First Day in the Sacred Valley of Peru

We took an early morning flight from sea-level Lima to touching-the-clouds Cuzco, and in order to ease our altitude adjustment we hopped into a collectivo (shared van full of Peruvians) and raced down into the Sacred Valley 700m below.  In the collectivo we learned that we were very lucky, and we happened to be visiting Pisaq during the Virgen de Carmen celebration, their biggest party of the year.  We hadn’t even gotten to the main square in this tiny town when we already had to cross a crazy parade while still wearing our backpacks.  Dance troupes come from towns in the area and put on a long and elaborately costumed parade to bring the virgen to the town’s chapel. (Below is some video that we recorded.)

The parade had women in black masks, matador looking guys wearing white-faced masks, masks with giant noses, jaguars, accordion and flute bands, a donkey leading the way, and two virgin idols at the end.  Each group had their own dance, and after stowing our bags we caught up with the parade at the other end of town.  We were impressed, but were even more impressed when after dinner we ran into the same groups merrily dancing through the small town, though this time clearly a bit intoxicated.  It seems like everyone parades and then has a group feast/party, and then returns to the streets to celebrate, this time carrying 40s of beer.  Fireworks have been going off all day and night from random locations, and the town square has been transformed into an open air restaurant, bar, and gambling parlor.  While I did lose 20 cents playing what I’ve named Andean Craps, I’m pretty pleased with our luck at stumbling into this fascinating Catholic and Indigenous celebration.  Tomorrow are the dance competitions!

–Gabe

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