Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cultural Observations (posted by Kie)

1. Fiestas & Parades Galore

What I have noticed in Cuzco (and which I similarly noticed in Bolivia) is that they really enjoy their fiestas and parades. It seems as though there is a parade or fiesta of some sort almost every day. There were fireworks on the night of my arrival in Cuzco (which I got a great view of from my homestay family’s house) and it was quite humorous as nobody even knew what the occasion was for setting them off.

Additionally, El Dia de San Pedro (The Day of the Saint San Pedro) was last Wednesday and the procession of the saints throughout the city proceeded to take another 5-6 days. The procession not only involved the saints, but many people dressed up in various traditional costumes dancing on the streets as well as their accompanying bands.

This weekend I will probably witness even more celebrations since I am planning to visit Machu Picchu and the 100th Anniversary of Machu Picchu is on Monday, July 11th.

2. Being Asian in Peru

Another interesting cultural phenomenon which I have experienced in Cuzco is being called “China” or “Chinita” on the street by the locals. I am not sure why but people seem to like pointing out that I am Asian. It’s not done in a harmful way but I do feel a bit odd having the spotlight randomly put on me when I am making my way around the city. There was also an instance when a local joked that I was “Keiko” (Fujimori), one of the candidates who recently ran in the presidential elections of Peru.

It seems as though many people here tend to think that most Asian cultures are interchangeable and in various conversations I have had to explain the differences between Chinese and Japanese culture. For example, many people think that the Chinese and Japanese languages are the same (not realizing that even within Chinese culture itself there are two main languages and many dialects). Explaining that I’m from Vancouver or Canada has been met with mixed results (most people seem to want me to say that I am from somewhere in Asia and probe until I say where my parents are from).

One thing that’s for sure is that Peruvians definitely like their Chinese food (their version is called "chifa"). There are a ton of Chinese restaurants in Cuzco. I’ll have to try one out to compare the Chinese food here to that which is served back home.

3. A Visit to Almudena Cemetery

On Monday I visited one of the largest cemeteries in Cuzco where the graves are very unique. The tombs are stacked up on top of each other and each tomb has its own window behind which people can place flowers, photographs as well as little mementos which relate to the person. Many windows had plastic miniature bottles of beer and Coca Cola which was pretty interesting. Some even had miniature crates of beer and a special Peruvian dish purchased from one of the local vendors just outside the cemetery (the special dish consisting of cheese, cuy (guinea pig), chicken and a few other sides).

Moreover, I learned that the bigger tombs have the actual corpses behind the windows and the smaller tombs are for individuals who were cremated. There were also mausoleums for families and important individuals from Cuzco. And of course when I was exiting the cemetery, a parade was just entering!

The following is a picture that I took at Almudena Cemetery (I will try to attach more pictures later as the internet connection I have now is not the best):


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