Catholics in this Paraguayan town paid homage to St. Francis Solano on Friday in a peculiar religious festival that involves dressing up in bird-feather suits.
The celebration was held at the chapel that bears the name of the saint, who was born in Spain in 1549 and died in Peru 1610. Solano was canonized in 1726.
Some 500 people attended the event — a mix of Roman Catholic and Guarani indigenous beliefs that has been held since the 19th century.
The festival began with a Mass, then a procession with an image of the saint and ended with people dancing in suits made with black, white, brown and grey feathers.
Legend has it that Guaicuru Indians used to attack smaller tribes and Spanish colonizers to steal their food and weapons. Some people decided to dress up in bird feathers to scare the Guaicuru away. The faithful say that as St. Francis Solano lay on his deathbed, birds sang to him.
Local priests say there are no records of the saint ever appearing in Paraguay but residents believe in his miraculous powers nonetheless.
Pedro Balbuena is seen as the chief of the feathered-ones. He says he has been organizing the dancing performance for 40 years. His group, which includes children, adults and the elderly, prefer to use rooster feathers for the suits, because they're more colorful.
Here's a gallery of images from Paraguay's bird feather festivity:
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Text from AP news story, AP PHOTOS: Paraguayans use feathers to pay homage to saint.
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Nat Castañeda is an interdisciplinary visual artist based in Brooklyn, New York. A California native, Castañeda works primarily in video and collage, with an emphasis on tactile intimacy with her materials remaining an important aspect of all her projects. Common issues in Castañeda’s work are the conflating of iconography and pornography, the questioning of traditional gender binaries, and the role of technology within personal narratives. She received her MFA from the School of Visual Arts and has shown at venues such as El Museo del Barrio and Electronic Arts Intermix. In addition to her art practice, Castañeda currently works at The Associated Press where she leads a team that curates AP's online archive of historic and contemporary photojournalism. Castañeda’s photography has appeared in the New York Times,U.S. News & World Report and USA Today.