Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remember, Remember the NINTH of November

{{las palabras como patria o porvenir, bandera, nación, frontera, raza, o destino}}

The 9th of November is Día de Urubamba, so this weekend abounded with festivities to celebrate the 170th anniversary of this town. All last week leading up to the 9th of November the Plaza was scrubbed completely clean, all the Plaza buildings were painted white with a red stripe 1/3 of the way up, and a festival air abounded. Basically, Friday night until Monday night was one giant party throughout the district. Villagers came from all the nearby towns in the valley--Yucay, Huycho, Hyallabamba, Chichubamba, just to name a few--to participate in the Miss Urubamba competition on Saturday. This constsis of competitions in best indigenious dancing, best cooking, best sewing of costumes, and in general, best overall representation of the culture of the Urubamba valley.

Then all day Sunday was the Gastronomical and Handicrafts fair in the Plaza. There was all sorts of food--from cuy (guinea pig) to homemade honey from way up the mountains to lomo saltado to special varieties of potatoes with ají and mayonase to chicha--along with beautiful alpaca woven sweaters and hats and scarves and blankets or carved and painted gourds. All native woman proud of what they had made by hand stood by their displays, encouraging you to try their marmalade, feel their sweater, stop for a huge, frothing glass of chicha.

But around 3 on Sunday, the mood in the Plaza changed in preparation for the giant party that was to be there that night. Bands were coming in from Cusco to sing every type of Peruvian music--wayno (folkloric music), cumbia, rock, salsa--so they started putting up the stage decorated with giant Pilsen Callao signs and blasting music from such groups as Grupo Cinco (5) and Hermanos Yaipen (cumbia songs I now know all the words too...). And then out came the Pilsen. Cases upon cases of a dozen 40s were stacked all over the Plaza and the Peruvians began to drink. When Peruvians party, they PARTY!

I went to the festivities later that evening with some of my best ProPeru friends, several of our German volunteer friends, and a few of our Peruvian friends. The road in front of the stage (which was placed, ironically enough, on the stairs in front of the church) was packed like a mosh pit with Peruvians dancing to their favorite wayno and cumbia songs. I can't count the number of times Peruvians tried to offer us beer or asked us to dance because we were gringos, but we had made ourselves strict rules to not separate because we would immediately get lost in the press of people. So we all danced together on the stairs by the stage with a perfect view of the party below. I loved being there as a part of the festivities and showing my pride as an Urubamba citizen. I'm definitely coming home with an Urubamba flag!

And it didn't stop with Sunday, since Monday was the actual Día de Urubamba. From about 9 until 3 Monday, every school in Urubamba and the surrounding districts marched in their school uniforms in front of the main dignitaries of Urubamba and a congressman (still not positive why he was there...). The little kids were the cutest because they couldn't follow the rhythm of the military-style marching and just swung their legs and arms sort of randomly to their own internal beat. All the children wore the most serious looks on their faces as they marched, which dissolved into smiles and hugs as they reached the end of the parade and were scooped into hugs by their parents.

That evening the festivities continued with party part two in a park across from the bus terminal. We also went to that, which not only had more live wayno and cumbia music for dancing (including a very famous singer from Cusco who arrived late, after I left, because she had problems with her car from Cusco to Urubamba), but also carnaval rides and foosball tables. Kids were running around the traveling carnaval, playing, insanely happy, while their parents and siblings danced and just let loose.

But it was back to work as normal for everyone on Tuesday, though I am sure there were quite a few blurry eyes!

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