Yesterday kicked off the beginning of Santiago festivities here in Huancayo! Santiago is THE festival for Huancayo and is a month-long celebration with dancing, singing, partying, and general merriment to give tribute to the patron Santiago for fertility and abundance of the harvest and the animals. The women dress in brightly colored skirts with beautifully embroidered flowers and hats of all colors adorned with bits of quinoa, flowers or other vegetation to represent the harvest. The men wear mantas (woven blankets) over their shoulders and hats also adorned with items representative of the harvest. Some people also adorn themselves with fruits around their waists. I think the local newspaper, Correo, described the happiness and excitement of Santiago best:
“It seems like an illness, because it paralyzes the entire body, it cannot be cured with medicines, antibiotics, or painkillers, only with much happiness and fun, accompanied with calientitos and a foamy beer.”
Calientitos are a big part of the celebration. They’re hot, alcoholic drinks and can be made with rum, pisco, or wine. We popped into one of our favorite local places, Incas, to try one last night. We ordered the Calientito Especial and it appeared to us that everyone else in the place had ordered one too. It was made with rum, orange juice, and a sprinkle of cinnamon on top and served with a side of honey to mix in (the honey, by the way, deserves a blog post in its own right, what a unique taste with hints of chamomile and grasses from the pasture!). The calientito was delicious and a little bit strong, just what you needed to get ready to head outside into the chilly evening to participate in the big Santiago kick-off parade!
The Santiago revelers paraded towards the center of Huancayo from four different directions, converging on the Plaza Huamanmarca–the geographical center of the city. We caught the parade at the corner of La Breña and Real where three of the four parade routes were coming together. Each group had their own band and were dancing, singing and pushing their way towards the Plaza.
There was such a fun and happy energy in the air. Words cannot do it justice. You just have to see for yourself in a video clip that we took. We are so looking forward to participating in the many Santiago events (particularly when it overlaps with the Peruvian Independence Day festivities!) over the next month!