The fiestas of the Virgin of the Carmen are experienced in the enchanting town of Paucartambo which is just a few hours from the City of Cusco. To this place come people from all over Peru and the world.
When I went there this year, many fascinating things that take place there struck me, especially the cargos, the tasks and places where cargo holders host the dance troupe they sponsor as well as guests.
The cargos, a Spanish Word meaning burden or charge, are carried out by people from the town. They are responsible for making sure that absolutely nothing is lacking for the dancers and their family. All of the dances that are presented have their own cargos that occur in different homes throughout Paucartambo.
From the first moment of the fiestas, the dancers arrive and stay at their cargos, as we say. There they enjoy drink, food, and music, as do their guests. Some cargos claim the presence of musical groups during the four days in which their beautiful melodies are demanded.
Anyone who comes to the town can enter one of these cargo homes with no problem. They are welcome and the doors remain open. There is no one to stop them. The persons bearing the cargo are so noble and giving that they share their preparations with anyone who is within their cargo sanctuary.
Rice soup, chairo soup, lechón, beef stew, and cuy al horno (baked guinea pig) are the most common dishes served up by the various cargo holders. It is impressive to watch so many people enter these places and enjoy the food in harmony.
Drink must always be present. Many cases of beer arrive at every moment in the famous tricycles that serve as taxis in this town.
Many visitors go from cargo to cargo to observe what they do and to also enjoy the delicious food and drink offered. Nevertheless, the food can be slow in arriving for the visitors because it must first be given to the dancers who are well situated in the building. The plates of food arrive on enormous trays carried by two people. Once they are finished giving food to all the people of the comparsa only then to they serve food to the guests who have arrived and are situated wherever there is space.
The cargos are refuges for the dancers since that is where they eat, drink, and enjoy being with their people while not performing. From there they dress in costume and go out into the streets and plaza to dance in honor and devotion to the Virgin of the Carmen.