Customs, Cuzco Neighborhoods

Dolls, Fiestas, and Fun Honor Comadres Today

A Doll in Representation of a Comadre

Four days before the main day of Carnival, the comadres celebrate their day. In Cuzco’s traditional neighborhoods this is a great fiesta in honor of comadres.

The idea of comadres is not one easily translated into English. Yet in much of the Spanish-speaking world, and in Cuzco in particular, the idea is strong. A comadre is a woman with whom one shares a child through god-parenthood. One comadre is the biological parent and the other is the spiritual parent. This relationship of compadrazgo is one of the most important ties people have in contemporary Cuzco.

Today, in the plazas of Cuzco’s traditional neighborhoods, this celebration begins with the compadres and compadres, the men and women, covered with confetti and accompanied by a band of musicians. They invite passersby and the people of the neighborhood to join them to join the celebration. When the lunch hour comes, the plazas are full, as if a field of multicolored flowers, as the multitude waits to be served a main dish. Almost always that dish is the typical puchero, stew, symbolic of Cuzco’s Carnival.

Comadres Dolls for Today
Comadres Dolls for Today

After the celebratory lunch that all present share, the party begins. The band of musicians play a range of genres of dance music, including the huayno, cumbia, and carnavaleros. They lift peoples energies and make them dance until that can not do another step. All this to celebrate the comadres as well as the other people present.

Full of joy everyone dances and sings, while enjoying the drinks that are never missing from these feasts. There is beer, chicha, frutillada, and various liquors. They make everyone live this important feast that is carried out each year.

My mother told me that the day used to begin with dolls. From the strike of dawn one could see these humorous dolls hanging from the different posts of the municipal electric system. Unfortunately modernity is erasing this custom and now you see very few dolls.

A Yunza Tree in San Blas Plaza
A Yunza Tree in San Blas Plaza

I also found out that this tradition of the dolls had a function. When people would put together a large doll they would do it in the name of the comadre or the compadre who most liked to drink or party. The result would often be that the comadre or compadre would stop drinking and partying so much from the shame of suffering the doll’s trick.

i remember from fourteen years ago this custom of making the dolls for the Day of the Compadres and Comadres.The men and women of my neighborhood would get together to gather the cloths from the male or female compadre of comadre whose name the doll would carry along with their clothes.

When I would walk through the different neighborhoods of Cuzco I could see the dolls hanging from the posts. On Comadres Day I would laugh to see the funny dolls carrying the names of the different comadres from each neighborhood.

Celebrating Comadres Day by Cuzco's Cathedral
Celebrating Comadres Day by Cuzco’s Cathedral

These dolls, beautifully realized, with their wool braids, their traditional skirts like those of the traditional women of Cuzco, they lycra panties, their blouses, and their hats made large and small people smile and laugh.

You can still see this custom in the traditional popular markets of Cuzco, such as the San Pedro market, Rosaspata, Wanchaq, etc.

In workplaces they tend to have competitions. All the different sections put together their own comadre doll. The best dolls are shown in the winning sections of each market. You can see from one to three dolls hanging.

This is a month filled with color, dancing, and gusto for all the feasts. They all are a form of spending time and developing solidarity one with another. In this way we give warmth to our customs which otherwise would get lost.

A Band Playing for the Comadres
A Band Playing for the Comadres
Congratulating Comadres on Their Day
Congratulating Comadres on Their Day
Playing the Trumpet to Delight the Comadres and Guests
Playing the Trumpet to Delight the Comadres and Guests
Celebrating with Confetti
Celebrating with Confetti
A Comadre Waiting for Her Fiesta to Begin
A Comadre Waiting for Her Fiesta to Begin
A Comadre Having a Beer in Celebration
A Comadre Having a Beer in Celebration
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