Sunday, February 28, 2016

Arrival and Carnaval on Taquile 2016

Jumping Right In

After an overnight airline flight from Grand Junction, Colorado that started on Februry 4, a visit and lunch and nap with our goddaughter´s family in Lima, then an overnight and all day (!) bus ride to Puno, then a noisy hotel (after all, Candalaria in Puno is the second biggest festival in all of South America after Rio´s Mardi Gras), and a bit of early Sunday morning market day--we climbed onto Fredy´s new boat happily on our way to Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca. 

The new seats on Fredy´s boat. Thanks to those who pitched in!
Carnaval started the next day, Monday, February 8, with a group of dancers starting out from our neighbor´s house. We skipped day one, resting and settling in, getting our Carnaval outfits ready, hugging everyone and remembering why we are so much in love with this extended family and community. Also talking about pending solar and LED light trades.

But we jumped in full force on Tuesday and danced for the next 6 days, progressing from house to house in swirling procession. The youngest and most animated girls and women lead the way in swishing skirts and swirling yarn pom-poms, wichi-wichis, the men are next with flutes and drums, followed by everyone else. Sometimes Tara is in front with the lively ones, and sometimes trails with the grandmas and baby-carrying mothers (and sometimes the drunks) at the end of the parade.
detail of phenomenal complex weaving on a man´s poncho
The autoridad, the officer in charge of the group, lead the men, and his wife brought up the rear as the sweep, making sure no one was left behind. When we arrive at the next house, the cooks bring out a big pile of hot finger food: steamed potatoes and chuño (Peruvian freeze-dried potatoes), cooked corn kernals and fava beans, and maybe some fish--all served on a beautiful cloth on the ground in a place of honor. Each household has its own special hot sauce served frin a bowl in the middle of the pile. All the guests come forward to get their food. Carnaval came early this year, so I´m lucky to get there in time for the few new potatoes fresh from the field. Next the watermelon is served, and the beer. We have to eat and drink it up quickly to get on to the next house. The more popular leaders have many invitations. 
Tara and Sam on Wednesday of Carnaval

Wednesday is the first REALLY BIG DAY when women wear the most skirts and the men wear multiple coca purses (chuspas) and EVERYONE wears beautiful red handwoven mantas. Tara wore 7 skirts, rather heavy and very full which give some real inertia to a spin. Sam work 18 chuspas

Thursday, Friday and Saturday kept the colorful costumes and the processions going. We danced most of the time with autoridad Tomas Mamani and his wife, Yolanda, who are our co-parents, sharing the godparent duties for Dina,s little girl, Chasca/Yanet. As it turned out this group had quite a following with lots of young animated girls leading the way in their bright yellow and green skirts. One day we couldn,t find the group and travelled for a couple of houses with another leader. Suddenly, a woman asked us if we´d like to go to Tomas´s group and she knew were they are. Sure, we said. Then it turned out that her husband was too drunk to carry his big base drum and she needed us to carry it up the hill!

I learned that this festival has greater significance than merely a party: When the 4 sizes of quena flutes are playing correctly together, and the bass drum is played with power and precision, this week will bring the needed rains for the rest of the rainy season. It seems to have worked.

Sunday´s day-glo skirts
  Sunday is the final day. Around 4pm at the last house of the afternoon, suddenly the girls are switching their skirts around so only the brightest yellows and pale greens show, and the young men are removing the outer layers of black jackets, red mantas and sashes revealing their white shirts and white and black vests, Lighter, whiter, brighter. We dance to the main square as dusk sets in; the young dancers in their new costumes making new steps, weaving in and out of each other´s lines, dancing around the strong center of men with flutes and drums. Beer is served, More dancing. Fireworks!

Around 9:00pm each of the 7 groups dances into the night, back to the home house of the Leader where they started on Monday morning. Speaches of gratitude for our participation, hot soup, more beer, and--in our case, at least--reggaeton and cumbia amplified in the courtyard. Tomas and Yolanda changed their clothes and dropped their role as Leaders as mere hosts at their own home.

This festival is by Taquileños for Taquileños. They welcome visitors, but most tourists only stay for the afternoon. Lucky ones this week saw beautiful swirling skirts and listened to enthusiastic music before they caught the 2pm boat.. I saw only 7 who participated: a trio from the Sacred Valley who had been in Puno for Candelaria,and  two Spanish travellers who couldn´t leave after they saw the Sunday night excitement, followed the party to the final house of Tomas and stayed at our house,
Chiara & Johanna
The best were two university students who also stayed at our house. Chiara is from Lima and Johanna is from Spain, here to work on her thesis about indigenous musical traditions. We introduced them to as many experts as we could name, and they found their own. They did not dress up in the many layered skirts, but followed the dancers and enjoyed theirselves even with the overt attention of varyingly drunk Taquile men who wanted to marry them (!). We studied stars on Chiara´s mobile star gazing app, talked politics, and made a friendship which, I believe, will last.

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