Last week on Sunday, Carnaval was celebrated in Cuzco. It is a two weekend affair, but I missed the first one since I was in Lima.
Carnaval was definitely a highlight of my time in Peru. At around 11 in the morning I arrived to the Plaza, after eating a quick late breakfast with my family in their café overlooking the Plaza, I headed down to join the festivities.
The entire Plaza was blocked off from cars. Two sides of the Plaza were occupied with swirling skirts, pounding drums, and stamping feet. This was a parade of indigenous people from various pueblos (villages), dressed in their traditional clothing, dancing and playing instruments. The route was packed with watching people, and a riser was set up in front of the Cathedral.
While this was very interesting, I must confess that I barely watched any of it. Instead, I was actively engaged in the festivities going on in the heart of the Plaza in the park. There, an intense and exuberant espuma (spray-foam) and water fight was unfolding between family, friends, and absolute strangers of all ages. Children were shrieking, grinning, and running around wildly. I cannot say that the young adults, and indeed adults, were acting much differently.
The first person to attack me with espuma was a gentleman at least fifty years old. He watched me buy my can of espuma and waited until I was near to attack. Unfortunately, his espuma was a much stronger variety that had great distance and power. I tried to retaliate, but my spray was the Nieve (snow) type, that floated out like snow and was easily persuaded by the wind, not sufficient for a proper retaliation.
I ended up with a face covered in espuma. It was in my mouth, up my nose, in my ears, and covered my glasses. It tastes like a fruity soap, and the texture is like the fluoride treatment dentists give, but wetter. I had to find a safe space in which to wipe away the stuff.
Realizing the limitations of my espuma, I was a bit more cautious…but not that much. I got people of all ages, and they got me. People sitting on benches or on the rim of the fountain would laugh at the joyful chaos around them.
My first can of espuma ran out rather fast. I would go through two more, but of the more powerful variety.
Sometimes if someone got me as I was unawares, I would give chase after them to get them back, though most times I just pretended to give chase. I would start to run after them, then stop after a few steps while they continued running away.
After I ran out of spray and so did two of my other friends that had joined me later, we headed to my family’s café to see if we could get some water. We were lucky. Armed with buckets of water and water balloons, thanks to my younger host sister, we were prepared. My host sister also joined us for out watery fight. We splashed water at people, poured it down their backs, and tossed the balloons.
By the end of the day, we were soaking wet and coated in the sticky residue from the espuma. I consumed more of the spray than I should of, because I would laugh or cry out when attacked, not the wisest thing since the face is almost always the target. Also, I found out later in the mirror that I had gotten an intense sunburn. The next day, I was sore and stiff from all the running, dodging, and laughing that I had done the day before. It felt good.