Perhaps I am just a little pleased that the carnivals have come and gone. The build up to these festive events has been palpable during these last 2 or 3 weeks. Children especially have anticipated it with the buying and throwing of water filled balloons, 'los globitos' and by drenching each other and passers by with water on every opportunity. One would think that the joke would wear thin after a while but not so.
This weekend has been the conclusion to festivities, beginning on Saturday with pitched battles between groups of young people carrying paint filled 'globos' in buckets ready to throw at each other. Most people with any sense keep away and I went cycling to avoid this odd tradition. One could see its results every where. By lunchtime, buses, taxis and young people were covered in paint. Taking some back routes through the city we avoided the worst of it but we were attacked with water bombs which weren't too upsetting.
Earlier in the week we went to an event to elect beauty queens. This was a curious mix between beauty pageant and a contest for the most authentically dressed young woman from each of the provinces of Cajamarca and the local districts of Cajamarca City. Unfortunately it was both boring and cheesy but there were some nice costumes and I was pleased that the traditionally dressed girl from San Marcos won out over some of the more miss world like representations.
On Sunday we had 'las patrullas', a 3 or 4 hour procession of all the local areas and provinces of Cajamarca. These were generally colourful and quite fun with accompanying music and some splendid costumes. I watched it in the Plaza de Armas and situated myself near a group of friendly people who wanted me to drink their beer and pisco. Although I politely declined this did not prevent them from drinking themselves senseless during the course of the afternoon. Later, when it came on to rain heavily, rather than dampen the crowd's enthusiasm everyone seemed to enjoy it all the more. continuing to throw waater at each other!
The last main event, 'los concorsos' comprised of a lengthy procession of allegorical floats, many carrying the beauty queens and accompanied by much of the procession of the previous day. It lasted a full 4 to 5 hours. We situated ourselves on makeshift bleachers where places were rented out at around £3 a seat. Although I had some misgivings the structure seemed sturdy enough but it wasn't overly comfortable, By the end I became bored and wanted the interminable event to conclude. This was also another occasion of war by water bomb and myself and many others were hit by the projectiles which were lobbed from above and the other side of the road.
As I left I saw that another bleacher platform had collapsed; I gather causing 17 injuries, some of which necessitating hospitalisation. This was easily preventable and the joint neglect of the the informal economy and lack of adequate regulation. Otherwise the procession was fine but I thought that the police were somewhat heavy handed in clearing the way at the onset of events. Many of the costumes were great but quantity rather than quality prevailed.
In the evening I joined my family for some singing and dancing with guitars and flute. This was great fun and we sung 'coplas', verses of a set pattern always with the same tune but with varying themes, sometimes patriotic other times very rude. At some point we determined to visit some cousins and arrived unexpectedly causing a party to ensue. We all had to 'white up' by painting our faces with talcum powder. Drinks of whiskey, canosa, chicha and beer flowed freely and the next morning I slept late and awoke with somewhat of a hang over.
Well I gather it is not all over yet as we have the 'Unchas de Carnavales' to come. These comprise the erection of an Uncha tree in every barrio with presents tied to it and more partying.
Carnival in Cajamarca is certainly an experience but come prepared to party and enjoy. Carnival is not universally loved by all but seems to run through the veins of most Cajamarquinos happy to be known as the Peruvian capital of carnival.