Tag Archives: Culture

Dancing in the Street! Peru Style

Now at least I can say I have something in common with Mick Jagger and the great David Bowie! Only a week ago I was ‘Dancing in the Street’!! Want to know how that feels? Feckin’ amazing! (;

No other words for it really! I answered the call – Casa Peru Ireland – a group of Peruanos living in Ireland, put a call out via their face book page. Flash mob! Rehearsals in June! All welcome!

Flashmob 2

Flash Mob Casa Peru in Ireland!

How could I resist? As someone who wrote continuously about my Journey in Peru over a period of 30 months on my Wild Star Landing blog, I was eager to strengthen my links with this country by taking part in this fun event.

During my time in Peru, I had observed the many festivals in the plazas and on the streets where dancing is central to the celebration. I had even given it a go myself ‘Dancing around the Coffee Tree’ and ‘Waino Dancing by the River’ but I had not properly learned the steps and sequences.

Flashmob 1

Peru Ireland Connections

So in June 2017 in Dublin city centre, I joined this festive group to partake in a sequence of dances representing the three main regions of Peru, Coast, Mountain and Jungle.

We rehearsed over a period of three weeks. I really enjoyed the gatherings and met people not just from Peru but countries such as Mexico, Bolivia, Italy and Romania.

When it came to our street performance, some were understandably nervous and certainly there was much anticipation. None of us had quite done anything like this before.

Dublin was strangely quiet that evening and rain was upon us too. Nonetheless, we followed through with the joyful action and all our steps were carried out.

Flashmob 4

Wild Star Landing – Dancing in the Street

I am proud to say I danced the Peruvian dances. My friends in my Peru can see me in the videos and I know my bonds have been strengthened even though the miles between us are many.

Take a look at our ‘Dancing in the Street ‘Peruvian flash mob style!

Have you been to Peru? What was your favourite spot?

© Caroline Cunningham

Author of Wild Star Landing

Books by Caroline Cunningham – Go Shopping !

Without Me – Journey In Peru

Before leaving the ‘Beautiful People’ of Patacancha, it was incumbent that I should purchase some items of their traditional craft. I had been gifted the experience of a bygone era, diminished now from my own culture. It wasn’t so long ago that my own grandmother picked stones and potatoes harrowingly in the fields and a time when we had not so many creature comforts but this community thrived in its unaffectedness in an era of modern prosperity without much apparent desire for transformation.

Journey In Peru

Journey In Peru

With my little bits of Patacancha stored within my pockets, I climbed upon the motorbike, sat between my friends, Alex and Maria, and prepared myself for the journey back to Ollantaytambo. It was quite tricky on the downward trek. The mud had thickened and a truck had over-turned blocking our path. We waited a while . It was interesting to see how the men were dealing with the situation. Chains and vehicles were employed. A solution was imminent. But we were intent on getting home. Alex decided that he could make it solo if we could endeavour to meet him, on foot, beyond the obstacle.

Journey In Peru

Journey In Peru

Journey In Peru

Journey In Peru

My pretty golden ballerina shoes were already destroyed from the mud. I dismounted the motorbike and clung once more like a ninny to Maria. We made it to the other side and soon were on our way, downhill towards Ollantaytambo.

And how I remember it now. It was upon us to be arriving before the thick of darkness. Darkness was fast descending. The Patacancha River paid no heed to the light reduction, it simply gushed and rolled over rocks towards its counterpart, the Urubamba River, intent on its Amazonian arrival.

Patacancha River Peru

Patacancha River Peru

Ollantaytambo Peru

Ollantaytambo Peru

The air wetted itself completely. I hid my hands in the pockets of Alex’s jacket, concerned for his well-being on our ride against an increasingly freezing cold. We were whipped with sleet for the immediate part of our ride. Further down I became dull to the effects of it. I was more so haunted by the landscape. Here I was remembering a dream, a place I knew from distance memory, long before my arrival in this existence. I couldn’t explain it, except, it pierced me deeply with its intensity. I clung to my friend, realising, more than ever, how much he had come to mean to me.

