Tag Archives: festival

On the Road – Peru: Chicha and Other Native Brews, Part 1

In this three-part series on chicha, we travel from the sierra to the jungle to discover Peru’s native brews.

 

 

Chicha de maiz, chicha pujagua, chicha raizuda, pelo de maíz, goes the song by the Nicaraguan  musicians, Carlos and Luis Enrique Mejía Godoy. This fermented grain drink, usually made of corn, exists throughout Latin America, from México to Argentina. The Real Academia Española says the word came from the Kuna nation of Panama, for which “chichab” means corn. The beverage, which has been around since pre-Columbian times, has a low alcohol content. Non-alcoholic varieties exist: In Panama, chicha is a fruit drink. Peru and Ecuador have chicha morada, made of purple corn, pineapple and spices.

 

Chicha is especially common in the Andean countries. No matter where you go, you’ll find places flying a white flag, announcing that urns of the drink are available. When the combi breaks down in the middle of nowhere, deep in the Peruvian mountains, someone will scare some up from a local woman. The stranded passengers will pass the time waiting for repairs to be done, passing around a jug of chicha. In village feasts, celebrants will gather around the cook fires to share a mug, dispelling the chill of the altiplano night.

 

The Andes’ native brew is still a drink of the common people. Chicherías—chicha bars—exist even in Lima. When the owner of a hostel in that capital city was gossiping about a scandalous brawl that happened at one, I said, “Such places still exist?” She looked at me, up and down, “They aren’t for foreigners—and not for decent people.”

 

If you want to try this corn beer, you’ll most likely find it out in the smaller villages. In larger cities, like Arequipa in Southern Peru, the central markets may have a counter where a woman ladles up the brew into a customer’s recycled jug.

 

While in Arequipa, I decide to learn more about this traditional drink. I cross the city’s splendid Plaza de Armas. In the center, the fountain leaps into the sun, capturing pieces of light and showering them upon the pigeons pecking at the handfuls of crushed corn grain tossed by families posing for photos. On the north edge of the square is the imposing Cathedral built of the white sillar volcanic stone that gives this city its nickname: La Ciudad Blanca. The other three sides of the square are surrounded by two-story, portaled buildings. I enter one and climb the steps to Sonccollay, a restaurant specializing in pre-Incan cuisine.

 

Walter Bustamante Cano, owner of Sonccallay and master chef. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

Out on the balcony overlooking the plaza, owner and master chef Walter Bustamante Cano is holding court in his realm. He speaks of the apu (spirits) of the three snow-capped volcanoes that edge the city: Misti, Chachani and Pichu Pichu.

 

His passion flares when he speaks of food. His thick eyebrows and waving hands accent the benefits of the ancient way of preparing foods. It is a union made of love and to promote health and wellbeing. It is a uniting of the universal energies of Wiracocha (Father Sky) with the material manifestations of Pachamama (Mother Earth) in the Kay Pacha, the world of the Here and Now where humans live.

 

Chef Walter explains that in Quechua and Aymará, chicha is called aswa. Peru has various types of aswa. In fact, there are over 300 types of this native beer, including ones made of peanut and all colors of corn. Here in the Andes, the traditional one is jora aswa and kinua aswa, made of quinoa grain.  In the north, maka, made of algarrobina (carob), is more common. The jungle region has masato, made of yucca. In some areas, the grain is chewed and then strained through straw, to help fermentation.

 

Kero: a traditional, ceramic cup of Peru's Andean region. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

He fills my traditional, clay kero cup with jora aswa. I drink the cloudy liquid pure, without the addition of sweetener. The taste is lighter than I expected and slightly bitter.

 

Chef Walter explains that the traditional way for making chicha consists of three steps. The first step is to let the fresh kernels of purple corn ferment at least three days. Then the juice and corn are boiled and strained into a chamba (large ceramic urn). In Northern Peru, the urn is buried—a custom that has faded in the south. Lastly, the liquid is fermented for three days to one year. The longer the fermentation, the stronger the brew will be.

 

An urn of fermenting chicha. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

Chef Walter takes me to the entryway of his restaurant and pulls a colorful woven cloth from the top of a large amphora. The bitter smell of the chicha wafts up from the dark pool within.

 

My next stop is Mercado San Camilo, Arequipa’s central market, to pick up on the ingredients for another type of Peruvian native drink, chicha morada.

 

 

Lorraine Caputo is one of V!VA’s longest-tenured writers. These days, she’s back on the road, updating our 2012 edition of  V!VA Peru. Check the blog for more of her updates from the road.

