Fiesta Señor del Costado (Two-week party!)

Hello friends, family, FPCVs, and fellow PCVs! I feel the need to say hi again because I have done the unthinkable… gone almost two months without writing a blog post. I always swore that I would never be one of “those people” who go forever without writing, but alas life in Peru has kept me extremely busy. Lucky for ya’ll I have a few free days so I am going to play catch up!

If you want a quick version here is a video:

Let’s travel back in time to the end of September and begin there. To set the stage I had been in Santa Cruz, Cajamarca for about a month before the town anniversary on September 28th, so as you can imagine it was nearly impossible to get any work done because everyone was in preparation mode for the two week town fiesta! I was placed on a committee to help with the three day fair. (For all my Texas friends, think like a very small rodeo.)

Our small town of 5,000 was flooded with Peruvians from the surrounding areas and the streets were filled with tents of clothes, food, and carnival games. The display was quite impressive and even included a ferris wheel!

The festivities began with a “concurso de alfombras” which directly translates to a “rug competition”. I was expecting to see artisans weaving rugs or something, but instead I found this…
alfombras in Peru fiesta

Different schools and community groups were assigned a section of the street and using colored saw dust, grass, and other dusts they created murals to be judged by the fiesta committee.
alfombra in Santa Cruz, Cajamarca

They spent hours creating these beautiful masterpieces and by the end of the day the wind and cars had erased pretty much all of it.

The next big event was the procession to begin the two weeks of nightly masses. The fiesta is in honor of Señor del Costado and his statue resides in a glass case in the church year round, but during the fiesta he is paraded around the town for hours to open the celebration and then a big memorial with candles, flowers, and beautiful draping is built in the church for the duration of the fiesta.
processional in Peru
secondaria students in Santa Cruz Cajamarca

Fun fact: The first statue of Señor del Costado was made of real gold but when the Spanish came to Santa Cruz they ransacked the church and stole the statue for the gold. This is technically Señor del Costado II and he is not made of gold.
Senor del Costado

The following morning was the opening ceremonies for the non-religious part of the fiesta and it also happened to be the day my bosses from Lima and Cajamarca came to visit. Allie and I were given seats of honor by the mayor and people from the municipality to watch the parade and skits. People came from all over the province and each organization performed a skit of a Santa Cruz tradition. From weddings, to baptisms, to dances. My boss and I even got pulled on stage at one point to dance!
peace corps peru dancing

The most interesting for me was the baptismal tradition where everyone in attendance presents a gift or money to the girl getting baptized and then cuts off a piece of her hair.
Peruvian baptism

For lunch my family killed one of our pigs and made chicharrón to share with my bosses and some family friends. I have to say waking up to sound of pig bleeding out for 20 mins. has to be one of the most traumatizing sounds I’ve ever heard. That is one of those moments where you have to take it as a cultural experience and move on.
killing a pig
chicharron con yuca

That afternoon began the 3-day town fair at a camp ground about 5 mins. outside of town.
Highlights of the fair included:

-Campo Beauty Queen contest
campo beauty pageant

-Typical dances by student groups from around the province.
Peruvian students in traditional clothes

-Artificial insemination demonstration
Peru artificial insimination

-Getting to pin ribbons on cows during the cow show.
Santa Cruz Cajamarca cow pinning

-Fattest guinea pig competition
cuy guinea pig peru

-Guinea Pig beauty contest
Guinea Pig beauty contest Peru

-Donkey races
donkey race in Peru burro

-Artisan goods contest
Artisan in Andes of Peru
Artisan in Andes mountains Santa Cruz, Cajamarca, Peru

-Typical Cajamarca food contest


-Cow milking competition

The fair also included booths from different artisans, farmers associations, and non-profit organizations. It was so amazing to see everything Santa Cruz has to offer in one place! From dairy products, millions of fruits and veggies, everyone was so proud of their products.
fresh seeds in andes peru

The other main attraction during the fiesta was the bull fights. It was a three day series of fights with 6 bulls everyday. We have a bull fighting arena in Santa Cruz that has been around forever and the matadors come in from all over South America for the fights. There were bull fighters from Columbia, Spain, Argentina, and Peru. I will admit that it was a bit gruesome to watch sometimes because they kill every single bull, but from the eyes of a person who grew up watching bull fights I can see how it could be a sport to them.
corrida de toros en Santa Cruz, Cajamarca, Peru

picador en corrida de toros

Interesting fact: Bull fights are banned in many of the big cities of Peru and outside of the sierra most Peruvians do not like the bull fights because of the cruelty. I thought it was really interesting to see how progressive parts of Peru are becoming.

The bull fight I enjoyed the most was done by a troop of little people and clowns from Columbia called Superlandia. It was meant for kids and they played with baby bulls, danced Thriller, and did skits with fire. No bulls were killed during the show and it was a great laugh.
Superlandia from Columbia

Every night of during the fiesta there was a mass and then following the mass a team of engineers would build a few castillos in the main plaza. A castillo is a two or three story structure of fireworks that spins, shoots fire, and does other cool pyro things! There is no rope around it so people get really close and sometimes even get burned. Every night around midnight everyone gathers in the plaza and watches the show while bands play huayno music, and then there is a dance until 4 or 5am.
Castillo fireworks in Peru

Castillo town fiesta peru

castillo in Santa Cruz Cajamarca Peru

I was a trooper and ended up going to all the days of the fair, bull fights, and 4 nights of castillos and dancing until 5am! Good thing I am young… it was definitely hard to do. I made friends with all of the bull fighters that were in town and hung out with them every night, dancing marinera, huayno, cumbia, and salsa. (Well at least I tried…)

One of the best nights was when we were all in the park and one of the little people asked me to dance when no one else was really dancing yet. We brought quite the crowd of Peruvians taking pictures and laughing at the 6 ft. tall gringa dancing with the little person. It was SO much fun!!

After two weeks of non-stop partying I will admit I was glad to see the streets clear and have my tranquillo town back. Now I am counting down the days until next September! If anyone has a desire to come visit me this would be a really fun time of year to come… just saying.

Lots of Love from Peru,