Published: March 12th 2008February 29th 2008
So, there have been some changes since I have been back in Ayacucho after my ‘big’ trip. Primarily, I no longer work at the orphanage. After three months I still wasn’t feeling very happy or fulfilled by my work there so I decided that the best thing for me was to do was to do something else. Now I teach English at a language school (located at Centro San Cristóbal) three times a week and at a community college once a week. I settled into my teaching work quite quickly and I rather enjoy it. I still live in Vista Alegre so now I commute (lol) to work. On the days that I am not teaching I attend French classes at the same language school. I figured I currently have the time, the motivation, and the energy, so why not?! I also took some private Quechua (indigenous language of the Andes) classes to see what the language was all about. I’m a linguist, after all :p
What all this means is that my only day ‘off’ is Sunday, the evening of which I again spend downtown (more precisely Centro San Cristóbal) because that’s when they screen movies (remember, Ayacucho doesn’t
have a regular cinema, although it does have an xxx cinema, figure that!). They recently showed Casablanca, Gone With the Wind (yay!), and two Peruvian movies. This month is dedicated to Jack Nicholson so it’s Chinatown in a couple of days.
The two most important events that occurred in February was the carnaval
(carnival) and the paro
Celebrated for a full week prior to the beginning of Lent (40 days before Easter Sunday), carnaval
lets a variety of (traditional!) dancing groups show their moves as they prance through the Plaza de Armas, which is closed off for traffic for the week. Prior to the carnaval
celebration, there is also a traditional dancing competition for the entire province of Ayacucho, with over 50 groups participating in a contest that lasts a whole afternoon. We watched some of the groups practice outside the arena in their costumes and that was quite interesting. There were so many people, though.
Anyway, back to the carnaval
. The main events occur in the late afternoons, as people squish together around the Plaza’s arches to watch the parades. Needless to say, getting around the city center during that week (I still
Tocando, cantando y bailando
Playing, singing and dancing, all in one!
had to work!) meant taking many detours. The bus lines also ran modified routes.
While having dessert at La Miel, one of Ayacucho’s hotspots, the closest thing to a café that you’ll find here, located smack on the Plaza de Armas, the Belgians and I were lucky enough to be invited by a local to his balcony overlooking the square, from where we could observe all the dancing without actually being in the midst of it all. That was a very nice experience and allowed us to get some good photos (as attached).
Another interesting note about carnaval
time. About a whole month before the last day in the Carnival week, people are allowed to throw all kinds of liquids (mostly in the form of water balloons or spray foam) on everybody else. This might be fun for a day or two but for a whole month… Kids throw water balloons at you, whether you are in a bus or taking a walk or going to work. I saw so many individuals in suits get soaked. I was pretty careful (and lucky!) so I was okay most of the time, but after the first time I got completely
drenched I started carrying a change of clothes in my bag because I needed to teach! The last week of carnaval
, however, I saw adult men spraying girls who were walking by with water guns and then laughing like idiots. Needless to say, I wasn’t very impressed with this whole spraying tradition :p
Just as carnaval
ended, the paro
began. Farmers and agronomists around the country were on strike because they wanted more money for their work. But this was no ordinary paro
. Because the farmers want to be heard, the normal functioning of the city center stops, although it’s only the farmers who are on strike. All the stores close, including the supermarkets. Buses are prohibited from entering the city center, lest they are put on fire! Intercity buses are postponed due to road blocks. Around the city, large stones are placed on the roads to prevent traffic from passing through. In Ayacucho two farmers were killed in an encounter with the police.
lasted for one week, with transportation sometimes resuming in the evenings. During this week, there was an increased police presence downtown and traffic was prohibited a block in each direction of
Singing the National Anthem
Plaza de Armas on Sunday mornings
the central police station for fear that it might be ‘attacked’. Military reinforcements arrived from other provinces (we saw men in uniform taking photos in front of Ayacucho’s sights). As a result of the paro
I didn’t go to town for a couple of days (incl. work), so it was quite serious. Sunday mornings the Plaza de Armas
is also closed off for traffic because the military has a little demonstration once a week. They sing the national anthem and have lots of loud music. People from the local government walk around the plaza, carrying flags and stuff. A big performance. But local organizations also get to walk around the plaza to show their accomplishments. Audrey and I were on the plaza one Sunday morning and we noticed an organization for the protection of animals and they invited us to walk with them because they needed people so we marched with them (my first Peruvian public appearance) and a bunch of cameras filmed us, a negrita
(that’s what they call Audrey, she is Pakistani-born) and a gringa, a big dog mascot, and a bunch of Peruvians with their cute little dogs. The organization ended up inviting us to
The Marching Band :)
Plaza de Armas on Sundays
their get-together where we found out that it was celebrating its first year of existence. There are so many stray dogs on the streets of Ayacucho and the ones that do have owners are treated badly and starved. I’ve seen dogs eat grass!! So Ayacucho really needs to do sth about that.
Well, that’s about all the news for now.
Word of the Day: paro
There are more photos below