Hello and good day!
The little canyon where we buy cacao is located in the extreme northeast corner of the department of Cajamarca, Peru. Departments in Peru are the same as states in the United States. The department and the city have the same name.
The capital city of the department of Cajamarca is the city of Cajamarca.
Cajamarca city is located up at 9,000 feet and has the distinction of being the Carnaval capital of Peru. Carnaval is celebrated from mid to late February and goes on for several weeks.During that time, the city of Cajamarca, which is normally a fairly sleepy mountain town, turns into one of the craziest places you've ever seen.
The craziness feeds out into the surrounding cities, including the small town my wife is from, Celendin, which is about a two-hour drive from Cajamarca. Party goers flock from all over the country and descend upon Cajamarca.
There is non-stop drinking, music in the streets, parades, dancing, drum circles, and every type of revelry imaginable.
Most of the craziness is concentrated around the main square, at least during the work week, and you can sidestep a lot of the action by staying away from the center of town. However, there is one practice that becomes widespread, and is unavoidable, no matter what part of town you are in.
This is the throwing of water balloons.Everybody throws water balloons at each other during Carnaval. If you accidentally walk underneath a balcony, you are fair game to have a bucket of water dumped on your head. The one exception is that older folks are supposed to be exempt.
I lived in an apartment building for a long stretch in Cajamarca. It was an apartment building surrounded by many other apartment buildings.To go out into town, I had to exit the building through a doorway on the first floor.
It is common in Cajamarca for people to hire a laundry lady rather than owning a washer and dryer. As a result of this custom, many roofs on apartment buildings have an area for washing clothes and hanging them out to dry.The laundry lady goes up there to do work for her clients. Turns out these upstairs decks are excellent for water balloon sniper work as well.
And a big 6'4" gringo like me is easy pickings.
On many occasions, I was in a hurry to get to work. Also, I didn't grow up in a Carnaval culture. For those reasons, I sometimes spaced on what was waiting for me when I stepped outside.
It didn't take long to be reminded.
The neighborhood kids were up on top of their buildings, standing next to full buckets of water balloons. They worked as teams.One kid was the thrower, and two others were fillers. While the throwers threw, the fillers replenished the armaments.
I didn't stand a chance.
s soon as I stepped outside, the water balloons came raining down from the buildings. I needed to make it to the street to get in a taxi. But there was a long corridor between the front door and the street.
Every day this happened. One day I tried to hug the walls of buildings, but that is when I had water dumped on me from a balcony.
I tried a sprint, but the volume of balloons falling was such that I got hit with every stride. I tried yelling up at the kids, pleading with them for sympathy.
No dice. Eventually, I just had to accept it. And that is a very sad thing.
You open the door, and you know for certain that you will be doused with water as soon as you walk out. It is inevitable and you don't get a single day off.
One other memory from Carnaval.I had a friend in Cajamarca. He was a very buttoned down, sober, responsible person, at least for 11 months per year. He worked for an organization, a non-profit, that helped indigenous country folk get legal titles to their land.
This was very noble and important, especially in Cajamarca, where the mining industry is big.Without title, people were moved off their land through eminent domain without proper compensation.
Anyhow, I was walking through the center of town, sightseeing, one afternoon I was soaking wet from being pelted all day by water balloons. It was a wild scene.
People were drunk. They had their faces and bodies covered in multi-colored paint. Music was blasting. People were dancing to traditional music.
I saw the wife of my friend standing in a group. But her husband wasn't there. I walked over and said hi. I asked where the husband was. She said she didn't know.
And in that moment, I heard somebody yelling at the top of their lungs. ADAM!!!!!!!!! It was my friend.
He had his shirt off and was painted head to toe in green paint. He was wearing a red head band and had a tall, brown bottle of beer in his hands.
He hugged me, staining my clothes green. Thankfully I was soaking wet, so the paint didn't dry on me. He offered to pour me a drink from the brown bottle of beer in his hand, but I declined. This made him angry, momentarily, but he was so inebriated that his memories escaped him quickly and he forgot he was mad.
He gave his wife a beer-soaked kiss on the cheek and then ran away. The whole thing was astonishing. I asked my friend's wife what was going on. She said that all year long her husband is the hardest working man. He is a faithful husband and a loving father.
They have an agreement. He takes a week off for vacation during Carnaval and she lets him party. She comes along to keep an eye on him and drive him home in case he passes out.
Carnaval is a wild scene.
If I never have to live through another one, that would be just fine by me. I prefer my quiet little town of Issaquah, WA.
Thanks for giving me a moment of your time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!