Jan 6, 2008
Huancavelica of a good time!
Huancavelica, Peru is a small town crammed between the walls of a massive Andean valley. We arrived via a terrifying highway that meticulously wound its way through the high Andes. We were greeted by a week-long festival to celebrate the arrival of the Three Kings after the Birth of Jesus. Locals danced down the streets while a 20-piece orchestra followed their slow progression. The smell and sound of fireworks has become a staple in our short visit to Huancavelica.
Huancavelica is steeped in controversial history. When they arrived, the Spaniards exploited the native Incas to mine the extremely poisonous mercury that rests in the hills. It is estimated that 11 million Incas died in the two hundred years of the mines’ existence. Once the entire Inca population of the area became extinct, Africans were shipped in to continue the genocide. Furthermore, to feel more at home, the Spaniards would organize a running of the bulls. However, these bulls would simply chase the natives into the mines where they would eventually die from mercury poisoning. There even lies somewhere deep within the Santa Ana Mine a vacant city where workers used to live as they were exploited.
Despite this very grave history, the town sure knows how to party. The culmination of this festival to honor Jesus Christ came last night. As Amanda and I perched ourselves on the steps of the ancient Iglesia de San Francisco, we couldn’t believe our eyes as locals began carrying out massive, fire-breathing contraptions constructed of bamboo, rope and enough pyrotechnics to put Disneyland to shame. These 40 ft tall monsters named Caballos (Horses) would spit every color of flame, sparks, noise and light into a spectacular crowd of onlookers.
Small children would dance in the falling flames and massive fireworks exploded in every direction not more than 20 feet from our stoop. It was one of the greatest parties ever and will truly hold a special place in our hearts.
Today we climbed roughly 1000 feet out of the canyon that holds Huancavelica to a church that overlooks the town. It was a spectacular vista that made for some unique photos as locals attended mass in an unfinished cathedral with no walls.
We plan to head for the beach early Monday morning to Pisco. It will be a nice respite from the cold before we return to the Andes to hike the Inca Trail. We will miss this gem of a city that lies so far off the tourist track. However, we feel extremely blessed to have met its people and shared in their celebration.