February is the month in which our celebrations of carnaval begin (the pre-Lenten celebration with deep Andean roots). Today it all begins with the Day of Compadres. A compadre is a man who is also called padrino by his godchild and who shares a child with his compadre, the father of the child. According to Catholicism a man becomes the second father of a child through baptism. From that momento on he calls the child ahijado.
On this day the people of the opposite sex, the comadres and godmothers, organize a complete ceremony with bands of musicians, fireworks, and more. They make a large rag doll in the form of a man, perhaps a representative of the community’s authorities, its presidents, etc.
These rag dolls are dressed in clothing that men use, such as shoes shirts, pants, ties, suits, and in many cases they wear traditional, indigenous clothes. The dolls are placed in visible places such as public lampposts, in the markets, and at the entrance to large stores. They are located in such as way as to call attention and be seen.
In addition, the dolls have signs saying “Happy Compadres Day”. On some signs they specify the name of the compadre or they leave some kind of dedication. They decorate the dolls with brightly colored streamers and balloons.
On this day there will always be bands of k’aperos, musicians, who with great joy play in order to enliven the feast. Drinks such as chicha or frutillada (a strawberry chicha) also help in this task. The most important thing for this feast, though, is the food, our traditional thimpu or puchero.
Families have another celebration on the day of compadres. Early in the morning they get up and go visit their compadres in order to make them an invitation to join them for the family lunch. They take a mistura, confetti in a mixture of colors, and place it on the head of their compadres to honor them. They also take with them ponche de habas, a hot drink made from a fava bean flour in order to make the morning fun. Then at midday they serve ups some sort of traditional dish.
People are filled with desires to get the carnival season started and so together they organize and live fully this combination of feasts that characterizes it in our beautiful city of Cuzco.