Grandma Rosa loved celebrating Santiago, a Peruvian Andean tradition in honor of the Saint Santiago. When she passed away, she left behind six children and joined six other children who had passed away before her. In her honor and memory, the family and extended family reunite once a year to celebrate Santiago in her name with some family members coming in from as far away as Argentina and Italy.Santiago celebrations officially begin on July 24th, but the fiestas can go as late as September. Traditionally, Santiago is celebrated on the farm in the company of your animals who chew coca and drink chicha as the humans do. In the city and for Grandma Rosa, the celebrations start with mass at the little chapel by the cemetery where she used to live.
A full band accompanies the reunited family members as they dance from the chapel to Grandma Rosa’s grave, the men flanked on either side by two rows of ladies. They are headed by the great-aunts, the sisters of Grandma Rosa who exude a certain zest even in their eighties. It’s a sight to see them parading through the streets with the women fully clothed in colorful, traditional Santiago wear and the men raising their sombreros.
After filling her resting place with fresh flowers, each person greets Grandma Rosa by touching the glass that covers her tombstone and making the sign of the cross. Some say a little prayer, and then it’s off to the other side of the cemetery where her brother-in-law lays. Although the family only visits these two pavilions, the cemetery is actually filled with aunts, uncles, sons and daughters who have passed away.The group dances their way up the street to an uncle’s home for breakfast and to catch up with each other’s lives. After all, this only happens once a year. Breakfast provides the energy to dance up a steep hill and everyone is rewarded with free beer at the first beer station, funded by another family member or friend. And the day goes on as such, the band following the family dancing from one beer station to another until lunch and then more beer stations until dinner. By evening, everyone is exhausted and completely drunk. What a satisfying day!
How do you commemorate loved ones past?