On the Road – Peru: Three Events to Mark on Your Calendar

June is festival time in Peru. With the end of the rainy season, campesinos have been sowing the fields for this year’s harvests of corn, potatoes and other necessities. Now it is season for the raymi—or festivals—that mark the solstice and other events. So get out your calendar and red letter these days.

 

But first, a non-holiday to mark: Travelers heading south into Chile should know that collective taxi, truck and other drivers have declared a strike and will be blocking the border next Monday, June 11. One of the complaints on the table is that buses carrying travelers across the border have their own lines, whereas colectivos have to share a block of immigration and customs windows with everyone else. They say this holds them up on getting their customers quickly from one city to another.

 

 

Now for the dancing, music, pageantry and down-right fun.

 

Raymi Llacta in Chachapoyas

This past weekend, Raymi Llaqta—Great Festival of the People—began in Chachapoyas, capital of Amazonas Department. This is one of Peru’s most blessed departments, as it includes terrain as diverse as high mountains to lowland jungles, and just as diverse an indigenous population.

 

At this raymi, all the nations gather in the regional capital to meet, sharing their unique cuisines, songs and dances. The big day is Saturday, June 9. Beginning at 10 a.m., the parade begins through Chachapoyas’ narrow streets, featuring the traditional clothing and dances of all of the department’s native and campesino communities. That same evening will be the Nina Raymi (Fire Festival), with dancing around bonfires on the main plaza.

 

This will be the perfect time to head to Chachapoyas and take in its awesome Kuélap ruins—just named by National Geographic as one of the 50 Tours of a Lifetime.

 

Inti Raymi

 

The biggest festival of the season is Inti Raymi in Cusco. Celebrated at the time of the June solstice, this celebration honors the Sun God, asking for a good harvest. With street vendors, daily activities and nightly concerts by the country’s best musicians, the celebration climaxes on June 24, the day of Inti Raymi.

This grand pageant features over 500 actors re-enacting the traditional ceremonies of Inca times. The action begins at Qorikancha square in front of the Santo Domingo church, where the Temple of the Sun had been. Sapa Inca is carried on a golden throne to Sacsayhuamán where the grand ceremony is held. The day culminates with evening bonfires.

 

Travelers looking for a more modern festival should head to Oxapampa for the Selvámonos 2012 Music Festival. This is part of the week-long Festival de Música y Artes de la Selva Centra (The Central Jungle Music and Arts Festival), which presents free musical, theatrical and other cultural events. Over 10,000 people are expected to attend the huge concert on June 30, with groups from the entire region. Reggae, Quechua blues-rock, cumbia and other musical genres will rock the jungle. For a complete listing of groups and events, check out the Selvámonos website.

 

Have fun partying down with the locals!

 

 

Lorraine Caputo is one of V!VA’s longest-tenured writers. These days, she’s back on the road, updating our 2012 edition of  V!VA Peru. Check the blog for more of her updates from the road.

 

On the Road – Peru: Chinese New Year in Lima’s Barrio Chino

The sharp cracks of fireworks fill the streets with pungent smoke and shreds of paper. The booming drums, the clang of brass cymbals announce the arrival of the dancers. Humans beneath the cloth dragon, lion and other animals raise the creatures up in the doorways of businesses, ensuring a bountiful coming year.

 

In China Towns all over the world, this millennia-old ceremony was celebrated to mark the beginning of the Year of the Dragon. In Lima’s Barrio Chino, shoppers were lured by the unusual music. Snapping photos with their cell phones, they followed the parade down the crowded streets.

 

 

During the second half of the 19th century, some 100,000 Chinese arrived to Peru. Most came to work in nitrate mining or on the plantations after slavery was abolished. Many were indentured servants, living a semi-slave life. In the 20th century, a second wave washed upon these South American shores. Today, Chinese descendants make up about 0.5% of the nation’s population.

 

 

The Barrio Chino is near Lima’s Mercado Central, just a few blocks east of the Plaza de Armas. Walking up Jirón Ucayali (a.k.a., Calle Cantón), you soon come to the large red gateways inviting you to stroll down the pedestrian mall paved with the 12 sign of the Sino horoscope. Several stands offer newspapers from China and another kiosk attends to spiritual needs.

 

The neighborhood extends from Jirón Junín to Jirón Puno, and from Andahuaylas to nearly Huanta. These bustling streets are jammed with dozens of chifas, (Chinese restaurants) with roasted ducks and pigs hanging in front windows. Import shops provide everything from foods to knickknacks. There are also several acupuncture clinics. Businesses – including banks – brandish signs in Spanish and Chinese.

