This was the weekend of the annual fiesta in our neighborhood. The Virgin of Lourdes is the patroness of our area. A tiny chapel sits up on the hillside, and the larger chapel is at the end of our block. Every year a local resident sponsors the festival and organizes a weekend of activities.
This year the actual feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes is Feb. 11, but the event is held on a weekend to accommodate those who come from elsewhere. The weekend has become a homecoming for Chorrillanos (people who live on Chorrillos Beach), wherever they are.
There are religious observances, a novena the week preceding the festival, and various Masses dedicated to the Virgin celebrated in front of the chapel, followed by a procession with the statue through the neighborhood.
Events are designed to draw in neighbors and members of the larger Barranca community. Friday night was bingo under a canopy outside the chapel. The mountain of prizes took many games, lasting from about 7:30 pm until almost 11. I won a coffee maker! (Jonathan left after the first few games.) Other players won sets of glasses, dishes, and first class amenity kits courtesy of our friend who works at Iberia Airlines. One of the young men won a pink handbag with a kitty cat face on the front that was good for a lot of laughs from the crowd.
Saturday morning began with a walk from the chapel at our end of the beach to the top of the hill at the opposite end of the beach where a very tall statue of Christ the Redeemer overlooks the bay. It took a while for the group to gather, but this is the beach in summertime. The walk was lovely and many walkers commented on how long it had been since they had been up to see the view.
There were sports events including soccer and volleyball tournaments, though most people headed for the beach, especially visitors who live elsewhere and return to Barranca for a beach reunion, who wanted to make the most of their weekend. Our neighbor Miguel opened his beer and snacks kiosk, a most welcome addition to our end of the beach. The causa bites by Romina were delicious.
Activity picked up in the evening, when Mass was followed by the procession, then the chocolatada. As the name suggests, hot chocolate and sweet bread are distributed. This is a real favorite with children, and for many adults brings back memories of childhood when chocolate was a very special occasion treat.
The stage that had been sitting idle for the afternoon was now bustling with people setting up waaay too many amps, each about the size of a refrigerator, with cables and music stands. The next hour was entertainment by the local youth choir and orchestra. Though they deserved their moment in the spotlight, it might have been better for the young performers to appear at sunset, rather than later. The overall plan was to keep everyone awake until the fireworks at midnight and for that we needed some adult music. Sometime after 10 pm, music for dancing started up, and the neighborhood began to swing. By 12:30 or 1 am when the fireworks went off, only neighbors were left dancing, until sometime after 3 am when the music ended. We didn’t make it past the early evening, but we’re assured that there was dancing all night both at the stage, and up at the Hotel Chavin, where some neighbors danced and sang karaoke until very late.
The fireworks used for the fiesta are a “castillo” or castle, a tower of bamboo strapped with about forty different spinning or exploding elements. Once the castle is rigged on the sandy beach, it is set off piece by piece with a grand finale of twirling, fizzing, hissing pieces that makes an impressive display.
Saturday night went out with a bang, and Sunday came all too soon. We got a leisurely start, taking our walk along the beach when it was still largely empty, just the vendors and umbrella rental folks getting in position.
The Feast of the Virgin has often seemed like the hottest day of the summer, and this year was no exception. Though it has been overcast lately, the sun was bright and by mid-day there were flocks of people on the beach. At the same time, Sunday traditionally includes a demonstration of caballos de paso, and around 1 pm people migrated toward the chapel where the demonstration was to take place. Caballo de paso have a particular gait, or way of stepping, that is very smooth. A century ago, one version of the folkdance of the coast, “La Marinera,” has the lady dancing with the caballo de paso. Part of the fiesta has always been a demonstration of horsemanship, dancers doing the Marinera, and the dance of the lady and the horse. This year was no exception. Our neighbor Maria Luisa did the honors dancing with the caballo.
The greatest novelty of the riders this year was the presence of a woman among the group.
Once the dancing and horsemanship was complete, people returned to the beach, stopping at the kermes, food stalls that are usually part of the Sunday events. There was a long line for tacu tacu, the local specialty of rice and beans that often accompanies seafood.
Music throbs among several clubs on Sunday afternoons in the summer. Their parties run from about 3-10 pm, and the music booms over and over until evening and this Sunday was no exception. When we get tired of the noise we sit in the back yard enjoying the sun and the diminished hubbub.
The fiesta continued on Monday, because the actual feast day is Jan. 11, Tuesday. There was another mass, more hot chocolate, and a traditional serenade, with more planned for midnight. On Tuesday, the farewell mass was followed by a procession under the hot sun, before the statue of the Virgin returns to her chapel high on the hillside until next year.
Friends and family who have arrived from as far away as the US and Europe will generally stay for a while, enjoying their time catching up with those they haven’t seen in the past year. This is the height of summer vacation, and many of our neighbors who live in Lima are here for the month. Those who work try to stay an extra day when they can, and come out on the weekends. The result is a neighborhood of friendly faces, another reason we like it here during the summer.