Huari, Peru – Virgin of the Rosary Festival.
It starts with a party. Family, friends, gringos (well that’s not entirely true, we only saw two more gringos in the entire town), but anyone who can get there shows up. Food vendors line the streets with grills and sell a variety of products including anticuchos (the heart of a cow, on a stick), potatoes, chicken, hamburgers, and hot dogs, as well as your traditional carnival food – cotton candy, snacks, etc. Marching bands fill the streets (way earlier than any of us could fathom), and last through the night. Different bands play on different stages riling people up for the main event: the fireworks show. They build these 40-foot tall bamboo structures loaded with explosives (two for the first night, three for the second night) – the thing that surprised me the most was the fact that they didn’t really start putting these structures together until like 7pm the day of, with the show starting around 11, and once they did finally go off, each structure remained stable despite the detonations inside of them. People hold hands and dance in circles around these structures as balls of fire explode in front of them…or on them! (see my white fleece for proof). This annual, religious celebration is one that really brings people together to rejoice and enjoy life together.
If you think the 4th of July is rowdy, this party would surely melt your faces, a party that couldn’t possibly be experienced in the US. Fire Marshals would have been called so fast that you would have thought a KISS concert was let loose on the city. This seriously put ANY party in the United States to shame. To illustrate how wild this is, I have uploaded a video to youtube. Check it out, you will be shocked even after I have built it up like this.
Furthermore, I did walk into a mini-market at 9am the morning of the second day of the festival to see a group of three men still chugging beers from the night before. Or, maybe they just woke up and started drinking…the verdict is still out. However, this was not uncommon for this festival – this apparently was all over the place, I just happened to walk into a mini-market that had a table. He did eventually welcome me to his country, which happened three times during that visit with three different people. So I had that going for me, which was nice. We decided to walk off our own calorie intake with a hike up a huge mountain marked by a large cross that can be seen from below. It took about 45 minutes and a change of clothes to conquer this uphill battle, but we did it as a team. The way down was harder on the knees but much easier than the way up.
Drinking cerveza is a clear theme of the culture, and especially this type of event. The Peruvian way to celebrate is that each group gets their own beer (a couple bottles, a case, depending) and puts it in the middle of a circle of people. There is one glass, which reminds me of the Holy Grail, that everyone shares. The men do all the pouring and little by little, the beer is passed around the circle. Eventually each group holds hands and rotates one way, then the other way, then in and out. This is repeated throughout the entire night and everyone has a blast.
And the women LOVE to be spun. Don’t ask me why, but apparently it’s a soft spot with them.