An Actor’s Dialogue: Negotiating Development in Huancayo, Peru – #2

Aside from continuing my research in the villages of the Mantaro Valley, the past weeks have been filled with a number of social obligations that have included two weddings (one Evangelical and the other Catholic), a funeral and a baptism. Weddings, regardless of the religion seem to be open to anyone and everyone who may wish to attend. People show up on a whim, often times simply for the food, skipping the ceremonies entirely. The same goes for the baptisms. Both the weddings I attended adhered to traditions from the department of Huancavelica, which is a neighbour of the department of Junin where the city of Huancayo is located. One of the major distinguishing factors of weddings from Huancavelica are that huge gifts of decorated whole cooked pigs, whole raw sheep, chicken, cuy and copious amounts of beer (in the catholic case not in the evangelical one) are given to the padrinos.

Handing over these gifts is a huge spectacle and takes place with a lot of dancing to Huaylas music, a rhythm typical of Peru’s central highlands. Words can’t adequately describe the ritual, but it is incredibly entertaining to watch. Dancing to Huaylas music is also used for all of the guests to give their weddings gifts to the bride and groom, and the gifts aren’t small. It’s typical to have everything you need including a deed to a house given to you and so people go dancing through the reception with fridges, stoves, washing machines, beds, living room sets, dining room sets and a plethora of other household items. Once you hand over your gift, the bride and groom give you a certain amount of beer according to the size of your gift. The friends and family of the bride and groom go on dancing around their pile of beer in competition with the each other. In this case it was pretty clear that the family and friends of the bride were the winners.
The funeral I attended was by far the strangest experience for me, especially because I’ve only attended one funeral ever back home. The day of the burial, we went to the church for lunch. As soon as we walked through the doors of the church we were handed plates with chicken thighs and boiled potatoes and preceded to sit in one of the back pews and eat the greasy chicken and potatoes with our hands. I was about half way through my chicken thigh when I craned my neck to get a view of the front of the church and that’s when I realized that we were all sitting there eating chicken with our fingers in front of the open casket. This made me extremely uncomfortable and when I commented that I was feeling a little freaked out to be eating in front of a dead body I was told not to worry, “that the spirits weren’t going to come after me.” In the cemetery we listened to a sermon from a visiting American Baptist pastor, sang songs while passing around cups of Inca Cola and eating soda crackers and candies.
Maria Trimble, MA Candidate, CLACS

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