Friday, August 21, 2015

Culture in Cusco

I'm not sure how or why, but we seem to have a talent for happening upon unexpected cultural events when we travel.

For example, we were staying on Circular Quey, right on the harbor in Sydney during (unbenownst to us) "Australia Days" ~ similar to our 4th of July holiday in the USA.  A fabulous celebration with boat races, bands playing in the parks, banners flying ~ (story not yet posted, stay tuned).

We were in Barcelona for "Catalonia Days" (see the post "Catalonia Days in Spain");  we were in Quito, Ecuador and audienced their Labor Day Protest against the current President and his policies (see the post "A Day of Protests");  we happened to be on the island of Taquile as part of our Lake Titicaca tour, where they were having a local celebration (which seemed to consist mostly of drinking beer);  and we fled the city of Arequipa during protests there, something about a new mine coming in and overriding the local agriculture (story not posted yet stay tuned).

Today we are in Cusco, which is the first city in Peru that I have adored.  It was the capital of the Inca empire back in it's day; and it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1989.  

It's small enough and safe enough to be out on foot; 
and that's just what we have in mind for today.

We enjoy a hearty breakfast at our hotel, which is included in our room fee @ the JW Marriott "El Convento"  (A beautifully renovated Convent, where they have preserved as much of the original heritage as possible) 

 ~ And then we head out to walk the few blocks to the city square, which every old city seems to have at it's heart.  What a pity we have lost this concept in much of the US.  These town squares are a center of daily life, a focal point for gatherings and for worship, for talk and for trade.

We arrive at the Plaza De Armas about 10:00 am, with the intent to visit the famous Cusco Cathedral, as well as sitting to soak up what we can of the feel of the city on the park benches sprinkled about around the central fountain.

Instead, we find the atmosphere tense and rippling with excitement. 
 Something is afoot.  

And then, here they come. 

We do the conch shell thing in Hawaii, also ~ in fact we started our Hawaii wedding ceremony with this age-old tradition.  Our attire was not-so-colorful, though!

It looks to us, at first, to be a parade of some sort. 

We are utterly delighted!  
Especially because I have a secured a prime corner spot to watch and take photos.  
(The baby llama's on their backs are not real baby llama's, by the way).

It's then that we notice the church steps are packed (and I do mean packed) with local Cusco'ans who have arrived early for a prime spectator spot.  It's not a parade at all, but a religious festival, one that will conclude with a Grand Entrance into the Grand Cathedral.

This is interesting right from the start.   The first group in the "parade" are these intimidating guys ~ with their little ones in tow.

Next come these colorful dancers.

I notice that many have brought their children along to participate, teaching them the traditions of this celebration.  Look at this little one riding on Dad's shoulders ~ it's a bit of a bumpy ride, I think, 
since Daddy is skipping and jumping and bouncing about.

Then there's this young man, so completely "into" his routine; costume and all....

You can probably tell he was one of my favorites of the day ~ 

Just tell me he's not completely adorable ~ 

Then there's the little ones pushing & pulling the littlest ones. 

 Loved it!

I was tickled at these full-on faced face masks.  Eyebrows included. No extra charge.  Mustache, also.  Ears too.  Pink ?  I don't know, horns???

All of this with much fanfare, noise, and vigor.  Each group arrives amidst a flurry of energy and excitement. They have been marching through the streets to arrive here, at the Town Square, where they break into a pre-determined point of display; dancing, jumping, circling, amidst drums and cymbals and (sometimes) flutes and other instruments.  And flags!  

Loved the flags!

We watch in wonder, totally enthralled.

Bringing up the rear are the religious artifacts and sacramental's, 
their Holy objects of worship

Then Mr. C suggests that if we pay our admittance fee to a smaller chapel across from the main Cathedral ~

~ That we can climb to the second floor balcony for a full-on-view from above (See Mr. Unknown Red-Shirt up there on the right???)  ~An excellent idea! 

So this is what we do, and this is what we see.  Each group has now gathered at the base of the cathedral steps, where some important religious figures make a few short speeches. 

And of course no ceremony in Peru would be complete 
without the obligatory llama.

Finally, then, with much noise and fanfare and drumming and dancing and twirling, they merge into one giant river and flow together into the Cathedral.  

We've enjoyed this more than I can say.  While the cultural display and ceremonies were wonderful, so was the opportunity to observe local Cusco'an life.  

The local folk are (literally) catering to the crowds with various home-style foods and drinks ~ here are piping hot hand-made tortillas, for example.

And these parade members take a break to check their cell phone messages.

 These local folks have a prime seat to hang out together and watch the speeches.  You can see the indigenous' dressed residents here.  I was surprised at how prevalent this was ~  I didn't expect to find it so commonplace.

And the local florist has shown up to offer these special flower bouquets, which, as you can see, are especially tailored for today's parade through the streets and town square.  I wanted to buy one and join in!

The local media station has also shown up, the film crew setting up atop their van to capture all the action.

It's only 11:00 in the morning, and already, what a day it has been.

 It just might be time for a Starbucks coffee ~

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