 

Come down for a few hours, to savor a different flavor in Peru. Have a quick lunch at a chifa and wander through the dozens of market stalls tucked off the streets. Before heading back to the run-of-the-mill Peruvian reality, pick up some authentic ingredients to whip up your own stir fry back at your hostel.

 

Lorraine Caputo is one of V!VA’s longest-tenured writers. These days, she’s back on the road, updating our 2012 edition of  V!VA Peru. Check the blog for more of her updates from the road.

On the Road – Colombia: La Niña Adventures Continue – & Free in Cartagena

La Niña Adventures Continue

The La Niña rains are continuing in most parts of the country, adding a different dimension to travelers’ Colombian adventures. The TV news shows images of the extensive flooding in Medellín, Honda and the Magdalena River Valley. Mudslides cause temporary delays in bus trips. But most people journeying by that means are arriving safely (though a bit late).

Bicyclists, though, are facing tougher challenges. One Danish couple riding from Mexico to Colombia is due to fly out from Bogotá. They began down the road from Cartagena to the capital, but had to turn back. All roads – save La Línea (a high-altitude pass) – are affected. Others are deciding to stay a while yet on the coast, until the rains stop.

All travelers, whether in bus or car, on motorcycle or bicycle, are advised to check Invías’ (the national highway department) website for up-to-date information on road condition.

Casa Museo Rafael Núñez is easy on the wallet. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

Free in Cartagena

The only part of the country not having heavy rains seems to be the Caribbean coast. Even though it is officially the rainy season, it is anything but that. The days swell into a sultry stupor, but rarely erupt into a thunder-bumper. So many travelers are deciding to stay on the coast until road conditions (hopefully) improve.

Unfortunately, shoestring backpackers are dumbfounded by the cost of Cartagena’s museums, and excursions to Playa Blanca and Islas del Rosario are. These journeyers wonder they can do here on a meager budget. The answer is, Plenty.

Grab the camera and had out to wander the streets of the Old City, savoring the plazas and colonial architecture. Take a rest on the fortress walls, enjoying the sea and passers-by. Stroll over to Isla Manga and take in its seaside promenade.

Free dance & music. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

To cool off on these sultry days, pack a picnic and head to one of the near-by beaches, like Marbella and the ones on Bocagrande peninsula. For a few dollars, take a buseta out to La Boquilla where the best mainland playa is.

If museums are more your thing, you aren’t totally out of luck. The Museo del Oro Zenú and Museo de la Esmeralda are always free, and Museo de Arte Moderno is gratis every Wednesday. The Casa Museo Rafael Núñez costs less than a dollar. The last Sunday of each month, some of the pricey museums are fortresses are free.

A fine dose of rhythmic culture can be savored every afternoon (5-6 p.m.), when troupes perform Afro-Colombian dance and music at Plaza de los Coches. The various cultural centers in town host free art exhibits, movies and other events.

Click here for details on all these activities.

Another free event budget travelers could take in this past week was the Semana Santa processions that wended through the Cartagena’s streets. I close out this week with some images from Good Friday’s cortege – and until next week.

All Photos by Lorraine Caputo

Editor’s note: Lorraine Caputo is one of V!VA’s longest-tenured writers. These days, she’s back on the road in Colombia, updating our 2011 edition of V!VA Colombia. Check the blog for more of her updates from the road.


On the Road – Colombia: A Tempestuous Child, Holy & Holidays, & Great American Pastimes

La Niña will continue her tempestuous wailing and kicking until May, meteorologists say. Since the end of last year, she has wreaked havoc on Colombia. A small respite of sorts came in January and February. Road crews could begin repairing roads, bridges and levees that she damaged. I saw them laboring on the road between Barranquilla and Cartagena.

For the last few weeks, though, the annual rainy season (invierno, or winter) has provoked La Niña into another fit. In Western Colombia, especially the Zona Cafetera and Valle del Cauca, landslides and other disasters have wiped away homes and thoroughfares. A bus wending from Bogotá to Manizales met its fate on the morning of April 13. An earthen avalanche swept it into an abyss. Eighteen persons died.

Downpours in Southern Colombia have swollen the already-overflowing Cauca and Magdalena Rivers, causing extensive flooding in the Lower Magdalena Valley near the Caribbean coast. According to news reports, Magangué, a major transit point between Cartagena and Mompós, is totally isolated. The route is further complicated by a washed-out bridge between La Bodega and Mompós. Authorities have established an alternative route to ensure the safe arrival (and departure) of tourists arriving to Mompós for its traditional Semana Santa processions. A good source of information on how to travel to that colonial city is Richard McColl, owner of Casa Amarilla hostel (and co-author of the first edition of V!VA Colombia).

