With two weeks to go until Peru’s presidential and congressional elections, the campaigns are throwing out some highly visible banners, billboards, and a constant string of parades in the homestretch. Since I arrived in November the promotions have been omnipresent in Cusco and the Sacred Valley; but in the last few weeks not a day passes without a small band of supporters marching down a city street, bullhorns and balloons in hand, making the case for their candidate of choice. I’ll readily admit; in the midst of this election season frenzy I’ve remained relatively ignorant about the candidates or their political platforms. Instead, I’m left to enjoy the larger, colorful parades that temporarily close the streets around the Plaza de Armas. This weekend alone I came across parades on Friday night and Saturday afternoon that involved marching bands, decorated vehicles, and traditional dancing. I have to say, I find this way of campaigning to be refreshing after the vicious tone elections in the States have taken in recent years. I’ll take color, music, and vibrant celebrations over rallies fueled by anger and distrust any day.
To top off the weekend of street celebrations, there was a beautiful traditional dance festival in the Plaza today to celebrate the Mercade de Paradaiso’s anniversary. To celebrate their success and thank Cusco for its support, the company put on this massive party showcasing traditional dances from the Peruvian Andes. The costumes and music were fantastic – and watching the dance was a great way to enjoy a small window of perfect weather in the middle of a lazy Sunday.
It’s unexpected celebrations of color, art, and life in general that remind me of how vibrant the Peruvian culture is – and how glad I am to be here. On any given day you can run in to the kind of street party that only happens a few times a year in many other places. If nothing else, it’s a good reminder for me to slow down and appreciate what’s around me.