A Bit of New Year´s Luck

January 3, 2011 at 9:56 am | Posted in Culture, Cuzco, Peru, Travel | Leave a comment
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Some of the things I will do for luck in the New Year… Or  Luck of the Peruvian´s? Does that exist?

I started my new year´s preparation early.  After Christmas, a bunch of bright yellow “pica pica” started appearing on the streets. Yellow 2011 glasses, yellow underwear, noisemakers, fireworks, confetti, yellow beads, balloons.  Hold up, let me fill you in: New Year´s Traditions revolve around “yellow”. It represents luck in the New Year, so you wear as much yellow as you can (including yellow underwear).  Not wanting the “street” underwear, I got a local tailor to make a more comfortable pair of yellow boxers (when in Rome right?) Alternatively, you can wear red for love in the New Year or green to be wealthy.

And started getting ready for our New Year´s Party at our house.  My roommate had ordered a 13kg lamb to roast on our roof, with a lemon yellow garlic glaze and a cilantro peanut sauce for eating. Served up with sweet potatoes and an apple salad (be jealous).

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Ok, so that wasn´t for luck (but it was delicious).  In the week leading up to New Years, I visited seven Nativity scenes and tossed coins into the wishing wells of each (another Cusqueña tradition for luck).  And at midnight, our group went to the Plaza de Armas (sorry no pictures because of the crowd, I decided it would best not to bring my camera).  To run a lap around the plaza (for luck) and eat grapes (twelve wishes, one for each month of the year as you eat them).

Most Peruvians put a boutique of wheat and fake money on their doors for New Years to bring prosperity (but I figured I had enough luck saved up for the New Year and left that one alone.)

Resolution: make this year better than the last.

Resolution: eat another lamb like the one above.

A Christmas Story (Cusco Traditions)

December 27, 2010 at 3:30 pm | Posted in Culture, Cuzco, Peru, Travel | 1 Comment
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What do you do when you are abroad for the Holidays? Here´s what I did….

Making Kids Smile.  On both the 23rd and the 24th, I contributed  (first with my coworkers and then with my church) to buying small presents, candies, cookies, juices and then handing them out on Bélen Pampa and in San Blas.  The idea is that whole families from surrounding villages always to Cusco over Christmas to sell pine branches, moss, and other greenery to make the Nativity sets.  They sleep on the street or plaza with their kids in the freezing cold and rain.  Kids with mild frostbite and mud on their cheeks.

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I remember Christmas when I was 5 years old. And thought that maybe, somehow, if I could give these kids a little of the joy that I have had over the holidays, it could make theirs a little brighter.  But, in the end, you never know.  Countless kids left without presents, making the two days of handing out presents seem like a drop in the bucket.

Arariwa Christmas Party. The 23rd, all the workers from all branches of Arariwa got together for a night of food, drink, and a lot of dancing.  The party was held over at Arariwa Promoción, and within the first ten minutes, I realization that I was out of my league as far as the dancing was concerned.  Men would line up to dance with the women and begin flailing their arms and rapidly stomping their feet.  It was a mix between off-beat salsa and a traditional campensino dance.  All in all, a fun night!

Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, I didn´t bring my camera to Christmas Eve or Day, but hopefully some friends will post pictures on Facebook soon! Christmas Eve is characterized by waiting up till midnight here in Peru, to 1) put baby Jesus in the Nativity 2) to pray and toast minature glasses of champagne 3) to light off fireworks from the roof 4) to eat a small meal, have hot chocolate and paneton (pretty sure it is more directly translated fruitcake).  I got to join a coworker, Andy, and her family that night.

Christmas. I spent the morning with some American missionaires eating brunch and watching Elf, and then the afternoon (after it rained) with Andy´s family eating turkey and drinking wine until the early evening where I crashed in my house for a good 12 hour Christmas sleep.

The Cusco Christmas Market

Tradition. Good Catholics bring baby Jesus to mass on the 26th and place him on the altar for the entire service.  And in Cusco, you visit at least seven Nativity scenes in churches across the city tossing coins in the wishing wells in each of the Nativities for good luck in the new year. 5 down (Plaza de Armas, Cathedral, San Francisco, La Merced, and Santo Domingo), 2 to go!

A Taste of Culture

November 3, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Posted in Cuisine, Culture, Guatemala, Travel | 3 Comments
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This is an amazing post. Or possibly it´s just an insufficient reflection of a really amazing day.  Either way, in this post you will find my cultural take on Guatemala´s Day of the Dead, see the biggest kites you have ever seen, and hear about one of the strangest foods in the world.

Putting a video so early in the post makes it seem like I´m giving up too much too early.  On Monday, I had a chance to go to Festival de Sumpango de los Barriletes Gigantes.  Instead of looking up barrilete in my Spanglish dictionary, I decided to hold out until I got there to figure out what a barrilete was exactly.  As you can see in the video, the town of Sumpango comes together and teams of 30-50 young people start building intricate and colorful 75ft tall kites in July to display in the festival.  Some of the smaller kites (still huge at 20ft!) are flown, and a competition is held to see which ones stay afloat (also check out the video to see which ones didn´t).

You may be wondering, like me, if there is any cultural tradition behind this beautiful exhibition.  As it turns out, Day of the Dead is the one day that Guatemalans believe that their ancestors pass from the grave and roam free, visiting their old homes.  Kites are flown to communicate with their ancestors, and the noise the kite´s long tails make is believed to scare away bad spirits.

And everyone on this day (besides visiting the cemetery and their ancestors), eats fiambre.  Fiambre is a cold dish because originally it was placed on graves for their ancestors, and is made out of every type of food imaginable.  Seriously. I´m talking pieces of chicken, hot dogs, 5-10 different types of sausages, anchovies, tuna, peas, green beans, pickles, cold cuts, queso fresco, beets (gives it the purple tint), corn, cabbage, and anything else you can imagine.  Here is a video of the dish:

I know that kite festivals occur all over the world, but Barriletes de Sumpango is definitely one of a kind.  Additionally, if you are curious about the location of Sumpango in Guatemala, check out the interactive travel map I have created for my trip under the Travel Map tab.

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