If you are able to coordinate your trip to the Andes with the arrival of Carnival, you should take advantage of the opportunity. For nearly two weeks you'll witness colorful and lively events that coincide with an abundant Andean springtime.
Move over Rio: Carnival in the Andes is amazing as well
[caption id="attachment_156683" align="aligncenter" width="624"] Photo: Scott Montgomery[/caption]
When people think of Carnival, they are going to think of Rio de Janeiro. But people celebrate Carnival all over South America, including the Andes. In the Sacred Valley, the celebration spans for more than two weeks. Every village, no matter how isolated and how small, has its own celebration. The farther into the mountains you go, the more traditional the celebrations become.
Why is carnival important to people of the Andes?
[caption id="attachment_156684" align="aligncenter" width="624"] (Photo: Scott Montgomery[/caption]
People of the Andes hold a deep connection to their community, and this is something you can sense with the arrival of carnival. Each community embraces its own particular dance, dress, and music. At the larger carnival celebrations, people compete for the chance to travel to other larger competitions based around the Americas, as well as for possibility to make money.
Competing for pride and for money
At a celebration in the Sacred Valley, near Cusco, the winning team received 2,000 soles (550 usd), second place 1,400 (400 usd), and third place 500 soles (160usd). Divided between the fifteen to twenty members that each team has, the money doesn't go quite so far. And considering that there are over twenty groups that enter each competition, participants should expect steep competition.
[caption id="attachment_156685" align="aligncenter" width="624"] (Photo: Scott Montgomery)[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_156686" align="aligncenter" width="624"] (Photo: Scott Montgomery)[/caption]
Be prepared for water fights and mysterious white foam
In the morning the children run in small groups with spray bottles of foam. They eventually collect into larger groups: boys in groups of three or four wield bottles of foam. They usually target girls they may or may not know. Most of the girls stay close to their older siblings or their mothers. The ones who choose to fight back are usually singled out and attacked by groups of five or six roaming boys. I saw one girl huddle herself into the corner of a busy alley while boy after boy streaked past her with water balloons or with foam.