I´ve now been in Cusco for three weeks. It has been great to live in an apartment away from the tourist area of the city. For one thing you learn about the pace of life (very fast) and see how people go about their everyday chores.
One of the things I like about So. Am. is the organization of the retail neighborhoods. All the same type stores are on the same street making comparison shopping pretty easy. My street, Calle Belen, has many claims to fame. It had most of the optical shops, certainly most of the roasted chicken restaurants and the majority of the cake shops. The last fact made the street complete bedlam for the days leading up to Mother´s Day and even all that day. Cakes were pouring out of shops in huge white boxes. They were even being sold right off the sidewalk and out of the trunks of cars by enterprising home bakers. The major color of the frosting was white and red but the different designs were totally creative. It seems the more icing, the higher the towers of goo, the better the offering to Mom. When I say that people were lined up like for a Hannah Montana concert trust me it is true. They were out the doors of the shops and hanging all over the street. It was an amazing sight.
After visiting the local cemetery with our landlord and his family to place flowers on the grave of their parents, we headed for Chinceros. This is a town famous for its women weavers. They all wear a very distinctive dress with several layers of skirts and a hat that sort of looks like a pizza pan all in red and black. They are fabulously talented and the objects they weave, using no patterns, are works of art. Off to one side of the square there were many people gathered and children were taking turns going up to a microphone and either reciting a poem or singing a song they had made up about their mother. It was very sweet. Most of the lyrics included something about how beautiful their mother was. It looked like prizes were to be awarded.
We left Chinceros and headed toward Urubamba. This is a slightly larger town that lies right in the middle of the Sacred Valley. Olinda, our landlady, wanted to go there to light some candles. When we got up to the church she was told that the statue of Senor Torrechayo( the name of the Christ for that church) was not there. Val and Olinda bought some candles and lit them and placed them at the gate of the church. As we were walking away we heard music and saw banners and people in costumes marching up the street toward the church. Now anyone who has ever seen a festival or parade in Peru knows that they are fantastic and can go on for hours. This one was no exception.
The first group were dressed in royal blue jackets with multi colored pom-pomy scarves around their necks. They wore black ski masks and white towels that looked like Arab head dresses over their heads and had multi colored ribbons streaming down their backs. They carried whips and did all sorts of fancy steps whilst wielding the whips in time with the music. I am not making this up! The next group wore white ski maks, wore lavender shirts, red vests, and white furry things around their waists that I think were supposed to represent sheep. On their backs were squares of metallic embroidery. Wow! A group of 3 girls came next dressed in the black and red of the area. They carried the rainbow colored pom- pom things. The men and women in this group were all dressed in traditional costumes. Red striped ponchos, hats that look a bit like a pith helmet but all decorated with red yarn, while the women´s hats were red, pizza plate shape, with large yellow pom-poms all around the brim.
I´m finding some of these costumes hard to describe but here goes. The next group were in white shirts, fluffy pants, black plastic face masks and they carried a black forearm and fist. On their chests they wore elaborately embroidered chevrons with a picture of Christ in the middle. In the center of the group was a tall man dress in blue from head to toe. He was swinging around a clacker to keep time with the music. Next was a tall man dressed in red with an Inka hat on . His marchers were dressed in white shirts and red skirts and tall feather head dresses. They had on flesh colored masks with blue, blue eyes. They did an intricate dance using sticks- sort of a Peruvian highland fling. The next group ( all groups were preceded by a banner announcing their name or family) wore neck to toe black fringey cassocks with big red and white crosses on their chests. They carried whips. With each group there were musicians so all the men were dancing. Keep in mind this is at about 10,000 feet altitude and these guys are dancing for miles mostly uphill!
Ok...more and more groups some with white face masks, some with plastic ones with huge 2 foot noses, some with flat platforms on their heads all embroided and fringed with ribbons. There were some little boys in white, with , yep , whips, fringed embroiderd hats and carrying the black forearm and fist. I have no idea what that was all about. There were some girls in lovely blue dresses who danced with guys in canary yellow costumes. They carried blue spotted scarves. A bunch of guys came by wearing white shirts, multi-colored braid around their shoulders and down to their waists. They were all holding a rope.
The ánda´carrying the Senor Torrechayo came by. It was carried about 20 men. Preceding it were men holding 15 foot poles which when brushed against the statue let out waves of confetti. This was followed by a band and more groups of costumed marchers. There were the teachers all in black robes and pieces of wood which they clapped together in unison. The bakers were all dressed in white and carried huge bread paddles. There were a bunch of boys about 10 -15 years old who wore green kerchiefs around their heads, camoflage pants, and they all tried to look very menacing. None of us could figure that out. My favorite was the group of ´borracho´s´. They wore black leather jackets, floppy straw hats, grotesque masks, and black pants with orange and lime green scarves flowing over them. They all carrried huge fake bottles of beer. They seemed to be having the best time in the parade.
We left before the parade was over but it was an amazing event and one we never would have experienced if our wonderful ´landlords´hadn´t taken us on this all day adventure. It was a Mother´s Day I´ll never forget.
Machu Picchu yet to come.
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