Yesterday Cuzco celebrated the Day of the Compadres. This important pre-Carnival celebration gathered people together throughout the city to celebrate the ties that bind one family to another with kinship-like bonds, as well as the agreements that make Cuzco’s annual cycle of feasts happen, the jurqados (sometimes spelled jurkados)–those who have accepted the burden of sponsoring a feast or contributing to a sponsorship. Around the church of Recoleta, it was particularly intense as we show in the following photoessay.
The idea of compadres — people joined because one person or couple agrees to sponsor another person’s child in baptism, the first haircut, marriage or some other ritual — is one that makes Cuzco live and breathe as a society. There is no easy word in English for this tie that makes adults kin, through the common interest in a child. The best we can say is “co-godparent-hood” though that is awkward and rough. This just is not a custom in the English speaking world. Catholics still have godsons and goddaughters, but the tie between the parents and the godparents just is not as important to society.
Similarly, there is no word to express the idea of jurqar. We can only write sentences to tell its meaning, which is to bind someone through ritual to carry the often heavy burden of pulling together the resources to sponsor a feast or a portion of it. People have been known to spend a year’s or several year’s incomes in the process. But this act of receiving the jurqa and hence bound as a jurqado is critically important in today’s Cuzco. It keeps its system of feasts going.
There is change. Slowly other ways of doing celebration–such as through schools and businesses–are developing. Someday the jurqa may not be so important. But for now it is a major act in Cuzco and, above all, in a person’s life.
But, for now, on this day all the compadres who have been jurqado to carry out a cargo during the year gather at the Church of Recoleta to celebrate with much joy and noise.
All the jurqas from each neighborhood, along with their people, gather in the square in front of the temple. In order to enjoy this day of celebration each neighborhood brings its own band and its own food, beer, and other drinks. Everyone dances and shares with the cargo holders (jurqas) from the other neighborhoods.
Recoleta is just one of the places where this important day is celebrated in a big fashion. From early in the morning people gather, bringing their banners for the saints to which they correspond. In this way, not only is this a feast of compadres and jurqas but also of saints.
On the bill above the temple of Recoleta is found the Lord of Tetecaca. In the afternoon all the people gathered in Recoleta make their way, bands playing and they dancing, carrying their standards and banners to salute and pay homage to this huaca, or sacred place, as it is known in Cusco.
In San Blas, by the church, they also carry out a large feast this day. The whole neighborhood is at feast, they say.
This is the kind of large feast that draws many people. They celebrate with the jurqas and compadres, as well as drinking, dancing, and sharing the event with each other.