Doug and I both have been taking turns at being sick. We’ve had a head cold with a terrible cough; where you feel like you can’t take in enough air to make the cough do anything! His has been slowly, but surely, getting better. I was feeling pretty good this weekend, but sure crashed on Tuesday. I spent the entire day in bed, and still slept through the night. I do feel better today, but I don’t have much energy for much! On top of it all, I managed to contract ringworm from the kitties. As cute and fun as they are, they come with a price. I have “ring” on my leg and another on my left cheek. Ringworm isn’t really a worm; just a fungal infection that manifests as a ring. I am needing to draw on my patience as the anti-fungal creme is working; just slowly. I can remember as a kid getting ringworm in Venezuela, but don’t ever remember getting in the states. Regardless, it hasn’t been much fun to deal with. Last Sunday we were invited to a Carnival celebration for people of Ayacucho who are now living in Piura by our friend Maximo Laura. Many of you know him as the tapestry artist who took Mandy under his wing and who produces some of the most spectacular fiber art pieces I’ve ever seen. Maximo’s family is from
Ayacucho and even though he lives in Lima, he has family in Piura. His brother’s widow and family live in Piura and, this year, it was their turn to organize this festival for Carnival. Carnival is a celebration which precedes Easter in Roman Catholic societies. It precedes Lent, as so is often thought of as the last opportunity to celebrate and eat special foods (especially meats). Lent is a period of 6 weeks where no parties or other celebrations are accepted and people refrain from eating rich foods. The Carnival celebration was exported into Brazil by the Portuguese. The elite of society organized masquerade balls, while others decorated carriages and held processions in the streets. Carnival also has a side to it that is circus-like; wild abandon. In Brazil, and other locations as well, cities had Samba schools wh one ere dance and music were taught. The parades in the streets often involved a competition between the Samba schools. These competitions continue to be of great importance; as those that win also receive financial support and prestige. Those that don’t perform in the top group may lose sponsorships and support. On Sunday, we met up with Maximo and his family in Piura and prepared for the festival. Little did we know that we would be participants in a competition between the Laura family and a group of medics from Ayacucho, but living in Piura. Maximo and his family have often told me that they consider me part of the family. After this experience, I think both Doug and I have been initiated into the family. The celebration was held in a building in Piura which was laid out as a beautiful home; several bedrooms, salas and a large backyard. The home wasn’t furnished, but had flower arrangements placed throughout. A huge bandstand was set up in the back yard, as were numerous plastic tables and chairs for the guests. Traditional food from the Ayacucho region of Peru was served, including Pachamanca. This meal involve digging a pit and lining it with charcoal. A pig is then laid out over banana leaves. Corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes,platano, chicken and various other foods are in terra cotta pots around the pig in the pit. It is then covered over with straw, banana leaves, dirt and left to roast for most of the day. All of it was very tasty. Various band were to perform; local ones as well as one singer especially brought in from Lima. Her name is Saywe and is quite well known in Peru. She sings in Spanish as well as in Quechua, an ancient language that predates European influence in South America. She is quite interesting to watch as she definitely adheres to the old traditions of songs and brings them forward to perform for modern artists. (I was saddened to see how she was mauled by fans as she entered and as she left the stage. There were security people surrounding her, but she was still buffeted by adoring fans.
She was a very gracious performer and allowed various people to come onto the stage with her for photos. I can’t imagine being so gracious through all the jostling she received as she left the stage. So much so that later, at our hostal, I encountered her at the reception desk, I just smiled and went about my business. We were introduced to her prior to her performance as she is a friend of Maximo and his wife Teresa. What a class act! As part of this festival, the Laura family entered into a competition with a medical team/family in a contest of parades. Doug and I were both dressed up in “Laura” clothing in a costume very typical of Ayacucho. (For me, I felt like a fish out of water; I had no idea what was going on other than I was part of this competition…..no clue what I was doing.) As the festival progressed, it came time for the Laura family to strut their stuff….literally. Vilma, Maximo’s sister, led the parade onto the “dance floor” singing traditional songs and dancing. The rest of us basically just followed her clues. Most of the contingent knew the songs….I just mouthed away hoping nobody would notice! The second family of the competition followed on our heels and paraded around the “dance floor.” They were really cute with the children carrying instruments and having so much fun.
Being dressed up in traditional garb for those from Ayacucho truly made me feel like a part of the Laura family.
As part of the celebration, there were two “yunsas”; these are trees that are decorated with ribbons, toys, fruits, bottles of liquer. etc. In this case, there were two trees; one for the kids and one for the adults. For the “kid’s” tree, the Mayordomo (the organizer of the festival) walks inside the circle of kids who dance around the tree hand in hand. The mayordomo then chooses a partner to attempt to cut down the tree. Each participant takes his/her turn and tries to cut down the tree. This is like a piñata gone wild. Once the tree falls, the kids scramble to collect whatever prize has been placed in the tree.
For this festival, as in most, there was also a tree for the adults. Each adult. in turn, took some strokes with a machete to fell the tree. On and on it went….. and when I protested that they were cutting down live trees, I was told that certain species of trees were not permitted in this ceremony. Some had become so endangered that only certain species of trees could be used for this celebration.
In the end, the tradition is that the last adult to fell the tree was to become the Mayordomo of the festival for the next year. This year, the hope was that Maximo would be the one to fell the tree. But. Maximo wasn´t particularly interested as organizing such a festival as it is a big undertaking and he doesn´t even live in the area. Another person, of ¨lesser quality¨was the one to fell the tree; but the community will find someone to ¨help¨this person exercise his duties.
The accordian player was from Africa…He was amazing. He listened to Vilma and Maya sing their songs and in no time had the melody down pat. He then instructed the guitar player on his chords. Amazing talent!!
We now know we are part of the Laura family. They have welcomed us with open arms and we have enjoyed every minute of our time with the family.
Maximo, his wife Teresa, and his sister Vilma, then traveled out to our home in El Ñuro. Unfortunately, they didn´t have much time here. We arrived early Monday afternoon, hosted the Mama Cocha kids in the pool, and then went into Mancora for dinner. I truly hope they will spend more time here the next time they visit.