Saturday night. 6 pm. I felt like I should be walking down the street to Murphy’s. Instead I was hanging out at the house staring to feel a little homesick. There was a big party in a pueblo called Tres de Octubre for the Virgin de Something or Other. They like their virgins here and throw them kick ass parties that start at around six at night and rage until four or later in the morning. I decided to go to the festival so I followed the old man’s directions and took the combi up to the neighborhood and started waking up the hill. I wasn’t quite sure where I was going and it was already dark but it looked like a pretty rich, safe neighborhood. There were mansions on both sides of the streets some with security guards out front.
As I walked up the hill, I ran into the virgin processional. The processional was lead by four men carrying a small throne decked out with flowers and a little statue of the virgin they were honoring that weekend. Unless they were going to a different virginal celebration, I figured we were going to the same place so I tagged along. Behind the little throne was a dance troupe with about 20 women and 10 men dressed in traditional garb from the sierras. The women wore ornate dresses and frilly white shirts, the men in black decorated gauchos, hats with colorful plumes and ceramic masks with different facial expressions. Behind the dancers was a band made up mostly of saxophones of all kinds, a large harp, a couple of violins and a few clarinets. It sounded like they were playing the same song over and over but that just might have been my untrained gringo ear unable to tell the difference. Every now and again, a band member would break away from the group, duck into an alley, piss on the side of someone’s wall and hop back in.
When we got about halfway up the hill, I saw the festivities were going to be held on a basketball/soccer court with a stage set up on one side and a couple of little bars that sold beer. Ladies were outside the fence preparing anticuchos (sliced beef hearts on a skewer) and sliced potatoes grilled over coals. I had a little plate of anticuchos with a side of aji, a pretty spicy but tasty sauce. It cost 1.5 soles (about a 50 cents) and may have been one of the tastiest things that I’ve had since I’ve been here.
I found a group of the trainees over in the corner of the festival area. They had gotten an early start and had already blown through a caja of beers (12 pack of about 24 ounce bottles). Fortunately there was a little store above the festival area where you could buy some beers.
The processional came into the festival area to much fanfare, sat the virgin down next to the stage and did their traditional dance. Afterward a band played pop Peruvian songs. The next group was a Peruvian boy band that wore the same scarlet shirts and black jackets and had choreographed dances moves. It was pretty fuckin’ funny but they sounded good. I had a few beers but since it was dark I decided to call it quits and head home at about 10:30. I wanted to stay for the fire works display which they carted into the center of the festival area on top of taxis. The launching pad was a large bamboo structure lashed together with twine. I thought this could go terribly wrong or be pretty spectacular. Either way, it would be damn entertaining. But I had to go home.