Peru celebrates its independence with a three-day festival known as Fiestas Patrias. The three officially recognized dates for Fiestas Patrias are July 24th, July 28th, and July 29th. However, the weeks surrounding these days are also filled with fun activities. As an added bonus, you'll find that the residents of Peru are in the mood to party during these days since most Peruvians receive time off from work for the holiday.
One of the great events that happens annually during Fiestas Patrias is the Gran Corso de Wong. The Corso consists of a massive parade that winds through the streets of Miraflores in Lima. Generally the Corso happens a week prior to the actual independence day of July 28th, however, I've seen the date of the parade changed at the last minute due to inclement weather or other factors. In truth, it's a bit of a difficult event to plan for since it's subject to delays and postponement. The best thing to do might be to plan to spend your Saturdays in Miraflores in the weeks before and after July 28th and hope that the parade happens when you're there.
Scouring El Comercio (Peru's leading paper) for announcements is also a nice tactic, but I find that news travels fastest by word of mouth in Peru, so it might be best to simply ask somebody. It's almost comical to think of viewing a parade as something of a scavenger hunt, but when you do get a chance to experience the Corso, you'll find the effort was very much worth the result.
To put it simply, the Corso is a wonderful event. There are marching bands, troops performing traditional dances from every region of Peru, soldiers on horses, and a wide variety of floats and other moving displays. The Corso offers you a chance to see absolutely everything that Peru has to offer all in one convenient location.
Like any parade, viewing the Corso is an exercise in patience and endurance. When you first arrive you'll find the main thoroughfare of Larco barricaded off in anticipation of the performers. However events like this never seem to start until an hour or so after the indicated time—and that assessment is even more true in Peru. The temptation is to arrive early so as to assure yourself of an unobstructed view, but I would recommend a later arrival, especially if you are attempting to watch the Corso with small children.
The most popular area for viewing the Corso is by far the Ovalo de Miraflores. However, I would recommend that you resist the temptation to follow the crowd and instead pick out a spot further down Larco. The reason is that the crowds tend to arrive late. It's very possible to arrive early and claim a wonderful viewing spot from within Parque Kennedy, but as the parade progresses, the influx of spectators is going to make it very difficult to leave.
By the time the Corso is at its peak, the throngs of people gathering around the Ovalo de Miraflores can be somewhat out of control. I would definitely not recommend passage through the Ovalo de Miraflores with small children during the Corso de Wong because the crowds are just too dense. This problem is completely avoidable by simply hiking further down Larco where the streets don't become nearly as congested.
When the parade finally finishes and darkness falls, you can stick around for a tremendous display of fireworks that explode long into the night. After that, the party is on as young people flock to the local discos to dance until dawn. There is a real sense of adventure surrounding the Corso de Wong. The parade represents a wonderful montage of the best of all the various cultural regions that Peru has to offer; and Peru boasts a diversity of landscapes most nations cannot match. The Corso is a great spectacle that you as the viewer need to approach with a bit of prudence based on the understanding that crowd control in Peru isn't as highly developed as it is in some parts of the world. However, with minimal preparation you can ensure yourself a perfectly safe and marvelous day.
This article was written by Walter Rhein, author of the humorous travel memoir, Beyond Birkie Fever. You can read more about his adventures in Peru at StreetsOfLima.com. He penned this article on behalf of South American Vacations, providing Peru tours to Lima, Machu Picchu and beyond.