My “older sister” Eva (Spain) and I went to a town in northern Lima called Comas. It is a much poorer district where she has been conducting research for her thesis (she’s an anthropologist). She knows a lot of people in Comas and has made some very good friends there through her work. She is friends with a priest at the local church in Comas and he has been over to our house for lunch a few times. Eva introduced us and after your normal small-talk he invited us to a festival in Comas the following day. It was a fundraiser for his church as it is currently falling apart (mainly the ceiling is crashing down). He told us of the games they’d have, the food, and a background of the town itself.
So, we took the 1 hour bus ride from Magdalena to Comas the next day. It turns out that Comas is on the side of a mountain/large hill and you have to take these little moto-taxis (which we were told never to take) to get to the main part of the town. Because Comas is poorer than other parts of Lima, I expected just a little festival that would be held inside the church. WRONG!
There were tons of people gathered around the church grounds. Everyone was enjoying the food, laughing, appreciating the music and participating in the games. The priest that Eva knows showed us around, including a personal tour of the church. He explained each game to us, showed us the food and where to buy tickets, introduced us to his family and then we made it inside the church. The church is actually huge. Picture the size of a basketball court (times 2) and that’s the size of this church. The church was built over 50 years ago, with the help of the Kennedy Family and their donations. Now, the ceiling is falling apart, and the priest says that during mass you can see the flakes falling from the ceiling. The priest then explained how the community really comes together at church, and this is the place that they all love and cherish. He said that that’s why so many people from the town have come to the fundraiser. He said that a lot of these people don’t have much money, but from what they do have, they are willing to give to the church. The church is the foundation of their community and they all want the church to be restored so that it may survive for many more years.
We walked around the festival to see all the games they were doing, my favorite being “El Cuy”. This game consists of boxes (houses) all arranged in a circle form and in the center is a guinea pig in a box. Basically, you bet on which house you think the cuy (guinea pig) will run into. It really funny and the players really get into it, screaming and jumping for joy if they win. All I kept thinking was…This is the
Peru that I pictured all along. As we kept walking around, we came across the Wedding and Jail booths where you could pay to get hitched or send someone to jail. I was so afraid that people we going to pick on the poor little gringa but luckily, the whole festival was different from what I originally thought. We also made our way over to the food stands…of course. For the first time I tried “anticuchos” which is….wait for it…..cow heart! It wasn’t so bad actually, just really tough. It’s kind of like beef jerky but warm and not as chewy.
After hanging out at the festival a bit more, we went higher up the mountain to meet with another friend of Eva’s who works with the local theatre program. He seemed really nice and showed us around and then invited us to come to the poetry competition they were having in a few weeks. Well a couple of days later, he called Eva and invited us once again to the poetry event and then also asked that I sing as part of the entertainment for the show. Scary right? Well, two weeks later and the day has come and I had a nice day out with my ‘sister’ and I actually did sing in front of the participants and their families, which wasn’t too many people. It was really fun but I was shaking so bad! All in all, it was really fun and the performers were all really good, like they got really into it! The only bad thing was that a lot of the kids chose the same poem to recite. Which was fine, but after about the 5th time, it was really boring.
But Comas is such an interesting place. The community is so much tighter, and I’d like to investigate why it seems that way. There are a lot of questions to ask myself about why that is, and what makes a community ‘close’. Comas is beautiful but in a different sort of way. The houses, although many are falling down, have bright colors and you see people just sitting out on their porch watching what’s going on. It seems “home-y-ier”.