Journey In Peru

Journey In Peru

He accepted me, a stranger, only two months ago, to help in his cafe. We had worked in close proximity, at first incapacitated by the barrier of language. Somehow a very special kinship had grown between us. I had always cherished that blessing he bestowed on me in the mornings when he greeted me upon arrival at the cafe. A benediction of appropriate kisses and afterwards the getting on with work and serving of customers.

He was half my age and locals would have considered him quite a catch in terms of his business acumen. In fairness to his manliness he had checked my susceptibility on two occasions as to whether I might like to join him for a drink.

To me he was an unknown entity. I had observed the reactions of some of the Peruvian men, passersby, with whom my friend was acquainted. There were times when they would go outside to have a chat and when they re-entered the cafe, it was apparent I had been the topic of their conversation. ‘Alex is a macho man!’ one older comrade remarked to me. Another bloke, much younger altogether, was not so inclined to hide his interest in the situation. In fact I was appalled at his sliminess, especially considering his good-looking, non-Peruvian girlfriend, sat right next to him as he challenged me suggestively with his eyes. I understood his preference for the wearing of loose pants. Alex also appeared to be quite uncomfortable by this fellows taunting demeanour.

Journey In Peru

Journey In Peru

Journey In Peru

Journey In Peru

He sometimes brought me exotic fruit and we kept each other company on evenings when all was quiet in the cafe and always I helped when it was required, even after I had officially given my notice of redundancy and emergence as travel writer.

But we were of different worlds entirely. Deep down I knew I could not expect this man to ever comprehend my own complexities. He deserved a much simpler path. I had my own ambitions for him. I could see it all before him, a beautiful young wife, some children, lots of prosperity with his business and just happiness all around. I was not a part of this dream. He would have to find it without me.

Ollantaytambo Peru

Ollantaytambo Peru

As we drew nearer to our destination, the same dog remembered to bite at our ankles and I reminded Alex to avoid the uncovered sizeable chamber in the road. We came to Ollantaytambo at the fall of night. Felipe, friend of Alex, was waiting to take our place on the back of the motorbike. Off they sped.

©Caroline Cunningham Author Of Wild Star Landing (Blog)

Save

Beautiful People – Journey In Peru

We arrived in Patacancha, in all its muckiness, amidst much celebrations. People everywhere were dressed in colourful clothing. The men in poncho shawls and tossled hats and the women, the women, worthy of paragraphs that escape me.

‘Beautiful people,’ these were the words Alex repeated over and over and for days afterwards. I stepped my dainty ballerina shoes from the motorbike into the slippery mud of Patacancha. Like a ninny, I held fast to Maria, to make my way up the slight incline towards the culmination of festivities. I realised I was in scant supply of clothing. A ‘jumper,’ that Irish thing other folk know as ‘woolly’ sweater, would have been a huge advantage, that and an anorak and a hefty pair of gloves.

Andean People Peur

Andean People Peur

We were singular in our attire amongst this Andean clad community. It was quite a spectacle.  Little children bounced with joy on a nearby trampoline. There were stalls for various things like throwing and chancing your arm at winning a prize. There were vendors selling hot food of skewered meat and spicy rice, biscuits and the like of scones. Alex treated us to the lot. Everything hot was welcome.

Andean People Peru

Andean People Peru

Andean People Peru

Andean People Peru

The main events were taking place in an open area alongside perhaps what could have been a football field. A solitary animal lingered there whilst the ‘Beautiful People Of Patacancha’ aligned to cheer their teams at ‘Tug Of War’.

Patacancha Cuzco Region Peru

Patacancha Cuzco Region Peru

What a sight! First of all I was impeded by the colourful display, particularly of the women and many with their babies peeping from the wrappings of materials bound to their backs. Every part of their attire was woven red and white with intimate threads of blues and yellows and probably every colour of the rainbow. I never felt able to explain the look of it. They amazed my senses thoroughly. Even when seeing one of them individually in the town of Ollantaytambo, I realised I had a laziness within me as a writer, to comprehend what I was actually seeing.

