Easter preparations start a week or more ahead of time with singing rehearsals. Six or seven groups get together to practice harmonies and accompaniment, usually an electric piano and various stringed instruments. Ruperta and Ivan started late with only a couple of rehearsals with the Huayllano group, but they have participated every year and know the music. Ivan plays a beautiful mandolin. Performances are vigils in the churches Thursday through Saturday nights.
Thursday we went to the Adventist Church in Huayrapata, rather close to our house. Armando is an excellent music teacher and musician of many instruments, from keyboards to stringed instruments and even the accordian. He coached the chorus, probably 30 people of all ages, including many of our family members. He accompanied on the electric piano.
One song which they know in Spanish, Cant Aleluya al Señor, I taught him several years ago the English, Sing Halleluia to the Lord, and the Hebrew, Shir Alleluya a Donai. He taught the three languages to the chorus and I joined them in front of the room for the song. I was most welcome. Happily, the Adventists don't stay up all night and we got a good night's sleep.
That is not the case with the rest of the community. Good Friday, six groups sang in the big Catholic church in the plaza beginning at 8pm and singing until 2am! Sam and I crowded into the back of the room behind a group of men and listened until the Huayllano group sang and then gave up our seats to the singers and found fresh air and company outside the church. We definitely did not keep the vigil until 2am with the singers.
|Six different groups sang in rotation at the main church.|
|from the balcony|
|Words to songs I could read!|
|This elegant man sat at the end of my pew.|
We stayed until midnight and walked home in moonlight, the waves of the lake and the wind in the trees whispering their songs. Magic night.
Easter is the annual ceremony to pay the Patcha Mama, the Mother Earth, for the whole year. Families individually create their own despatchos and bring them to the shamen or pacos at the ceremony. A despatcho is a dispatch or a sending of prayer, of intention. Traditionally a large cloth, especially woven for the purpose, is filled with coca leaves and opened with respect. Each family member chooses well-shaped leaves in groups of three, called a k'intu. Each k'intu holds the prayers and intentions of the person who chooses the leaves. These physical prayers are placed on a large piece of paper, topped with flower petals, sweets and wine, maybe medicine, sometimes drawings or other symbols of the intentions. Then the paper is folded closed and carried to the top of the mountain.
|family despatcho after breakfast|
Our family had many prayers for the healing of Luz Nati (see Bus Accident Story for details), many for the safe travels and success and return of Sam and I, for healthy crops, for gratitude of all our blessings. Sam and I carried this, and also the despatcho from Gonzalo's family, up to Mulcina, the ceremonial site at the high point of Taquile.
We got to the plaza in time to join the procession to Mulcina with the village officers.
|Autoridades emerge from mass at the church|
Many many estallias full of coca leaves are shared, k'intus chosen and offered. This long ceremony of gratitude to the Earth lasts until dusk.
|estallias full of coca leaves|
|Sam receives coca leaves|
|Women share with women; men with men|
At the end of the day, we followed the procession down the hill to an evening of food and, later, beer. We slipped out after soup, full with the magic of the ritual and celebration.