Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Festivals and teaching

Feeling quite tired this evening, so may forget some things. Be prepared for updates!

First thing to say is that I forgot to mention that on Sunday morning, although I failed to go to Mass at 4am, I did go to a later one in Quechua! Needless to say I didn't understand a word, but it was worth it to see how even in a modest church like Pisac's, they really go to town on decorations, music, palm crosses, etc.

Going to town doesn't even begin to describe the festival I saw in Cusco on Monday. It was to celebrate Jesus as "SeƱor de los Temblores" (Lord of the Earthquakes). According to the source of wisdom that is Wikipedia, this is because there was an earthquake in 1650, and a crucifix sent to Cusco from Spain was paraded around the town, at which point the earthquake immediately stopped.

The crucifix is about 3 metres tall, and entirely black. Every Monday before Easter, it is paraded through the city, and people throw red petals at it. It visits every church in the city, carried on the shoulders of 10 men. Officials of every sort meet it at various points, from politicians to police to the army. Then in the evening in re-enters the cathedral, by which time the main square is literally full. There are candles, music, church bells, street vendors selling food. It is, quite simply, a party atmosphere. The only thing I've ever seen like it was Easter Sunday in Florence: though here there were probably even more people.

It came as no surprise that there is no school this week. So today and tomorrow I'm teaching basic English to local artesans, to help them sell their products. Will write more on this tomorrow, but even the little I taught my groups (greetings and farewells) felt worthwhile. It is something that will genuinely help them in their daily lives.

This leads me on to my last point: I moaned about the commercialism of Cusco in my last post. However, this is probably unfair, as someone pointed out to me. Said someone has an annoying tendency to be right about these things - you know who you are!

The fact is, it's easy for the Lonely Planet backpacker crowd to criticise commercialism, spoilt beauty and loss of local character, but put yourself in the street sellers' shoes. If you had no money, wares to sell and saw a wealthy tourist coming towards you, what would you do?

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