Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Fine Finish for a Festival

The Festival of Friendship and Gastronomy 2010 finished its two week run Sunday, February 28th on the campus of the University Señor de Sipàn. This was my first visit to the campus and I was impressed with the buildings and grounds. Everything appeared to be fairly modern, clean and well maintained. I’ve written in other posts about the lack of data to judge the quality of a school so can’t comment about the quality of education from this university, but can say it is not highly regarded among Chiclayanos.

There were somewhere around 50 kiosks, each costing the presenters 200 soles to display whatever it is they wanted visitors to see. The majority were restaurants demonstrating their cooking techniques, and then selling the finished product. Other exhibitors included hotels, bus lines, handicrafts and even a bottled gas company. The published starting time for this event was 10:00am. When this photo was taken at 12:30pm half of the presenters were still setting up and almost no visitors had arrived. Several hours later every chair and table was occupied and people were sitting on the grass.

Many kiosks were occupied by cooking schools, with students doing a good job of demonstrating their skills. This school chose to focus on the ancient art of drink making. When I asked this young man if he was a student, he replied in fairly clear English that he was “a professional mixologist.” After we had talked a bit about him and the school and sampled an excellent but tiny Pisco sour, I asked why he used that particular brand of Pisco (Pisco Vargas), expecting to hear about its quality, tradition, subtleties and nuances. He delayed a moment before saying – “it’s cheap.”

When things would slow down this group of tourists from Argentina made their own fun (and invited everyone else to join them). Fueled by friendly and willing Peruvians; dancers in native costume and plenty of Cusqueña beer, these folks danced and bunny hoped around the grounds for hours. The television crews present to cover the event ate it up. I don’t understand the purpose of the stage behind them. We were there for most of the day and except for a five minute dance presentation by school children it was never used. Perhaps some expected performers didn’t show up.

As we seated ourselves in the stands to watch the riding exhibition and Marinera competition I noticed four dignified, older gentlemen sitting to the left and below us. They were dressed exactly as these horsemen are. Seconds after this photo was taken the rider on the left looked at one of the seated men and said “Padre, por ti” (Father, for you). The look of pride between them seemed to indicate there was some emotional importance to the moment. We watched him put his horse through its paces. It seemed to us he rode as well as everyone else. I still wonder what that was about. Maribel thinks maybe it was the changing of the guard.

The day finished with a Marinera dance competition, pairing a horse and rider with a beautiful woman. For most visitors this was the highlight of the day. Now, I do enjoy watching a really good professional couple dance the Marinera. If done correctly the dance combines graceful choreography with stunning sensuality to tell a story of love, but when one of the performers is a ridden horse, to me instead of a dance it more resembles a Texas quarter-horse trying to cut a calf out of a herd. But that’s just me.


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