celebration, Customs, fiestas

The Popular Celebration of The Day of Comadres in Cusco

Bailando en el dia de las comadres (Walter Coraza Morveli)

In the great celebration of carnival dances of huaynos, masks and costumes, as well as typical food —“tímpu”—and drinks, are essential to entertain this event. Each year, one day, Thursday, shortly after its beginning, comadres day is celebrated. It is a fiesta that begins the cycle of carnivals. It falls on different dates, but it always has to be a Thursday.

This traditional festival is celebrated in the most popular sectors, such as markets, where the vast majority are women; they who sell our varied food products and it is in the market where they establish bonds of friendship and compadrazgo (co-godparenthood). The market is the place where they spend the most time and generate, as a result, a kind of spiritual kinship between them. By mutual agreement they sponsor as godparents each other’s children in baptisms, first communions, confinements, marriages and more.

This tradition of the day of the comadres, according to José Antonio Rocha, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences of the UMSS (University in Cochabamba Bolivia), comes from an ancient ritual, a custom that was carried out in the Inca Empire which consisted of choosing tutors or heads of children as sponsors (according to the chronicler Guaman Poma de Ayala, in the seventeenth century).

Today this tradition has become very widespread throughout southern Peru. It is considered a reciprocal feast or as our ancestors would say, Ayni, which is established through sponsorship. The parents of children who now are godchildren visit the comadres, the co-godmothers in their homes or work, carrying food, drink, serpentine (colorful paper ribbons, with which they wrap the necks of the gossips), colored flour (with which they paint the faces of the comadres) and the inevitable confetti mixture (small pieces of paper, which are thrown on the head of the women). All these ingredients are essential on this special date. After the greeting, they begin to eat what they brought, to drink and to celebrate with great joy.

Sharing a Glass of Beer During the Carnival feast in Cuzco (Photo: Walter Coraza Moreli)
Sharing a Glass of Beer During the Carnival feast in Cuzco (Photo: Walter Coraza Moreli)

The celebration of the day of the comadres in the markets has a different seasoning, from the morning, they begin to decorate the whole market, with balloons of many colors, and serpentine. Each comadre comes prepared with her typical dress, which is a skirt of a lively color, a white blouse, and a white hat decorated with a colored ribbon, in their pockets they carry colored flour and pica pica, the confetti mixture.

When they see each other, the party begins. They embrace and say words of gratitude, then they laugh. They decorate each with pica pica and serpentina before they paint their faces with colored flour. To the sound of the bands hired a few days before for this party, they hug and start dancing inside the markets. When they are little dizzy from the drinks they are having, they begin to go out into the streets in groups, accompanied by joyful and danceable songs from the band. This celebration is so colourful, that it is impossible to stop seeing it and not participate in it. The celebration lasts as far as the body allows.

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