Last weekend, we celebrated the end of carnival in Cusco. At first, I assumed it a celebration to start off lent but rather it takes place during lent, and I was told, “in Cusco, we don’t care about that, we just like to celebrate!” The weeks leading up to said carnival were filled with water fights in the street and getting sprayed with silly string and foam; however, we had no idea what was in store for the close of Carnival!
My host family nonchalantly informed me that there would be a lot of different dances, and we might get a little wet because people would be playing with water. I was also told about a soap that was made specially for this carnival- it is composed of lots of different types of meats, potatoes, cabbage, rice, cassava and other vegetables. However, the talk of this event was so causal that we had no idea what was to occur. In fact, the city hardly even advertised this event!
As we sat on the bleachers in the main square waiting for the event to start (on Peruvian time, of course!), we kept getting hackled to buy umbrellas and ponchos. It didn’t look like it was going to rain, but in Cusco, you never really know. As the crowds began to cluster and yell for the event to start, we learned they had to wait for the mass to finish. As soon as the Sunday service let out, the parades and dancing started. It didn’t take us long to understand why we needed ponchos once the water balloons started flying. It was a day for everyone to be children. In the stands the kids, teenagers, adults and elders were fighting with foam, silly string, and water. It was a challenge to watch the dancing and parades because we had to stay alert to avoid getting hit by water balloons! It was risky to take out my phone for pictures, but on several occasions, I took the chance. It was fun to watch the ongoing wars as water balloons flew by us- I’ll tell you from first-hand experience, this made the Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans look like a joke. At this point, the same people originally selling ponchos and umbrellas were now selling bags of water balloons for $.20… Talk about job security!
Thinking we were in the heat of the water wars and it couldn’t get any worse, we decided to make a run for it to find some lunch. However, we couldn’t have been more wrong. As soon as we left our front and center seats, we entered a war zone. The entire park behind the bleachers was covered in foam. Kids, teenagers, adults and elders were having the time of their lives chasing each other around. You couldn’t walk more than 2 step without getting buckets of water dumped on you, water balloons thrown at you, or foam sprayed in your face. We blindly started running for safety and just happened to come across my greatest find yet in Cusco. We ate a gourmet 3 course meal with a balcony view of the parade and water fights for $6! We drank wine, ate amazing food and enjoyed the rest of the carnival from the safety of my new favorite restaurant.