Friday, August 10, 2012

Fiesta in Huaylas

Last month Jeff's site, Huaylas, went on complete shut down while everyone in the valley prepared for his town's fiesta. Huaylas is usually the sleepiest town in the valley; however, for about one week a year it wakes up and goes nuts. 

There are 7 barrios, and each one competes to out do the other in the daily activities. Activities include, street dances, marches, costumes, fireworks, and a boat/float competition. Yes, boats at 9,000 feet above sea level.

The people are super friendly, and they all love Jeff (the gringo del barrio Yacup). They are also proud of their history and traditions. As the tale goes, when Pizarro marched up the Sierras in search of  Inca gold, he married a woman from Huaylas a long the way. This marriage solidified a the following two things: 1)The Spanish didn't sack the village, and treated the town very well. Leaving the town with a very distinct colonial feel (which was severely damaged in the 1970 earthquake); and 2, Jeff is always asked when he's going to marry a Huaylina (woman from Huaylas), with the argument of "Pizarro did, so why don't you". (Remember kids, just because Pizarro did it, doesn't mean you should too... I'm more talking about wiping out a whole culture, instead of marrying a Huaylina). 

This town history of being significantly influenced by the Spanish was the catalyst for the boats and the costumes seen at the fiesta. The boats are giant floats that resemble the ships the Spanish arrived on. They are very elaborate and usually hold a large cargo of fireworks and as many as 2 full grown men dressed like sailors. More impressively, they are carried by 10-20 SUPER DRUNK volunteers. The drunk boat carriers wobble and ram their way through the town plaza to the pounding beat of each neighborhoods marching band. But don't worry, each neighborhood also elects a person to yell at the boat carriers, and try to prevent them from running anyone down (safety is always paramount here in Peru). Jeff was asked to take this role, but he wisely declined. 

My final thought before the pictures is that: this was an amazing experience that you'd never read about in a guide book. And if it was in a guidebook, it would still be a tough to summarize in a couple sentences. There was only one other extranjero (foreigner) in town, a older gentleman from Holland that volunteers here in the 70's after the earthquake, and married a huaylina (I guess he followed the Pizarro-logic).

Arriving at the plaza.

This is the boat for Jeff's 'hood. We showed a ton of neighborhood pride, and yelled "Viva Yacup" most the night. 

Building one of the many "castillas", platforms used to shoot of tons of fireworks. 

The plaza at dusk. 

Here comes our boat. 

Jeff's host dad and host sisters.

Jeff gently stole his host dad's hat. His host mom is the back enjoying being with her gringo son.

Casitlla were set off at 1:30am, instead of the scheduled 11:00pm time.


Jeff tries on the traditional costume. He's holding a whip, which I'm not sure where that tradition came from,.

The Roach Brothers came down from the US to visit Ryan (far right). They were lucky to catch this event. 

Last shot of the Plaza as it slowly returns to the lazy town Jeff loves and knows.