Archive » November 6, 2008
PERU COMES ALIVE ON DAY OF THE DEAD
By Megan Snedden, Contributing Writer
As we continued our ascent up the northern coast of Peru, we took time to say goodbye to Trujillo by celebrating two national holidays: el Dia de Los Muertos and El Dia de la Cancion Criolla.
The Day of the Dead in Peru, in ways, felt like a giant party in honor of loved ones who had died. At the cemetery that day, the first day of November, there was a feeling of loss, yes, but even more, a sense of celebration for life.
The labyrinth of white plaster walls through the cemetery wound to the left and to the right, around statues of saints, and opened into a courtyard where children ran and laughed. They carried buckets of water, occasionally splashing each other. The children were there to clean the gravestones and to replace the wilted flowers with live, brilliantly colored ones.
At the cemetery entrance, a woman nearly took flight as she struggled to hold on to a large canopy of brightly colored balloons, and another woman with strong arms supported a boa constrictor-sized blob of taffy, from which she was ripping off chunks bare-handed and selling them for 30 cents each.
Meanwhile, accordion and guitar players cheerfully waited to be hired to play melancholy and jubilant tunes with families in front of the grave sites. According to what many locals say, this holiday is not as widely commemorated in Trujillo as it is in the Sierras, but many still went to the cemetery that day to pay respects.
At the end of that day, we said goodbye to Trujillo after a little more than two weeks volunteering at a local school. As we planned our departure, summer time cleared the coast of its temperate cloud cover and beckoned us up north to Mancora for an international women’s surf competition.
I will miss tia Carmen, at whose house we stayed at during our time in Trujillo. I will miss the way she diligently tended to her guinea pig farm; the way she always added two cups of extra water to my oatmeal every morning when I wasn’t looking; the way she beat me over the head with an empty two-liter water bottle screaming, “Sucia!” or dirty, for the state of my disheveled room. When her cat had kittens, she refused to let us see them because she said the mother would carry them away. Little did she know that we found them in a box under a plywood board under a tarp below a bucket covered by a pile of banana leaves.
For the trouble we put her through — including peeking in at the gatitos everyday without her knowledge — we had planned to buy tia Carmen a chair as a parting gift since she enjoyed reading in the sunshine everyday. We were unsure, however, if it was an appropriate present, until that is, the morning Danielle casually took a seat on her wooden chair and it violently collapsed to the ground in splintery pieces.
It must have been a sign.
Danielle tried to joke and said she was dancing on the chair when it happened, but that went over about as well as if we would have told Carmen that we found the kittens.
We learned that it was not acceptable to dance on a chair in tia Carmen’s. We also learned it is more acceptable to dance among ancient ruins, especially on a holiday.
On the Dia de La Cancion Criolla — the holiday celebrated in Peru on the last day of October to commemorate Peruvian dance and music culture — we went to the ancient adobe city of Chan Chan to watch Trujillo’s annual show.
This time, we sat on sturdy plastic chairs while we enjoyed the festivities, waiting for the next day when we would begin again our travels.