Journey In Peru

Journey In Peru

Journey In Peru

Journey In Peru

Journey In Peru

Journey In Peru

Journey in Peru

Journey in Peru

Journey In Peru

Journey In Peru

Weaving is a heritage of these Andean people, handed down from their Inca ancestors and perhaps even earlier dominions. I just gazed and gazed in complete distraction. Women heaved and hoed as they tried to out-do the other team. It was amusing. There was not much struggle. In one big ‘go’ the other side ran their counterparts over the line. It was not so when it came to the men’s competition.

Patacancha's Beautiful People

Patacancha’s Beautiful People

Journey In Peru

Journey In Peru

Journey In Peru

Journey In Peru

I stayed with Maria, whilst Alex wandered around and mingled with folk he was acquainted with. I spied a log fire underneath a stone and went to heat my ankles for a few moments. The men were about to start their competition and the atmosphere was getting livelier.

Tug Of War Peru

Tug Of War Peru

Journey In Peru

Journey In Peru

Tug Of War Peru

Tug Of War Peru

Maria and I positioned ourselves nearer to the activity. We were in the thick things. As intrigued as I was about the appearance of the people, it was probable that I was spied in much the same way by some of this community. A woman spoke to me in Quechua. I didn’t know what she was saying but I provided the little bit of Quechua that I knew by way of greeting. She had much more to say. Maria explained in Spanish. ‘She wants to know if you would like her baby.’ I laughed. But in reality I was shocked. ‘No queries?’ Maria enquired. ‘No!’ I replied. Seriously, this woman was offering me her baby. I had not anticipated ever being asked this question.

Maria explained that, with the existence of ‘not-for-profit’ organisations in the locality it was not uncommon for these Andean communities to realise that they could benefit from assistance of ‘foreigners’ such as myself, to take care of the financial requirements of their many children.

Journey In Peru

Journey In Peru

I came face to face with reality in that moment. I had read a little about the state of things in Peru before my travels. I knew there was an element of traditional life that was alive and well in more rural parts. Whilst much of these traditions were worthy of protection from the invasion of what could be perceived as ‘aggressive western principles’, it was deemed by government and outsiders alike, that there is need for better education, particularly with regards to the affairs of sex and the empowerment of women to be in a position to have a say in their reproductive abilities.

The men beside us heaved and heaved and at one point it looked as if the other side would have the advantage. The slippery mud created much challenge to both sides. Women screeched and winced in fever pitch for their winning teams. One woman joined her strength to pulling the sweater of the end man. A child was beckoned to place a stone behind the footing of one of the men to anchor him in the mud. Every attempt was made presumably, by both sides, to secure the win. There was a  momentary standstill followed by a hefty heave which saw our side swoop the win. In that moment we were thrown in every direction. I almost landed on the most padded part of my anatomy in the mud. Maria saved me.

Alex soon appeared by our sides and was eager to get going on the motorbike back to Ollantaytambo, as it would not be long before the mountains would claim the darkness of the night.

©Caroline Cunningham Author Of Wild Star Landing (Blog)

Temple Of The Sun Cuzco – Journey In Peru

Cuzco Peru

Cuzco Peru

Cuzco is a fascinating city with an inherent spontaneity. Parades and celebrations are a normal part of any given day. It is a city built upon a city as the Spanish Conquistadors took advantage of the ingenuity of the Incas. The Inca buildings were designed and engineered to withstand earthquakes so it was best to take advantage of their expert foundations.

Dancers and Parades in Cuzco Peru

Dancers and Parades in Cuzco Peru

Dancers and Parades in Cuzco Peru

Dancers and Parades in Cuzco Peru

Celebrations in Cuzco Peru

Celebrations in Cuzco Peru

Celebrations in Cuzco Peru

Celebrations in Cuzco Peru

The heart of the city boasts decorative Spanish colonial architecture whilst the powerful Inca spirit emanates from the towering walls and boulders of their most impressive remaining structures.

