July 28th marks the day of Peruvian Independence, otherwise known as Fiestas Patrias. Now just go ahead and drop any preconceived notion that this holiday is anything like the 4th of July, because it’s not. Peruvians know how to celebrate and this holiday lasts for about a month!
1. Every house must have a Peruvian flag at least two weeks before the 28th.
I was coming home from training one day and as I was climbing the mountain I noticed little red things had popped up everywhere. Come to find out they were Peruvian flags! There is a Peruvian law that requires every house, big or small, to have a flag. If you don’t put your flag out by the 28th there is a hefty fine. Luckily, you can buy a flag in the market for a few soles so they are easily accessible.
2. Attend your local Peruvian gastronomy and culture fair.
The majority of colegios in Peru put on a culture fair each year as part of Fiestas Patrias. Every grade (which in Yanacoto is just one class) picks a different department of Peru (departments are like states) and they set up a tent with food and other products typical to that region. My host sister’s grade was in charge of the region of Lima, so my parents helped decorate and make the food, which included picarones, ceviche, and maiz amora. Below are pictures of food from some of the other departments.
The two crowd favorites were the adorable class from Cajamarca and the class from the selva (Amazon jungle). The Cajamarca group performed a yunza, a tradition where the town fills a tree with presents and then plants it in the ground, then everyone dances in a circle around the tree and takes turns trying to chop it down. When the tree finally falls everyone runs to collect the presents. The catch is that if you cut the tree down you become the madrino/padrino for the next yunza, and have to buy all the presents for the tree!
The selva dance started with all of the girls dancing with baskets on their heads and trying to bring gifts to the male head of the tribe. The entire dance they are trying to please him with gifts and then at the end they are all on the ground in a circle around him and he breaks open a beer bottle and showers them in beer. It was interesting to watch!
3. Go to a parade or stop by the artisan fair.
Every year as part of Fiestas Patrias there are a series of marching competitions and all the schools pick their best marchers to compete in a parade competition amongst the municipal district. Complete with marching bands and twirlers it is quite the spectacle! Just don’t plan on traveling anywhere on a parade day because all of the streets shut down and fill with street food vendors, llamas, and artisan booths (which actually stayed up for an entire month).
It’s no Houston rodeo, but Chosica does have a sufficiently fun fair during the month of Fiestas Patrias. The night of the 27th (Independence Day Eve) my host family always goes to the main park in Chosica to spend an evening in the mini amusement park. Rides are cheap and my host siblings had a blast! There is no such thing as seat belts or safety gear on any of these roller coasters, so it was really amusing to watch people being flung every which direction on the tilt-a-whirl!
On the 28th of July, after a month of pre-celebration, it is time to properly celebrate Peruvian Independence. How do we properly celebrate? With food of course! All of the little sierra restaurants bring tents down to the big cities and set up temporary restaurants in the park. Everything from cuy, to selva food is available and it is the place to be. My family decided on a dish called pachamanca that is made by digging a hole in the ground and lining it with really hot rocks, then dumping every kind of veggie and potato you can find in with some chicken. So delicious!
There you have it. If you manage to survive the month of activities and still want more to do, don’t worry there is a Peruvian holiday practically every month!