I was just a part of the biggest and craziest fiesta that I have ever been to in my life! Families and friends come together from all over Peru at this time of the year to Sicaya (a town just outside of Huancayo) to celebrate the pachamama (mother earth). There were hundreds of people, shoulder-to-shoulder packed, mostly dressed in traditional Peruvian garb, pouring beer for each other, and dancing away. Each family proudly wears scarves around their neck etched with their family name and have their own band with 12-15 saxophonists, clarinet players, a harpist, and drummers.The tradition is to make your best offering to the pachamama first, whether it’s throwing coca leaves or pouring your beer on the ground before passing the cup around to everyone and anyone else. Afterwards, the family holds hands and dances in a circle or parades through the streets of Sicaya, but they’re never an exclusive bunch – Jaap, Dorien, Ruth, and I were recruited to join the dancing and the festivities over and over again as we walked through the plaza! And the party’s not over yet! It’s still going on right now and we may even hit up Sicaya again Monday evening for the castellones (fireworks). =)
Maria and I shared pachamanca for lunch – a traditional Peruvian dish and very fitting for the occasion. They throw layers and layers of food to be cooked in a hole in the ground. Our pachamanca had green beans, spiced pork, beef, and humita (a sweet corn tamale).
Later in the afternoon, we explored the farmlands in the outskirts of Sicaya. We chatted with a family in the midst of building their own home – they had found prime earth to mix with straw to make adobe bricks, the construction material of choice in this region. We then continued on into the currently abandoned farmlands and found ourselves truly aware of our presence in the Mantaro Valley surrounded by the Andes mountains every direction we turned. We trekked up and down dirt hills, leaped across little rivers, ran through rows and rows of tall dried grass, remembering pachamama.