More Peruvian than a Potato

Students marching in the Fiestas Patrias parade Peace Corps Peru

Yesterday marked 195 years of Peruvian independence! Here we call it Fiestas Patrias and it is a two or three day celebration of Peruvian culture, food, and independence. This is my third Fiestas Patrias in Peru and instead of taking advantage of the vacation days and exploring a new place, I decided to spend the time in my town and enjoy the local festivities. (I am also on my last week and a half in site, so I want to spend as much time with my friends and family here as possible… cue the tears.)

Peruvian flag Fiestas Patrias 2016 Peruvian Independence

Recently I have enjoyed using the Peruvian phrase, “Soy mas Peruana que la papa”, translated to, “I am more Peruvian than the potato.” It is my go to ice breaker phrase when people ask me where I am from. The conversation goes a little like this:

Me: Hi! Good day.

Peruvian: Hi, señorita! Good day. The weather is nice today.

Me: Yes, there is a lot of sun.

Peruvian: Where are you from?

Me: The United States.

Peruvian: Really? But you speak perfect Spanish?

Me: Yes, I have lived in Peru for two years. I am more Peruvian than the potato.

Peruvian: Wow! You already know the slang! Hahahaha.

This Fiestas Patrias I really did feel like I was truly an adopted Peruvian. The celebration started with decorating the plaza de armas with my co-workers at the municipality. Peruvian law states that each house must have a flag and all of the public institutions like hospitals, schools, muni etc. must have a bigger flag with the Peruvian crest on it. If one does not abide by the law there is a hefty fine of 1,900 soles or $593!! The flags only cost about $2, so even I followed the rule and hung a flag off my balcony.

Decorated Plaza de Armas Peru Fiestas Patrias Peruvian Independence

The 27th was the main day in our town, so I woke up early to head to the plaza to get a good seat before the festivities. Around 10am all of the public institutions were lined up in the plaza, dressed to the nines with banners, flags, uniforms, fake guns, and marching bands. There was a flag raising ceremony and we sang the provincial, departmental, and national anthems.

Students marching in the Fiestas Patrias parade Peace Corps Peru

Afterwards there was a one-block parade and each of the public institutions took turns marching down the street. The mayor started the parade by marching down the block, followed by my co-workers at the municipality, the two hospitals, the school board, the domestic violence prevention center, the mother’s club, the nursing home, and then the 3 preschools, 2 elementary schools, and 2 high schools. Everyone was there!

Marching in the Fiestas Patrias Peruvian Independence Day Parade Peace CorpsMarching in the Fiestas Patrias Peruvian Independence Day Parade Peace CorpsMarching in Fiestas Patrias parade Peace Corps Cajamarca Municipality

My favorite part was watching one of my 8-year-old best friends march in her elementary school marching band. It amazes me that 7-11 year olds were able to play marching band instruments while marching in a straight line… I know 16 year olds who can’t do that. I was also very proud to see an all female snare drum line full of my students from the local high school. You go girls!

All girl drum line Peru Fiestas Patrias

After the 4-hour parade I hurried off the get lunch before the crowds started getting the same idea, and on my way I ran into my previously mentioned 8-year-old best friend. She very maturely asked if I would like to “pasear” with her after lunch, and when I agreed she told me we should meet in the plaza at 3pm.

Peace Corps Peru Volunteer celebrating Peruvian Independence Day Fiestas Patrias

In small town Peru there is not really much to do, so when people want to spend time together they “pasear”, or walk around the plaza in circles while talking. I do this quite often with friends my age, but I have never been invited to “pasear” with an 8-year-old… but how do you say no to an 8-year-old?!

Taking walks in the Plaza Peace Corps Peru

I roped my friend into coming with us and at 3pm sharp we found my little friend waiting for us on the corner of the plaza. We walked and talked for about an hour and then called my mom in US and chatted with her for a while longer.

Te amo Peru

The next day we watched the new president of Peru swear in and I couldn’t help but feel proud to be an adopted Peruvian! Maintaining your independence for 195 years is no small feat, and I am so grateful to all of the Peruvians who fought for that independence and who continue fighting for the development of this country. I would not have had this beautiful opportunity to integrate and find my family in Peru if it weren’t for those people. Felices Fiestas Patrias!! Viva Perú!

P.S. If you want the How to Celebrate Fiestas Patrias post, here is the low down from my first year in Peru!