The history of Peru's Marinera Norteña

Ailen Pérez for Caretas

As Trujillo’s celebrates the National Marinera Competition, we recall a dance that stretches back to the 17th century.

The history of Peru's Marinera Norteña

Participants at the 2012 Marinera competition (Oscar Paz/Andina)

A violent chorus of rattles shook the Gran Chimú Coliseum in Trujillo. There, applause can not be heard. Meanwhile, the Trujillanos, restless, proud, rebellious, surrendered to their deepest tradition: the Marinera Norteña.

Around the dance floor, children stepped in rhythm to the omnipresent trumpets and drums of the 32nd Infantry Brigade’s band, stationed in Trujillo, while the gel held in place even the last, rebellious hair on the dancers’ heads.

The 53rd National Marinera Competition, and the 3rd Trujillo International Marinera Competition, had begun with the toddlers, children, juniors, youth, adult, senior and master tournaments. It was Monday, January 21st, at 7 p.m.

The history of the Marinera stretches back to the 1600s, when a dance called the Zambacueca traveled from Peru to the rest of South America, leading to dances like the Zamba Argentina and the Chilean Cueca. It returned to Peru, its birthplace, as the Zamacueca.

Played by the army’s band in the middle of the conflict with Chile, it was a Chilean dancer, “La Momona,” who danced the Zamacueca best, and thanks to her moves, the dance started to be called the “Chilena.” After the Battle of Angamos in 1879, Abelardo Gamarra, a Peruvian composer, writer and journalist whom Ciro Alegría referred to as “the writer of the people,” re-baptized the dance as the “Marinera” in honor of Miguel Grau and the Peruvian navy.

Almost a hundred years later, in 1969, Olga Fernández became the first to dance the Marinera barefoot. Whether it was because she had broken the heel of her shoe or because of her Moche roots, she started a tradition that lasts to this day.


The 2013 event runs through Sunday, January 27th. More information is available here.