Saturday, February 25, 2012

Carnaval on Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca, Peru

First you dress up with lots of red clothing:
Sam wore the usual black trousers, white wool full sleeved shirt, black and white vest, red 6"wide intricately woven cummerbund, red pintay chullo hat. For carnaval he added a black short jacket with colored yarn along the front, draped diagonally with a 6" red sash, carrying a red manta tied diagonally over the other shoulder--and twelve red coca purses. Yes, 12 coca purses with lots of extra yarn fringe and some with dangling balls of yarn, carfully arranged to be all at the same level below his waist so when he spun around they flew out like a twirling skirt.
Tara wore 6 skirts in ascending fullness, so when she spun around they flew out in colorful levels. The top skirt was bright red, lifted in front and pinned in back (makes a convenient pocket in the front) to reveal the bright yellow second skirt. Sweater was white for contrast and somewhat covered by the intricately woven red manta tied over both shoulders (see the last blog entry for mantas in process of being woven).
Both of us carried wichichis (pronounced wee chee wee chee), yarn baubles to spin in our hands and hit people in the back with a sort of hug while yelling ¡Whee pay!

Next you follow the sound of the base drum to the first house of the morning. In our case, our co-father, Lino, holds a major office this year and is an authoridad, thus leading one of the 9 dancing groups. First thing in the morning, we are served nice hot vegetable soup with lots of potatoes when we arrive. Then when the rain (finally) stops, watermelon is served and beer (too much) and sometimes sodas or other non-alcoholic drink. The music is intermittent at first, drums and wooden or bamboo flutes, in a two-phrase rhythm and melody that ends with twirling. After the beer gets going, the music is more consistent, two coca estallias, one for the men and one for the women, are opened and coca offered in generous hands full to all the adults present.

By now the music is going strong, most of the men are playing flutes or drums, and the women begin to dance, swishing their skirts and twirling, flipping their wichiwichis energetically, overhead on the twirl. The base drums keep a syncopated steady rhythm, the snare drums have their own beat, and the many sizes of flutes have their own melodies in harmony and disharmony steady and clear. Someone calls out ¡Haco! !Let's go! and the parade begins.

Young and\or energetic women generally lead the parade, yellow to lime green are a favorite colors for the second skirt, so the twirling adds a flash of contrasting color, whichiwhichis flashing all the while. Next is the band, the men in black and red. Trailing behind are lless energetic women, often with children, and the drunks who can't keep up with the band.

Yes drunks are a problem. I love this festival, but dislike the drunkenness. Besides the beer, which is over abundant but not that strong, each man (and some women) generally has a little bottle of very strong trago, which might be described as rot-gut alcohol. Sometimes a finer quality strong drink will turn up, but not often. Each man serves it by filling the tiny bottlecap and offering it ceremoniously to another person, who puts a few drops on the ground as an offering to Pacha Mama, salutes those around him, then drinks the contents of the cap and shakes the remainder on the ground before handing it back. If one is clever, he can offer a lot to Pacha Mama, wet his lips and throw the rest on the ground. I found that I could spit it out onto a pom-pom of my wheecheewheechee as well. Nasty stuff. More on the drunkenness some other time.

Back to the Dance Progressive Party Parade
We dance in procession to the next house. When we arrive we seach out the hostess and give her a handful of coca leaves. She is busy with all the last minute details, as is her husband and the rest of the hosting household. A blanket is placed on a stone bench in the courtyard and the authoridad and his assistants sit in the center of the blanket. In front of him on the ground are more blankets. The wife of the authoridad and her entourage sit on the ground opposite the men. In between, on an additional cloth is places a steaming mound of fiabre, which is an assortment of steamed new potatoes, cooked field corn, haba/fava beans, chuño (freeze dried potatoes), k'aya (freeze dried oca), and sometimes fish (soup is only served first thing in the morning). A bowl of spicy salsa is placed in the middle of this mound; it can be chopped chiles with onion, tomatoes, lime juice, sometimes canned tuna.

After everyone eats as much as they want, any leftover food is offered to be taken home. In the women's mantas are food-carrying-cloths called uncuñas, and maybe even plastic bags, to take away the abundance (breakfast at our house included the leftovers scrambled with eggs). Next watermelon is brought forth in tubs with knives for cutting and the assistants cut pieces for everyone. Shortly afterward a case of 650ml beer is mostly opened and passed around with (if we're lucky) a cup per bottle. Sometimes the person given the bottle will serve those around him/her by pouring and offering the cup--as with the alcohol, a little is poured on the ground as an offering to the Pacha Mama, surrounding people are saluted, then one drinks and shakes out the cup. Sometimes after pouring one's own cup, you hand the bottle off, followed by the cup--then you aren't stuck trying to pawn off the over abundance of opened bottles. It seems that being given the opened bottle is an honor, so and excess of bottles are opened to give more honor! I suppose it offends my Methodist upbringing, both the waste and the drunkenness.

 Tara and Sam All Dressed Up

Orlando jumps up on a rock, to cheer on the dancers

See how we parade along the path, the lively girls leading the procession.

As before, the estallias are opened, coca passed around, and ¡Haco! off we go. This time you dance for a mile over a 13,000 foot pass down to the next house, more or less repeat the picnic, etc., and dance for a while until ¡Haco! a half mile hike back over the pass through the plaza where a tourist sees Sam and yells "How did you get here?" then to another house. Repeat. ¡Haco! This time up the ridge well above the pass to a glorious view of the lake and the Island, all green and potato flowers in bloom, beautiful girls in yellow and red skirts twirling, rhythm and music and community and coca and snowcapped mountains on the other side of the lake emerging from the clouds.

No comments:

Post a Comment