Volunteering in the village of Cabanaconde was definitely a unique experience not only because of what happened there but also for the landscapes and the fiesta that was going on while we were there.
The village itself was a little tourist destination after the hikes through the canyon, and also some people arrived by bus to see the canyon. So there was always a lot going on around the place. We met a lot of fellow travelers, mostly Germans, and it was funny to talk to them about our experiences in the country so far. We felt really welcome and liked the landscapes that surrounded us. There were a bunch of viewpoints of the canyon accessible by foot and for me it felt a little bit like walking around our “Alm” back home in Austria.
Of course we tried to take advantage of our free time as much as we could, as well as trying to escape from the heavy rain that usually came around 2pm.
There was also a volcano that has been active for the last 6 months and always sent us nasty dust. One day we even managed to catch a picture as smoke came out from the top.
Fiesta of Cabanaconde and the Carneval
The day we arrived also the festival of the village started. Very convenient! It lasted about 4 days immediately followed by the 3 days of carnival celebrations. I actually don’t know why it was celebrated before the actual date of carnival, but I know for Puno for example that they have their yearly festival always in the beginning of February and it counts as their carnival. Anyways, the festival was a lot more than I expected of a tiny village with a few thousand inhabitants. The music band consisted of 3 instruments – trumpets, tubas and drums. And they played all day long for those 4 days, sometimes even staring as early as 6:30am. They kept playing the same song with little variations, always taking turns of 16 beats trumpets and 16 beats tubas playing the same melody only an octave lower.
At the same time people were dancing in twos forming a big circle on the main square. I found the dance quite special but after a few minutes watching you knew the way it worked out. I loved how most women wore their traditional dresses, even some young girls. Another tradition of Cabanaconde is that guys dress up also in the women’s dresses and wear a hat and mask so they wouldn’t be recognized as men. We were told that this goes back to when girls weren’t allowed to go out and dance with boys. So they pretended to be their girlfriends when they picked them up in the evening and parents wouldn’t notice because the big hat and mask covered most of their faces.
After days of constant playing and dancing the way of celebrating changed a little bit – into carnival. Now it was more groups of people marching around the streets singing their songs. Women wore hats with balloons on them and the marching bands got more diverse. It was more of a private thing as they went from one house to another but stayed there a good amount of time to sing and drink inside.
The village was full of colorful streamers and the kids had this funny custom to attack each other with foam sprays.
Cabanaconde treated us well. The whole time we were there was full of fiesta and new traditions to find out about. Also, it was easy to escape the poorly built houses and walk up the next hill and see the whole canyon from a different perspective.