This week, Project advisor Sarah Confer takes us behind the scenes at a typical Andean community celebration.
I’ve never been to a community anniversary before, so I had no idea what to expect when I made my way up to Rumira Sondormayo last Saturday. The week before, during our regular weaving meeting, the association president Beatriz presented us with a letter announcing the impending celebrations, and asking not only for our participation but also if we’d be willing to collaborate by providing a prize for the weaving competition they would be having. Weaving competition?? How could we say no to that?
After consulting with a few people, it became clear that an appropriate prize for the competition would be sacks of rice and sugar. A couple of phone calls later, and it was all arranged: a store owner in Ollantaytambo would have our 20kgs each of rice and sugar ready for pick up at 7am Saturday morning, and Beatriz’ daughter, Florentina, would meet me in the square to help haul the prize up the mountain.
By 8am, we were all piled into the combi and making our way to the remote Andean community. When we arrived, things were already under way: the first soccer match of the day was in full swing, and several people were lined up along the field, watching, chatting or serving food. Throughout the day, there were a number of activities planned – soccer matches between the neighbouring communities; a footrace to the top of the mountain – and back again!; horse races; musical and dance performances; a parade; alpaca judging; and, of course, weaving and spinning! One of the performances that most stole my heart was a pair of young siblings – no more than 7 – dancing and playing along to a popular song.
After being served my first lunch of the day, two of the weaving association members asked me if I’d be willing to judge their competition. A bit taken aback, but totally honoured, I gladly accepted this daunting task. Everyone makes such beautiful weavings, though, how would I ever be able to judge them? We walked up the hill above the soccer field, where the competition was going to take place. Nine women were already lined up, looms fixed in the ground, and eager to get going. Competitors were given thirty minutes to weave as much and as beautifully as they could – yes, this was a timed competition! Judging the result was really difficult. Points were awarded in four categories: presentation; woven design; colour combination; and quantity woven.
After the weaving competition – and my second lunch – it was time to judge the spinning. The women competed in two categories: wool and alpaca. This competition was also timed – the women were given 5 minutes to spin as much and as finely as they could. Many of the women spun an astonishing 5 metres in just 5 minutes!
When the competition was over, the sun was already starting to hide behind the mountains and it was getting really cold. After sharing a bit of mote (steamed corn kernels) with Beatriz and her daughters, chit-chatting about the day, it was time to head home. I squeezed into an overfilled combi, and we started to make our way back down.
Three hours later, I came home to yet more celebrations. June is “Cusco’s month”, and the lead-up to Inti Raymi on June 24th is filled with dances and concerts in the main square, and throngs of people in the streets. Navigating my way through the crowds, I decided to skip this fanfare, tired from an already full day of celebrating.