Plaza De Armas Cuzco Peru

Plaza De Armas Cuzco Peru

Original Inca Walls exposed Cuzco Peru

Original Inca Walls exposed Cuzco Peru

Plaza De Armas Cuzco Peru

Plaza De Armas Cuzco Peru

Near San Pedro Market Cuzco Peru

Near San Pedro Market Cuzco Peru

During my visits to Cuzco I availed of the opportunity to visit some of the most famous Inca heritage sites, starting with the Temple Of The Sun. Here you see examples of the inter-locking system used in Inca buildings. Precise measurements and laser-like cutting of the granite rocks meant that nothing more was required to hold these blocks tightly and securely together.

Temple Of The Sun Cuzco Peru

Temple Of The Sun Cuzco Peru

Temple Of The Sun Cuzco Peru

Temple Of The Sun Cuzco Peru

Temple Of The Sun Cuzco Peru

Temple Of The Sun Cuzco Peru

Temple Of The Sun Cuzco Peru

Temple Of The Sun Cuzco Peru

The walls of The Temple Of The Sun are believed to have been covered in gold, of which the Incas were in no short supply. History tells us that all the gold was stripped away by the invaders for their own purposes. The Peruvians tell a very gruesome story of the horrors of this invasion.

Journey In Peru - Wild Star Landing

Journey In Peru – Wild Star Landing

Temple Of The Sun Cuzco Peru

Temple Of The Sun Cuzco Peru

An American lady living in Peru deduced to me that the Peruvian people are still affected by these emotional scars, she disdained their victim mentality. She took the time to tell me that it was similar for the Irish. Being Irish, I thanked her for her observations. She could be right. It’s always interesting to get an outsiders observation. I indeed had my own scars to attend to, and in doing so, surely I could no longer be cast as a victim of my circumstances.

Cuzco Peru

Cuzco Peru

In my first trip to Cuzco I behaved like a good tourist honouring the Inca heritage and in addition I offered assistance to a friend in need. Life is difficult at times. When we give consideration to the plight of others we momentarily forget our own turbulent affairs.

Cuzco Peru

Cuzco Peru

As I travelled back to Ollantaytambo a day later, I noticed a new sensation. Maybe it was a growing up but it felt like an outwards growing. Some months later back in Dublin a friend observed that my aura extended all the way from the top of Parnell Square to the other side of the river Liffey. This must have been the start of that extension.

I felt more whole than ever in my life, more parts of myself interconnecting. I had not yet passed through the darkest hour of this particular chapter of my life but a preparation of sorts was taking place. I felt I was being guided and protected from an unseen source. And so I carried onwards with my plot.

Journey In Peru - Wild Star Landng

Journey In Peru – Wild Star Landng

©Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing (Blog)

Mini Market Friendship

OK, so one of my reasons for coming to this town was to learn and improve my Spanish! But what a wonderful surprise it has been to make friends with a shop-keeper who has an excellent standard of English, here in Ollantaytambo, (The Sacred Valley of Peru). Hoowert and I quickly became very good friends. Because of his ability to converse in English, I have been able to gain a deeper insight into the traditions, beliefs and history of this special town and the country to which its people belong.

Don’t worry, we don’t converse completely in English, we alternate, taking turns to demonstrate our new learning. Sometimes our conversation takes a swift diversion, as Hoowert resorts to his dictionary for a new word or explanation and next we are within a language lesson, discussing the ins and outs of various expressions.

I developed my own idea for improving my conversation skills. Why not interview my Ollantino friends in Spanish? This way I can find out more about their lives and views and at the same time improve in learning the new language. It has been a great benefit to me and in the process friendships have grown deeper.

It turns out that, like many other successful business people in this town, Hoowert trained as a chef. From an early age he set about accumulating years of experience and eventually ran his own restaurant with his partner Pamela. Together they saved constantly until they had enough to rent this shop which is called ‘Mini-Market’ (right next door to Worlds Coffee Café, which you will hear about soon).

