In Peru January 6th is el dia de la Bajada de Reyes. They say that this is the day when the three kings arrived to visit Jesus after he was born. In Peru we have celebrations for everything, so of course my town had a fiesta to celebrate the Bajada de Reyes. I wanted to share this particular fiesta with you all because it involved a lot of traditional dances. Peru is a very diverse place. It has the coast, mountains and the jungle and each area has a unique culture. Even within these three regions there is a lot of diversity and different cultures. Peru is split up into departments, within each department are provinces and within the provinces are districts. Each department, province and district has its own culture and traditions. The dances that were performed at my fiesta were all very different with different origins and histories and I think they show the beauty and rich diversity of Peru.
The first dance that was performed is called the Danza de los Pallos. This is a dance performed solely by men and it originated in a province about 2 hours from me called Santiago de Chuco . I really like the music they play for this dance. One guy plays the flute with one hand and a drum with the other. I can’t upload videos to my blog, but if you’re interested in seeing a short clip of the dance, follow this YouTube link: https://youtu.be/77moebUmRdo
The next dance that was performed was a huayno. Huayno is a traditional dance of the sierra (mountains). At fiestas we dance almost as much huayno as we do cumbia. I love dancing cumbia, but I still have a hard time with huayno, it just doesn’t come naturally to me. The dance usually involves a combination of skipping and stomping, but there are many different kinds of huayno. The local kids performed a huayno that was different than the huayno we usually dance at fiestas and much different than most huayno’s I have seen. But, whenever the kids perform for the fiestas they usually do a simple huayno like this. YouTube link: https://youtu.be/kiVBKF31oA4
After the huayno performance, another group of kids performed a Saia dance. Saia originated in Puno, a department in the south of Peru that borders Bolivia. This dance is very popular in Bolivia as well. My host nephew Germancito along with many other kids in town love dancing Saia. Although it is a popular dance, I almost never hear Saia music being played just to listen to. At our fiesta there were two adorable little kids participating in the dance with the older kids, they were my favorite. YouTube links: https://youtu.be/aCg2qsmC7fw and https://youtu.be/ar6fgf8VP9Q
The next dance performed is another one of my favorites. It is called marinera. To me marinera seems to have a lot of Spanish roots. The fancy foot movement reminds me of flamenco and the outfits seem to have more Spanish influence. I’m not exactly sure where in Peru marinera originated, but I know that my capital city Trujillo is known as the capital of marinera. It is a beautiful, elegant and fairly complicated dance. It was a pretty rainy and cold day on the day of our fiesta and for this dance the woman dances barefoot, so props to that chica her feet must have been freezing. YouTube link: https://youtu.be/3s-Id-Q2ius
The last dance was done by four young local kids. I am not sure what the name of this dance is, but it seems like a dance that originated from the jungles of Peru. The kids were wearing feathers and clothing similar to the traditional clothing of native tribes of the jungle. The jungle is full of many different cultures each with a distinct language. I haven’t had the chance to visit the jungle yet, so I don’t know much about it, so stay tuned for more information. YouTube link: https://youtu.be/hu09U2GRtVs
Like I said Peru is a very diverse place, both culturally and geographically. Dancing is a major part of culture here in Peru. It isn’t a fiesta unless there is tons of music and dancing. It was really cool that my fiesta had so many different traditional dances and I hope seeing them gave you a little taste of Peru.
So now for a funny story from the fiesta. We had a celebration after they finished decorating the plaza. It was basically a giant nativity scene. At the celebration they asked me to bring up one of the figurines for the nativity scene. I then learned that this meant I will be a madrina (direct translation- godmother) for the celebration next year. This really just means that I have to donate money and be a part of the ceremonies. At this fiesta de la Bajada de Reyes I found myself in a parade and I also had to take a figurine out of the nativity scene . Sounds easy enough right? Well it would’ve been, but as I was standing up there waiting in line for my figurine they said we would have to dance the figurine out of the plaza. I was hoping my Spanish was bad and I had heard wrong, but nope I had to dance huayno in front of the entire town. I was a bit out of my comfort zone to say the least. Although I don’t love having to dance in front of the entire town, Peru has made me absolutely love dancing in general. Some of my favorite memories here are dancing for hours at fiestas. The first time I met my host family they had a huge family reunion party and we literally danced for 7 hours straight. It was a blast.
I also just want to give you guys some general updates on my life in site since my last blog. We are currently in the middle of rainy season, so I have a lot less work to do. It rains almost every afternoon and sometimes even all day. Seeing as a lot of my work is outside or involves hiking or biking far distances I’m pretty glad that I have a little less work to do. However, I still try and work in the small surrounding communities in the mornings. I am continuing to train JASS (the water committee) on proper operation and maintenance, so I spend a lot of time helping clean water systems. In January I started teaching summer school classes. I have one class of 5th and 6th graders and middle schoolers and a class of 1st to 4th graders. I teach English as well as stuff about water, sanitation, hygiene, recycling, and the environment. I love teaching and working with kids more than I had ever imagined. I don’t have a lot of pictures of my class yet, but hopefully in the next blog post I will. For now here is a view from my classroom.
I have also recently started working with a health post in one of the surrounding communities. We are starting to do house visits to improve the hygiene and sanitation within households. I also just wanted to add some more pictures of my beautiful surroundings. The rainy season brings in these crazy clouds in the afternoon and by the evening my town is completely covered in fog. On the sunny days that I am able to hike around I get some pretty cool pictures.