These rains have made Easter vacation holidays, well, more adventuresome. Eleven national highways are closed. Over 250 other roads have restricted passage. Every corner of the country is affected, from Antioquia in the West, to the central Departments of Boyacá and Santander, to Meta and Arauca in the Llanos. For up-to-date information on road conditions nationwide, consult Invías website.

Going home with blessed boughs on Palm Sunday. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

Indeed, we are well into Holy Week. It began two days ago with Palm Sunday, marking Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem (and the end of Lent’s 40 days of fasting). Here in Cartagena, the faithful gathered at Iglesia de la Santísima Trinidad, La Popa and other temples, as well as in Plaza de Bolívar, to have their sheaths of palm and boughs of greenery blessed by the priest. These they put in their homes to bring good tidings in the coming year.

Jueves Santo (Maudy Thursday) features a reenactment of the Last Supper and washing of feet, and often is followed by a procession. Good Friday (Viernes Santo) is the most important day, with the Vía Crucis, or Stations of the Cross, cortege through the city’s streets. (For a calendar of processions in Cartagena, see below.) Easter falls on the last Sunday of the month, when many of Cartagena’s museums and fortresses are free.

Sexteto Tabalá of Palenque, Colombia. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

Another great Cartagena celebration during Semana Santa is the Festival de los Dulces, featuring sticky sweet delights from throughout the region. Cartagena is a big town for all sorts of festivals and conventions. Many occur outside the eye of casual tourists. Last week, the city hosted the First International Caribbean Festival of Stage Arts. This meeting of theater, dance and musical acts culminated in a free concert on Plaza de la Trinidad, featuring El Conjunto Folklórico de Cuba, Teatro Negro de Barlovento (Venezuela) and Sexteto Tabalá (Palenque, Colombia).

This Holy Week finds Cartagena opening the stage to Festival de Voces del Jazz. On April 20 and 21, groups that fuse jazz with traditional Colombian folk rhythms will compete at the Centro Comercial Caribe Plaza (Calle 29D, 22-108, La Popa. Tel: 669-2332, URL: www.cccaribeplaza.com).

But until the Semana Santa processions and jazz festival roll around, kids are enjoying a week off from school. In the narrow streets of Getsemaní neighborhood, you can find boys playing a pick-up game of baseball. Baseball in Colombia? Indeed – Cartagena’s own native son, Orlando Cabrera, plays shortstop for the Cleveland Indians. The Cincinatti Reds’ Edgar Rentería (of Barranquilla) won the 2010 MVP award. Plus, there’s Ernesto Frieri of the San Diego Padres.

Play ball! Photo by Lorraine Caputo

Baseball and jazz: two great, truly American pastimes, having roots in not only the United States, but also in other parts of the Americas. Since the days of Ragtime and Ty Cobb, these two institutions traveled from port to port, growing and changing into what we know of them today. The first ragtime hit, “The Peanut Vendor,” was a Cuban habanero, and in the 1950s Dizzy Gillepsie, Mario Bauza and other musicians formed the Afro-Cubop movement. The rosters of today’s major league baseball teams show the continuing exchange between American countries, and in the off-season, many US players come to play in Colombia. (Hmmm – perhaps a topic for a future blog …)

Until next week, travel safe – and Happy Passover, Easter and holidays to you all!

Processions in Cartagena:

During the week, churches will be hosting corteges in their neighborhoods. Below are te major evnts.

Jueves Santo (Maudy Thursday), the Last Supper and washing of feet reenactment, followed by a procession, will occur at Iglesia Santo Domingo at 4 p.m. and the Catedral at 6 p.m.

Good Friday’s (Viernes Santo) Vía Crucis, or Stations of the Cross, cortege through the Old Town’s streets begins at 8 a.m. from Templo Santo Toribio. At 7 p.m., a procession leaves from Iglesia San Pedro Claver.

On Holy Saturday is another solemn procession, from Santo Domingo (7 p.m.) and the Cathedral (9 p.m.).

Editor’s note: Lorraine Caputo is one of V!VA’s longest-tenured writers. These days, she’s back on the road in Colombia, updating our 2011 edition of the book. Check the blog for more of her updates from the road.

On the Road – Colombia: Blockades, Assassinations & Judas Iscariot

I.