Curious as to how he came to have such a good grasp of English compared to others in this trade, Hoowert explained the following to me. ‘It has been difficult! I started learning six years ago when I worked in Lima in a restaurant. My older brother taught me some essential phrases which got me by at first. In school, English was only taught one hour per week and always the same verb ‘To Be’ (Estar) and every year repeated the same. But in 5th year of high school a new opportunity came. It was an American project ‘TAPA’ and we got an English speaking teacher. I made good use of this opportunity. 44 students started with the project but only 3 completed it. Working in a touristic place such as Ollantaytambo, to speak English is very important. I read books in English and used my dictionary to translate.’ It is obvious that Hoowert is still dedicated to improving his ability to understand and speak the language and I find his effort inspiring my own attempt to improve my Spanish.

The first week I arrived in Ollantaytambo, Hoowert invited me to a fiesta in nearby Rumira. He is a traditional dancer tambien. I was fuelled with further questioning. Hoowert’s interest in dancing began when as a child he saw some dancers at a festival. ‘It was beautiful,’ he enthused, ‘full of style and essence. I wanted to do it also. For me it is a strong sentiment! I dance because I believe in Jesus! 50% is faith and 50% is passion for dancing. Throughout the year there are many festivals and for the most important ones I practice with the other dancers sometimes a month beforehand on Saturday and Sunday nights for at least 3 to 4 hours at a time.’

Another of Hoowert’s passions is his love of history and traditions of Peru. ‘The history of my country is beautiful!’ he tells me. Hoowert has fond childhood memories of the Inca culture but he feels that in the last 10 years there have been many changes resulting in the dwindling of the old customs. He is also interested in the politics and has studied the transition of Inca rule to Spanish power and eventual Independence of Peru in 1821. ‘It is important to have your own conclusions,’ he tells me. ‘In recent years our economy has improved. There are better laws and ideas and terrorism is being dealt with. I often ask myself, what is the evolution for Peru? And how can things improve for our people?’ I suggest that such concerns are those of a natural leader of community or perhaps a country. Hoowert blushes momentarily but then confirms my thoughts further as he explains that while in high school he formed a small group of friends in order to discuss the ways in which the problems of the people could be addressed, problems such as education, money and corruption.

This preoccupation has led Hoowert to write a book. ‘I am still developing my ideas,’ he explains, ‘but in the future I hope to complete it and get it published.’ Hoowert also has an interest in engineering and is currently toying with the idea of a professional qualification in either this or perhaps to study law. Engineering is connected with his desire to go to Japan one day (Japanese cars such as Hyundai are very popular in Peru). I encourage him to study law as perhaps this will sit more nicely with his other preoccupation of influencing change for Peru.

Returning to my original curiosity of his love of Peruvian history and culture, I ask what significance Machu Picchu holds for him. Hoowert explains that Machu Picchu represents the magnificence of the Incan Empire. ‘It is also our Peruvian identity,’ he explains as many people outside of Peru know little else about this abundant land. ‘For many people it also means business,’ he continues, ‘ but it is also a mystical place, as to this day there is no proven explanation for the engineering and construction of the stones. It is regarded as an unearthly work of other worlds. For me it is a spiritual place and I am proud to have come from this culture. I love all things of my country!’

I am curious as to what other world heritage site Hoowert would one day like to visit. The answer should be obvious to me. ‘The pyramids!’ he replies. ‘It is a much older culture but perhaps one that is most similar to that of the Inca’s. It is possible that the hieroglyphics can explain more of the past. Many of the links to the Inca past have been destroyed and lost. The Egyptian history would be magnificent to study,’ he concludes.

This is not the end of our discussion. I often visit Hoowert in the evenings to discover more about Peru and Ollantaytambo in particular. I hope to share more of these stories with you in the near future.

Hoowert’s Mini Market is between the Plaza De Armas and the bridge en route to the train station.

If you have enjoyed this tale, I encourage you to FOLLOW my blog by entering your email address in the space provided. I aim to increase the numbers of my following so that in the future I may more easily publish my first novel which I wrote in this last year, romantic fiction inspired by my first visit to Peru.