Carnival in the Highlands

There is one festivity that we Italians know how to celebrate: Carnival. Whether we are talking about the elegant masks in Venice or the satirical floats in Viareggio, Carnival in Italy is COOL.

Even though the Peruvian celebration of Carnival is by no means as famous as the Italian, they prove equal. Cajamarca is the place to be in Peru, but I still had my share of fun in Huaraz.

Mardi Gras was on the 28th this year, but celebrations started early in February and only ended late in March.

The city of Huaraz had a one month long Carnival program filled with parades in traditional costumes accompanied by the local bands. Every district takes to the streets showing off their best outfits and their typical dances while a not too coordinated band accompanies them.

There is, of course, an election of Miss Carnival that my colleagues from the photography club fought to shoot.

Then, there are the yunzas. A yunza is a local gathering that takes place during the Carnival festivities. Friends and family meet at the organizer’s place who is in charge of providing food (typically a soup called yunca, chicken and potatoes) and an unlimited quantity of beer to their guests. The host will also hire a band to play during the whole duration of the party and people will dance more or less soberly. Someone might ask you to marry him and stay in Peru to take care of his farm, but this is another story 🙂

A lady who tried hard (and managed) to get me drunk. Her language: Quechua. My language: Spanish. Vehicular language: Beer

A lady who tried hard (and managed) to get me drunk. Her language: Quechua. My language: Spanish. Vehicular language: Beer

A hole is dug outside and a tree decorated with gifts (usually kitchen utilities) is placed inside it. People dance around the tree and one by one, they cut the trunk with an ax. The person who will make the tree fall, is responsible for organizing next year’s yunza.

A yunza in the village of La Unión, Ancash

Then comes Martes Guerra. Bands of kids patrol the town armed with water bombs and water pistols, and there is nothing you can do to avoid it. Don’t you even try to complain, because the answer will always be the same: It’s Carnival.

And get ready, because the main targets are elderly people, women and gringos, of course. So if any of these categories (or more than one) describes you, then… good luck.

As a saying goes “If you can’t beat them, then join them”: I dropped my camera and, together with a few people from the hostel and my friend Sara who had come to visit, grabbed some bottles and buckets and went fighting. Everything is allowed: water, mud, colors.

Police men and even the army patrol the streets of Huaraz, but there is nothing they can do: it’s Martes Guerra, it’s war.

Around 2 PM everything is over: it’s time for a warm shower and some rest before tonight’s yunza.


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