After a weekend full of fiestas in a small town containing live music, food, parades, bullfights, cockfights, and more, you’d think that’d be it for a while. Not in Perú.
Monday, there was a fiesta in a small town called Huayacundo…the fiesta was called “Festival del Lechon”. In English, more or less this means “Festival of the delicious, suckling baby pig”. It’s was a big pig roast with baby pigs, tamales, and of course the traditional live music and beer. As with most things in Perú, things are just more potent, more powerful, more distinct. All over the square in this small town were stands selling Lechon. Well the baby pigs were out on display, but not just that. The baby pigs were set upside down with a huge hole in the stomach where they took out the organs. Well, when you ask for a portion, they just start digging into the pig with a knife until they get enough to fill your plate. Not for the faint hearted. Served with tamales (mashed up corn served in the husk) and served without silver wear, you’re sitting here ripping meat off the bones with your hands and teeth. The tamales are perfect to wash down the goodness of freshly cooked suckling baby pig. My friend and I stayed for 4 hours or so, took a coffee, ate some lechon, had a coke, and just enjoyed the fiesta. There were a huge amount of people there; a lot from Cusco since it’s not too far from there. Overall, a good time at the festival.
Today, November 2nd, is known as El Dia de Los Muertos, The Day of the Dead. It might sound like Halloween, but it’s not. El Dia de los Muertos is a celebration for those who have passed away. However, it’s not your normal celebration. Instead, families head to the cemeteries not with just flowers but also with crates of bottles of beer and jugs of chicha. A bit different, right? My host family invited me to join them at 4pm today, so I walked over. The atmosphere is just what you wouldn’t ever expect in a cemetery. Outside the cemetery were food vendors selling freshly cooked meats and potatoes, beer, and flowers. Inside, the cemetery was packed with people. Many people had benches and were sitting around the graves of their passed away family members. Others were just hanging out and walking around drinking a beer. Women were walking around selling beer just like you’re at Wrigley Field. Soon after I arrived, a Mariachi band arrived. This isn’t even to mention that many tombs aren’t even tombs buried underground; many of the spots where the bodies lay are actually above ground, so you can actually see the general shape of the body covered in dirt.
So let’s take a moment and think about this whole scene…I’m sitting on a small bench in a cemetery in rural Perú with my host family and part of their extended family (about 20 of us in total). In the background is a Mariachi band playing. Right behind me is a body covered in dirt. We’re doing the traditional Peruvian drinking pattern…one glass and pass it and the bottle of beer around. Every 10 minutes, a woman would come over asking if we wanted more beer. Since we’re drinking, one question you might have is…where do you go if you need to go to the bathroom? I quickly figured it out. Just go in between two of the big tombs and just let it go. This is all happening in a beautiful cemetery filled with fresh flowers and colored tombs. How’s that for a scene?!
In a way, I really like the idea of this kind of day. Rather than always going to the cemetery very sad and emotional, why not go and celebrate their lives as if they were still around? Music, family, food, beer. I know to some this may seem extremely disrespectful to do, but why not celebrate the lives of the loved ones you’ve lost in a festive way…in a way they would want it to be? Just something to think about if you are offended or shocked by this day!
That’s the end of the weekend/week of festivals. To celebrate the end of the festivals, I am heading to Machu Picchu tomorrow! Something I’ve looked forward to for a while, so looking forward to seeing this lost city!