A recurring theme in this journey through Colombia (my tenth since 1992), has been blockades. This past week has seen news of torrential rains turning roadways into raging rivers in Valledupar, Cali and other cities, making travel difficult.

Colombians fear this may be another year that La Niña will devastate the country. Though this weather phenomenon typically follows an El Niño, scientists were concerned by the quickness last year’s La Niña came, and the severity of it. Low waters in the Amazon River made  it impossible for boats to depart from Yurimaguas and Iquitos, Peru. Heavy rains caused uncountable landslides in Colombia, damaging roads (especially in the Caribbean region).

As this rainy season begins, we shall see if Colombian’s La Niña nightmare continues. Meanwhile, this V!VA Colombia writer will just have to throw the rain poncho over her ole Rocinante, rolled the jeans up and be prepared to wade wherever she next goes.

II.

This past April 9th was the 63rd anniversary of the assassination of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, a popular Liberal Party candidate who was gunned down at Calle 7, near Avenida Jiménez, in downtown Bogotá. Placards there commemorate his memory.

Gaitán was one of  modern Colombia’s most important social leaders. Shortly after graduating from law school in the 1920s, he was elected to Congress as Partido Liberal (Liberal Party) member. Before the legislature, Gaitán presented testimony he compiled from survivors of the 1928 Ciénaga banana massacre. This stunning documentation, 1928 La masacre en las bananeras (Editorial Cometa de Papel, 1997), is still widely available.

His entire career was focused on improving Colombians’ social rights, thus making him a tremendously popular presidential candidate in 1948. His killing sparked the Bogotazo riot, in which much of Bogotá was destroyed, as well as demonstrations in Cartagena and other Colombian cities. Gaitán’s assassination also spiraled the country into a horrid Civil War, beginning with La Violencia in which Conservadores and Liberales hunted each other down, and continuing to this present-day with a civil war pitting guerrilla factions, paramilitaries and government forces against one another.

Herbert Braun’s The Assassination of Gaitan: Public Life and Urban Violence in Colombia examines how Jorge Eliecer Gaitán’s assassination affected the course of Colombian history (University of Wisconsin Press, 1986). To learn more about this social leader’s life, visitors to Bogotá might want to stop by Casa Museo Jorge Eliecer Gaitán, which preserves Gaitán’s home and office.

III.

Semana Santa is nigh upon us. This Sunday (April 17) is Palm Sunday—and the beginning of one of Colombia’s biggest vacation seasons. As I mentioned a few weeks ago in On the Road – Colombia: Sacred Times, the big Easter Week celebrations in this country are in Popayán, which UNESCO-designated an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, and Mompós. Valledupar also has noteworthy processions, which this year will be followed by the Vallenato Musical Festival.

Not all Colombians, however, mark Semana Santa with solemn processions. In San Antero (Departamento de Córdoba), locals host the Festival del Burro, ranked as one of the World’s 12 Craziest Festivals. During this feast, donkeys are decked out as women, complete with makeup, skirts and bras. A burro King and burro queen are elected. The festival also features traditional costeño dancing, and music.

How is such an insane ritual associated with Easter? The custom is rooted in the burning of Judas Iscariot, who was represented by an effigy mounted on a donkey that was paraded through San Antero’s streets. The rest, it can be said, is history.

Editor’s note: Lorraine Caputo is one of V!VA’s longest-tenured writers. These days, she’s back on the road in Colombia, updating our 2011 edition of the book. Check the blog for more of her updates from the road.

El Señor de Los Milagros Festival is Approaching

Lima is the palce to be in October, as the city celebrates its biggest festival, El Señor de los Milagros. Thousands flood into the city from all over Peru and all corners of the world to celebrate El Señor, a painting of a dark-skinned christ painted by an anonymous Angolan slave sometime around 1650. The wall upon which the Christ was painted survived an earthquake in 1655: it was the only wall to do so in the region. Since then, the painting has taken on a mystical, miraculous aura and Limeños celebrate it annually. The big date is October 28, when the image is carried around the city for 24 hours by thousands of purple-robed devotees. The festival is known for other processions, bullfights, parties and more. The festival lasts on and off until October 28. If you want to attend, better make reservations now!

Barranquilla Celebrates 12th Annual Jazz Festival

Anywhere near Barranquilla, Colombia? If you are, you’ll want to be sure to head over sometime between September 10 and 14, when the 12th annual Barranquijazz Festival rocks the streets. Headlined by the Buena Vista Social Club and Arturo Sandoval, this year’s Barranquijazz Festival is bigger and better than ever. You can learn more about Barranquilla at V!VA Travel Guides, or check out the official festival site.