The carnival is celebrated in many parts of the world, especially in Europe and America. It shows variations according to the regions but its common characteristic is to be a period of permissiveness.
In Cusco, the Carnival is therefore a traditional festival which is celebrated in February or March each year before the beginning of Lent. The date is variable since it is according to the date of Ash Wednesday which is also variable.
The carnival is characterized by the colors of its dances and its "games" during which the participants throw water, confetti or flour… at each other.
Here in Cusco, the celebrations begin with the party of the "compadres" (“godfathers”) Y "comadres" (“godmothers”). The "central day" is celebrated on the following Sunday and seven days later is the "Octava" (the 8th day) or the "Goodbye".
The party of the "compadres" and "comadres".
These celebrations are held during the two successive Thursday which precede the central day. On the first Thursday, we celebrate the “compadres” and on the second, the “comadres”. The particularity lies in the making of allegories of human size made from recycling elements such as cardboard, bottles, plastic, worn clothes and shoes. These puppets are a satirical representation of an inhabitant of the neighborhood, the workplace, or even of an authority and the goal is to highlight a few traits of the character in order to send a message to society…without any lack of respect or bad taste.
In general these puppets are hung on Wednesday at midnight, on electrical poles for everybody to see.
With the objective of preserving the tradition and motivate new generations to continue with these customs, the municipality organizes a competition of the best puppets and the winners are rewarded with a trophy. The winning allegories are part of the grand parade that takes place on the main square on the “Octava” day.
During the parade, there are many traditional dances which are also part of a competition.
The "central day" (Sunday).
It is a day dedicated to “playing and having fun” for all men and women of all ages. Early in the morning, they start throwing water, confetti, or flour at each other. In Cusco, it is usual that everyone participates, even foreign visitors…
The "Octava" (the 8th day) or Kachappari (Sunday).
As its name indicates, the "Octava" is celebrated 8 days after the "central day" and it is the "Goodbye" to the Carnival until the following year.
The "Octava" is characterized by its dances, games and variety of typical dishes. All over, people organize "Yunzas": a tree is erected and decorated of gifts. The people dance around the tree with a machete and the goal is to cut the trunk in order to be able to catch one of the gifts. The lucky person who cuts the tree finances the following year’s yunza.
The typical gastronomy of the Carnival:
*Timbu or Puchero: variety of boiled meat with cabbage leaves, potatoes, dehydrated potatoes, chickpeas and rice. Sweet potatoes, peaches, pears and plantains are also blanched. The whole lot is served in two different dishes.
*Kapchi: vegetarian dish which contains dry beans, onions, mushrooms, potatoes seasoned with milk and cheese … this dish is served with stuffed chili pepper and rice.
*Frutillada: it is a drink made from boiled Chicha (local corn beer), strawberries and cinnamon. After eight days it is converted into a delicious drink that is served with rum.