Friday, August 10, 2007

Virgin of the Snows

Just back from the tropics Caranavi, where I wasn't working, but rather celebrating the day of the virgin of the snows, patrona of Caranavi. My friend Pancho, one of the drivers from my days at ACDI/VOCA was the preste, otherwise known as the guy who is in charge of the fiesta. When I was first working for ACDI/VOCA, pancho and I and a couple of other gringos toured the whole Yungas region interviewing beneficiaries of ACDI/VOCA's projects. Pancho, even more than most of the drivers, was the guy who served as the bridge between us and the local community. Throughout my time at ACDI/VOCA, I was continually impressed, more than anything else, by the drivers and their hard work, ingenuity and grace under pressure.

On sunday morning, after a night of drinking and dancing, all of the dancers crammed into the church for the mass, all fanning themselves and sweating. Lots of hymns and Ave Marias and the usual blahblah about the virgin of the snows, the patrona of Caranavi and Mary a that sort of stuff. And then the padre went on with the sermon, which consisted basically of four messages. Thanks, by name, to the various people who donated the cross, and the light fixtures, and the benches, and the flowers, and etc. Also if anyone feels inspired to donate flower vases, that would be welcome of course. And if anyone is an architect, we would welcome their support designing a larger church in Caranavi. And lastly, please don't offer the priests beer... they'll drink one or two, and the next thing you know, they are up dancing and everyone is making fun of them, so it's better if you offer them soft drinks.

Then they took the statue of the virgin of the snows, patrona of Caranavi, out to the plaza and paraded her around in the sun, stopping at every corner to bless the virgin and sprinkle holy water on the crowd and light off fireworks and sing a hymn. The major purpose of this seemed to be to get the rest of the people, who were still drinking at one o'clock in the afternoon, to stop for at least as long as the procession went around the plaza. Everyone stopped and stopped playing music and let the procession pass. Then the virgin went back into the church and they started the party again.

And after all of that, I'm still not sure where the snows are that the virgin is virgin of, but I did eat a tasty coconut icecream.

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