There are about a million and one things that differ between the school system in Peru and that which I was taught in (Wisconsin, United States). My favorite of which is how often Peruvian schools party. From my experience last year in Santa Maria Eufrasia, a tiny, private, all-girls school in La Molina, Peruvian schools find something special to celebrate at least once a month. The level of these festivities varies from a simple Catholic Mass (and then freedom from school for the day!) to full two-week long festivals including two processions, a song and dance contest and a tower of fireworks (all to celebrate “Baby Mary”). My one month teaching in a bigger school on the other side of the city proved to me that this wasn’t just my school. In the 4 weeks I’ve been teaching English to Preschool and Elementary students, there have been two grand occasions to celebrate: Semana deEduccaion Inicial (Preschool Education week) and Dia de la Bandera Peruana (Peruvian Flag Day). Let me tell ya’ll about how we celebrated these wonderful days in Colegio Virgen del Camino.
“Preschool Education Week” celebrates the official creation of Preschool in Peru and its dedication to teaching children about themselves, others and the world starting at a young age. I never went to preschool in the states, so I really can’t say if this crazy little celebration happens in my country, but for some reason it seems doubtful. This was also my first week teaching at the school, so I was even more confused than usual. I arrived at the school at 10 am on Wednesday, and was surprised to see all the preschoolers in costumes. I wandered around for a while, receiving many stares of bewilderment from the 2-5 year-olds, until I found the Director (my host Aunt) to ask what was going on. She seemed bewildered that I did not know anything about this week of festivities, and waved me off to help with one of the 3-year-old classes.
That teacher was nice enough to explain a bit more about the celebration, but she did so quickly, because it turns out that day was a parade day! We spent nearly an hour walking around the San Martin district with the kids and their crazy costumes, but the party was far from over! When we got back to the school, we went to the 6th floor, where the “gym” is for a dance party! I was a bit thrown off by their choice of music, including “Rap das Armas” (a Brazilian song, more or less about gang violence), “Cuando Cuando Es” (slightly dirty Reggaeton song) and” Ya Se Ha Muerto mi Abuelo” (a popular Peruvian “crazy hour” song whose title means “my grandfather just died”). The kids were happy, although super tired from their long parade.
The next day there was another parade, this time even longer! We ended up at a local outdoor soccer court, where the parents of the Preschoolers got their turn to have fun. Each class’ “parent council” performed a skit. My personal favorite was “Wizard of Oz,” complete with a parent acting as ToTo (in a Scooby-Doo costume), closely followed by “Little Red Riding Hood” (in which the girl gets lost taking the wrong bus, instead of getting confused in the woods). I unfortunately do not have any photos of this wonderful day, because, as always, nobody thought to tell me that there was going to be anything so interesting and hilarious!
Flag day was also a huge surprise which nobody thought to tell the foreigner about. I heard about Flag Day being on June 7th (the anniversary of an important battle in the War of the Pacific against rival Chile), but I didn’t realize that meant that nobody would be at the school when I arrived at 10:30 am. I knocked, but nobody answered, so I decided to take a little walk around. I finally heard a band playing some five blocks away, and headed towards the music. I was greeted by a full out party on the street!
Turns out, all the private schools in the area where I teach (Valdiviezo) were having a parade contest? Thankfully, that day I did remember to bring my camera.
The students in Preschool and Elementary school were supposed to represent “Peruvian Rights.” I’m still not entirely sure what that means, but it means that the 2nd graders were all dressed up in these adorable costumes, and were supposed to march in straight lines.
The parents also got in on the action dancing Valicha and representing Cuzco.
At the end, there was a tally of points and my school won 2nd place for preschool and secondary school, and first place for elementary school! Everyone got the next day off of school to celebrate! After the results were announced, all the teachers went back to the school for a special catered lunch. Afterwards, they served beer and coke, and there was salsa/kumbia music for dancing. I left at about 3:30 to make my way across the city back home, but apparently everyone else was there until 10 pm.
So. That’s life at a Peruvian school for you. It’s always a party!
Jacqui is a blogger and researcher for the Karikuy Volunteer Program in Lima, Peru.