Saturday, 11 April 2009

Easter Weekend

Yesterday was a Good Friday very different from the ones I have been used to. For a start, Mass is not celebrated in the Catholic church - instead there was a procession (what else?) in the evening, about which more later.

In the morning, I played yet more football, this time in Pisac, with some of the other volunteers, and Peruvians from the host families, including the elder brother from my own. I was not totally hopeless, but was definitely pretty breathless. It was nice just to stand in goal and look at the mountains... I will not tire of these views very quickly. The Good Friday tradition here is to eat nothing in the morning, then have an enormous lunch (los doce platos, "the twelve dishes"). We may not have had quite twelve, but I lost count. We had a vegetable soup to start, then fried fish with rice and potato, then jelly, and a maize cake, two different types of flan, and "guisado". The latter is a a hot drink with peaches in it - very tasty. Lastly there was a sort of rice pudding, which I will confess to have failed to tackle.

One thing that stood out is that table manners are pretty different here. You start to eat when you are served; there's no waiting. People will come and go from the table as they wish, and generally you eat just with the fork. All small things, but they add up to give quite a distinct impression of social norms.

Then in the evening there was the procession. It ever so slightly tacky, with purple and white balloons. But then (without wanting to offend anyone) I have come to expect this from Catholicism - a glorious disregard for "taste". It is in that way a very powerful affirmation of faith. There were three statues - one of the Virgin, one of St John the Evangelist (I think) and then a giant coffin containing the body of Jesus. These were paraded through the town, stopping at beautifully made flower carpets where the priest would say something, sing and pray.

His words were sometimes surprising... when talking about Judas and betrayal, he mentioned abortion, unsurprisingly, but then also talked about the betrayal of the workers and the poor. It was very clearly anti-globalisation, anti-technology, anti what he sarcastically called "progress". It made me think of the Liberation Theology movement famous in these parts. I don't think we're used to such a degree of politicisation in parish churches at home! Much of the procession was a jumble of noises - the band playing over the priest's singing, the emergency vehicles honking furiously in the main square at the end. The authorities are unashamedly deeply involved in religion.

Easter Saturday, by contrast, has been quiet. I had a slow start, then went into Cusco with a couple of other volunteers. My desire to try ceviche ( traditional raw seafood) has been thwarted for now, but we did catch yet another procession in the Plaza de Armas. We are staying the night, so will be around early tomorrow for the resurrection mass in the Cathedral, which should be quite something.

Ciao, as they say here, and happy Easter.

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