Customs, Food Culture

Happy Comadres Day: Fun, Farce, and Honor

A Doll Decked out Fro Comadres Day (Walter Coraza Morveli)

Happy day to all the comadres. We will drink a pair of beers for our days. Of course we are life long comadres. It just once a year that we can enjoy this day. Some day death will over take us and we will only have these moments as memories.

The relationship among comadres (co-godmothers) is very important in Cuzco’s society. The roll is manifested in our tradition, our culture and our folklore.

The comadre is the godmother, someone who was chosen to sponsor a child in baptism, first hair cut, and other rites of passage. She has the same functions as the compadre (the co-godfather); she is just the female half of the pair of godparents. Normally you can expect the godfather and godmother to be a couple and asking them to sponsor your child is a confirmation of a friendship and respect. People only undertake it with commitment and responsibility. Because of these ties, both families adopt a relationship of kinship with each other, because the couples are comadres and compadres.

On the Thursday before Carnaval Cuzco celebrate the Day of Comadres. The day opens and surprises us with the beginnings of a great celebration. From early in the morning the compadres and comadres go to mass accompanied by a band of musicians and dancers. When they exit the mass, the great day is announced by the explosion of deafening firecrackers tossed into the sky at the same time everyone enjoys a delicious traditional drink, the ponche de habas (a hot drink made of ground and toasted broad beans) into which cañazo (distilled sugar cane alcohol) is poured in order to combat the cold of morning.

Drinking a big Glass of Frutillada (Photo: Walter Coraza Morveli)
Drinking a big Glass of Frutillada (Photo: Walter Coraza Morveli)

During the day, the atmosphere fills with celebration, laughter, and happiness. The comadres have their faces painted and are covered with confetti and streamers. Some dance through the streets celebrating while dancing to the rhythms of the kaperos, the musicians. In some neighborhoods they raise the yunza tree, fill it with gifts, and then cut it down.

In the midday people eat the traditional thimpu, also called puchero. It is a dish that is only eaten at Carnival time. People will also enjoy a big glass of frutillada or of chicha.

In the markets there is a festive atmosphere. The caceras, vendors, dress up in their colorful traditional clothes. They all celebrate since they all play this important role of being comades. One of the markets that breaks into celebration today is the market of San Pedro. It is decorated with balloons, colorful streamers, and everything is lived with joy and noise.

At the same time dolls made of rags that represent the comadres are hung up at this time. It is a tradition. They are jokes that the comadres make to each other. They will steal somehow the skirts of one of the comadres to make up a personage that exaggerates some of her characteristics, causing much laughter and further humor among all the spectators.

Celebrating in Cuzco (Photo: Walter Coraza Morveli)
Celebrating in Cuzco (Photo: Walter Coraza Morveli)

Nevertheless, the custom is slowly declining. The authenticity and intensity fo celebrating this event that is our cultural heritage is fading, although it is still celebrated in traditional neighborhoods, the markets and districts of the city and especially in the neighborhood of San Blas and in San Pedro.

May our rich traditions continue into the future in the hands of Cuzco’s youth.

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