Monday, December 12, 2016

I was at a birthday party Saturday night….

…but I’m not sure what town I was in. It was either Mocupe or Nuevo (new) Mocupe. There is a difference. Mocupe sits in a valley close to a river originating in the mountains to the east and emptying into the Pacific Ocean, about 6 miles’ distant. Quite a few years ago during an El Nino the river flooded and destroyed much of the town. Many of the residents moved to higher ground, about 1 ¼ miles to the north, and Nuevo Mocupe was born. In the meantime, some of the more optimistic villagers began rebuilding the original town, and so today there are two Mocupes…not that it matters because everyone who lives in the area simply says Mocupe. Except for those who say Ucupe, which as I understand it was an ancient Moche culture town that stood just to the west of Nuevo Mocupe. All that remains of Ucupe is some archeological ruins.

The birthday we attended was a typical Peruvian birthday with lots of loud music, food, drinking and dancing. Some of the dancing was influenced by the town of Zana, located nearby. In the 1600s and early 1700s Zana’s population was mostly slaves brought from Africa. After a couple of manmade and natural disasters much of the Spanish and native population relocated, leaving the area to the black slaves. They developed their own customs and culture, including a variety of dances. The ancestors of the slaves are still in Zana today and their dances are seen throughout the Lambayeque Region and beyond.

Slave dances are lively affairs and have certain movements that are normally associated with them. Usually the dances are performed by experienced performers, but at parties, after the alcohol has been flowing for a while it’s not unusual to see villagers doing their version of a slave dance.

With a little imagination it is not difficult to see through the smiles of these dancers and realize that a slave is being punished.

Another classic slave dance movement is more difficult to explain. A length of material or paper is attached to the back of a dancer, apparently representing a tail. A second dancer tries to ignite the tail. I do not know what this movement, called Prendeme la vela is supposed to represent. 

The food served at the party was cabrito…goat with beans and rice. The beverages were beer, and a Peruvian cocktail called Chilcano. The ingredients are pisco (a Peruvian wine though it tastes more like whiskey to me) and ginger ale, at a 1 to 1 ratio. Add a splash of lime juice and some ice cubes and you’re good to go. Warning…the ginger ale softens the harshness of pisco, but does not negate its effect.

At one point in the evening, no doubt after having patriotically consumed his/her fair share of Chilcanos, someone decided that I looked like Bruce Willis. After due consideration others agreed. That triggered a series of ‘selfies with Bruce’. I wonder how many Facebooks I was on yesterday morning?

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