Peruvian Fiestas Patrias

Peruvian Independence day is July 28, and the related festivities in our area began on Thursday, July 25, with a parade Baños del Inca’s main square, which is about 3 blocks from our house.  We were tipped off to the parade when we saw a few bands go by and a bunch of military.  The base is a block away from our house and we previously had seen the men on training runs and in other formations.  This time, the formations included a lot of guys with weapons and a party atmosphere.  It was either war or a parade, so we decided to investigate!

Once in the square, it was a typical pre-parade chaotic scene.  School and other groups trying to get organized, the military trying to set up a big cannon and, most interesting, a zip line from the top of the municipal building to the ground.  There was a bunch of people like us (well, they were Peruvian; we didn’t see any other foreigners in the mix) just waiting.  Oddly enough, it was pretty quiet given the number of people and the nature of the event.

Eventually, the endless speeches began.  We caught some of it as it sounded like your basic independence rhetoric: freedom, pride, liberty – the usual.  Then the Peruvian flag was raised, during which the anthem was half-heartedly sung by a few on the stage.  Not even the school groups were singing it, which I found rather odd.  To our great amusement, the song is essentially Simon & Garfunkel’s song “El Cóndor Pasa (“If I Could”) (“I’d rather be a hammer than a nail, yes I would…”).  Sure enough, a glance through my guidebook when I returned home mentioned that Paul Simon heard this song played by Los Incas and then recorded it for the Bridge Over Troubled Water album (there is more to the story about the origins and copyrights, but the lawyer in me will spare you those details).  Anyhow, the raising of the flag was punctuated by a huge cannon shot.  That took about a year off my life!  Then the Baños flag was raised and this time we were ready.  Not only did the cannon boom, but also a soldier shot several rounds from a machine gun into a tree (poor tree) and another soldier zipped down the line to the ground waving the Peruvian flag.  What drama!

Then the action moved to another bandstand adjacent to the first and the set up for the parade continued.  As I determined that I do not like Peruvian parades any more than I like American ones, we didn’t last long.

So imagine how lucky I felt to learn that our trip to get our internet connection on Friday was going to coincide with the Cajamarca Patria parade.  We finally received a water bill so we could have Cruz sign us up for internet service.  Yippee!  I had run out of data on my phone within 5 days of getting it, so this was a big moment.   Although the company has offices all over Cajamarca (and Baños, for that matter), we had to go to the main one at the main square (Plaza de Armas) to order the service.  We got there and the scene was identical to that in Baños but on a larger scale.  The internet office was directly behind the grandstand and Matt and I were too intimidated by the military presence to go over there as on the prior day in Baños the military shooed everyone away from the stage (and cannon, for obvious reasons).  But once we found Cruz, we all walked back there and stood behind the grandstand until the office opened.

It was a fun perspective to have, but again, the usual pre-parade chaos.  After ordering our internet service, which went very well because Matt and I had pre-shopped on our own a few days prior and actually managed to understand most things so we knew what we wanted and the same woman assisted us, we watched the parade for awhile.  Speeches given, flags raised, songs sung (with more audience participation this time including that of some preschoolers who were pretty funny screaming “Cajamarca” and “Viva Peru” at the appropriate moments.)  Apparently the zip line riding, flag-waving soldier is customary as it happened again.  While this parade seemed somewhat more organized and had far more groups involved, including interesting military ones such as some shirtless guys with black paint over their bodies and faces carrying large weapons and another military group with progressively more involved camouflage so that the guys on the end looked like Sigmund the Seamonster, a parade is a parade is a parade so we watched for only a short while.

Note:  All this morning there were shots/booms coming from the military base.  Loud shots and booms.  Not sure what is going on over there, but it is a pretty common occurrence.  The noise gets the dogs barking and also sets off car alarms.  Life is not quiet here.

Note 2:  It took two more visits to the internet office before our service was finally installed last week.  Life is not fast here either.

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