Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Holy Week

Baja holding a Cuy
I have now had the opportunity to spend 2 Holy Weeks in countries catholic countries.  In 2008, I was in San Jose, Costa Rica with CASP and then this year here in Peru and both have been experiences that are so completly different than the way that I have grown up celebrating the holiday.

Alissa and her host sister Pricila
On Tuesday night we all piled back into a bus on our way to Huanta to see Alissa's placement and town.  When I say "pile" I do mean that we ride these 2 story buses and sit on the first floor in veritable lazy boys all night.  I usually sleep the entire time.  It is quite wonderful.  After a long ride, we arrived in Huanta which is home to Radio AMAUTA (a partner of the Red Uniendo Manos Peru) and Alissa King (YAV).  Our first day was actually her birthday and so we celebrated by seeing the sights of Huanta.  We climbed up to the Cristo Blanco, went out to pizza, saw a procession of the virgin Mary coming to meet Jesus and then had her not so "surprise" birthday party.  It was a really great day.
The fair at Pampa de Quinoa

Thursday we went to more traditional "tourist" locations around the Huanta/Ayacucho area.  We visited the Pampa de Quinoa which is where the Battle of Ayacucho was held.  This battle was extremely important because it was the last battle between the South Americans and the Spanish and basically gave freedom to the entire region.  It kinda blew my mind to stand in a place that was so decisive for the history of so many people.  I have never visited any of the battlegrounds from the US Revolutionary War, but it was interesting to stand in a place where this country and region had stood up and owned their independence.  At the site there is a huge monument to the battle made of a white stone and it stands out from wherever you are in the Ayacucho valley.  Also being as it was Holy Week, there was an artisan fair.  I recommend visiting.  We made a few more stops that afternoon and then took a nap for the record books.

making an Alfombra
Friday morning, we left Huanta for Ayacucho itself.  The city has been declared the Latin American Capital for Holy Week.  We missed the morning processions of Jesus.  So had a leasurely morning of looking at the mirador of the city, doing a little shopping, lunch, drinks, etc.  Then we went to the main square where people were making Alfombras.  These are elaborate pieces of art that are done on the streets with tinted sawdust, sand, and flowers.  Then in the evening, Jesus and Mary are carried in a procession over them and thus blessing the makers.  These alfombras were AMAZING.  The detail and the skill absolutly blew my mind.  Then in the evening we came back to see the procession.  All the lights in the square were turned off and as Jesus (in a glass coffin) and Mary and their hundreds of assistants with candles through the square.  It was truly amazing to see the emotion, the intricacy and beauty of the moment.  Everyone was there for a reason.  Many argue that it is a show or political or whatever, but if you stand in that park that night, it is a beautiful moment that I will never forget.

a high school makes an Alfombra
That night we headed back to Lima and spend Saturday with former YAV and fellow CASPer Emily Fletcher and a '05 CASPer Chelsea Peterson.  It was really fun to see the city and show off my home.

Then Sunday morning, the YAVs went to Catholic Mass at a church near my house.  It was a nice service and the joy of the resurrection was definitely there (something that I did not feel at the national cathedral in San Jose 2 years ago).  We sang songs of justice, peace and of a God that is working in our world.  So now as I look back at this week that defines the christian faith, I am so thankful for the experiences I had and more thankful for the one that we are celebrating.

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