Carnaval, Day 3: The BIG Parade – Cajamarca, Peru (lots of images, so please give it time to load!)
Grab the closest red felt tipped pen and just go ahead and cross off “Attend Carnaval” from the bucket list. I didn’t even know it was on my list, but having attended the really big parade, I now know it’s not to be missed! No doubt today there is a national shortage of glitter, sequins, and glue. This was The Big Thing for Carnaval, to be followed days later by a ‘wake’ and subsequent funeral (which we will not attend, but we are assured people cry at the end as there’ll be no more Carnaval for another year), and big it was indeed.
There is SO much to say that I don’t even know where to start. Perhaps a compare-and-contrast to a parade in the US and then a bunch of photos? Let’s try that!
- It was a parade
- People marched, people watched
- It had floats and bands and horses
umm…then there were a few differences from what we are used to…
A Video is Worth a lot of Words: To get a feel for just how festive the Gran Curso of Carnaval is, we combined snippits of a bunch of videos we took. It’s not fancy, but you’ll get the idea! Lots of dancing and costumes!
City Wide Power Outage – Knowing almost everyone will be watching the parade, the city shuts off the electricity all day! Totally unexpected – we just woke up to find out that we couldn’t take hot showers. Noted for next time.
City Wide Water Fight – Throughout the weekend of Carnaval kids douse each other with Super Soakers and water balloons. The tiniest tot will be armed with the biggest water gun she can carry, dad at her side showing her how to target her next victim. We were relieved that gringos were not targets – as they are in Cuenca. In the hours leading up to the parade start it’s nothing but a non-stop water fight!
Floats – this parade had floats, but not exactly like most you’ll see in the US. One hospital had a completely outrageous float featuring a giant woman giving birth and a doctor (a real human) pulling a doll baby out! There it was: full paper-mache vaginal nudity (I think we’ll skip the photos of that one…). There was also a giant skunk that sprayed water out its backside. And, of course, the giant donkey who’s penis moved up and down. Yep, the crowd loved all of it!
Battle of the Bands – Ahhh, The Carnaval Song, performed by Every. Single. Band. If a band wasn’t within hearing distance, people in the stands broke out their own instruments and performed. Often both played (not in synch or anything) along with the MC who would stop everything for someone to do a usually horrible karaoke version of The Song.
Horses and Roosters – Oh sure, many parades have horses, but that wasn’t good enough for the National Police. In addition to a band, multiple groups doing traditional dances, a queen and people marching in uniform, they had the cock fighters. You heard me right. They marched with their prized roosters and before our very eyes they formed a circle and did a demo. (Happily the roosters’ talons had little covers on them so it was a bloodless event.)
Alcohol – A little beer happens at most US parades…but here there was not a single group that didn’t have multiple cans or bottles making their way among the performers. The crowd would hand them out, often running among the marchers to give a cup or bottle to their favorite. Only a few folks seemed to over do it so the show continued smoothly. Thank you, thank you, thank you Carnaval for being so family friendly and not the debauchery of Mardi Gras!
Time – Perhaps the biggest contrast is how long the parade went on. We were told by several people and a couple of official looking signs that the parade starts at 10:00-10:30am. Perhaps they meant that 10:30 is a good time to wake up for the parade as the parade started at exactly… 1:00pm! Yes, we waited for about three hours just for it to start. Then the parade itself lasted six and a quarter hours! That’s right, the parade ended at 7:15pm, just after dark. We are proud to say we were there from start to finish. Feels like we should have some special bragging rights, but to be fair only a few spectators left before dark.
Let the parade… begin!
And now some photos that need no captions. Feel free to click on any of the photos in our blog to make them bigger – great for seeing the detail in some of these costumes!
As we were told, Cajamarca definitely is the Carnaval Capital of Peru! From the paint party on Saturday to this Gran Curso parade on Monday, it was an unbelievable three days. We were so lucky to be here! Who’s up for coming back next year?