmares?