Many people in Cuzco say that it is good luck to carry with you a small lock of hair from a child’s first haircut. People also tend to carry red and black huayruro seeds as well as rue in their wallets with their money. Some people even carry a dried up bit of their child’s umbilical cord, all for good fortune.
The first haircut, called corte de pelo in Spanish and rutucha in Quechua is a tradition that comes to us from ancient times. People say that it came form the south, from the area of Puno and has spread now to many other areas. Every place has a tradition of how and when to carry out the first haircut of a little boy or girl.
In the city of Cuzco the first hair cut is supposed to take place after the infant is baptized, after its parents marry, or even after the couple has a baby shower. It is a celebration in which the parents of the child invite all their family members and friends to come and participate.
After playing music for dancing to begin the haircut, the godparents of the child are those who initiate it with the first cuts of locks of the child’s hair. They grab a bit of the hair and leave in exchange money. After that, one by one, people come forward and leave a gift in exchange for the hair they cut.
It was not always money that people left, though today that is the most common gift in the city. Some families in nearby places will give the child sheep in exchange for its hair, so that the boy or girl can begin to accumulate their own flock. They may also give cattle, or products such as potatoes and corn so that it begins in agriculture.
My father tells that one time he went to a haircutting in Sangara, Sicuani, Cusco. Everything began with music for people to dance. In the center of the floor there was a rag doll on top of a carrying cloth, a manta also called a queperina. It was placed on the men and then they had to dance. My father said he danced with the doll and then he came forward with the doll and approached the child ready to cut its hair and leave his gift.
This is the tradition, he says, in Sangara, Sicuani. In Puno, it is said they also leave money for the hair, though they tend more to leave material gifts such as land, titles for cars, beer, etc.
This whole hair-cutting feast ends all over the place in friendship, fun, and afterwards a delicious traditional meal. The people leave feeling grateful for the meal and the hospitality of the fiesta.