Carnaval – again!

Dear Friends:  Well, the big news is that Carnaval has come around once again. I’ve been documenting this spring fiesta celebrating the “flowering-of-the-crops” (called Pawkar Raymi) for many years, and although my photos begin to look the same, I try to find new details. Like this: each year a different community around Cañar “hosts” Carnaval. wm w cuyesThese two women, holding giant cuyes, or guinea pigs, represent this year’s host, and next year’s host. Or rather, I should say they are the wives of the men who are community leaders. Still a lot of sexism around here when it comes to women in leadership or political roles. They carried the cuyes all day long and sometimes put them down on little leashes to prance around, (or more likely run and hide – guinea pigs are shy).

For me, it is an exhausting all-day affair, beginning with a ritual ceremony/breakfast in the host community – this year way up in the mountains at a beautiful place called Shayac Rumi that Michael and I first visited over 20 years ago. 3 men in clouds...followed by a procession down the mountain (in a convoy of trucks) and then through and around town,Desfile town…and ending with an all-afternoon-into-the-night gathering for singing, dancing, eating and drinking at a big field outside of town. wm standingThese women are resting after carrying the cuy-ñaña – a sort of cornucopia – on their shoulders for hours and hours. Covered with fresh fruits and vegetables, topped by a cooked chicken with a chile in its beak, with a hanging-upside-down rooster (no longer alive) and, below, caged guinea pigs and rabbits, it represents the largess of mother nature, or pachamama. The women are from the host community.

This year, for me, Carnaval was two days on the front lines because I am working with a great new partner, Allison Adrian, an ethnomusicologist who’s come from St. Catherine University in Minneapolis on sabbatical and with a Fulbright to work in Cañar for six months. Her interest is, of course, the music and the instruments used in this particular fiesta, but she is was also filming in video and that made me want to be her guide and at her side (which means keeping up with her…)allison streetFor years I’ve been giving out CDs or DVDs of my Carnaval photos to local organizations or participants who request them, but they invariably ask, “Where’s the music?”  or “Where’s the dancing?” I have to explain that I work with a still camera, not moving pictures. With Allison, no more disappointment. Within a few days she had edited a 30-minute video of all of Carnaval, and this week we will give out DVDs.allison drinking(A true participant-observer, Allison gamely takes a sip of Zhumir – cane alcohol – from a cow’s horn.)

Back to details: perhaps what I love most are the faces. For Carnaval, men dress in finery I don’t see the rest of the year. Where do all these scarves come from?DSC_1691 DSC_1662DSC_1661DSC_1660DSC_1743DSC_1657And then there are these amazing sombreros that come out each year, carefully stored by the families and decorated anew with everything from cooked cuyes to a deer’s head.

DSC_1716 DSC_1714Even this sheep sported a sombrero on its back.sheep 2I’ve known and photographed this particular condor (below, on right) for 15 years, as it slowly dries and loses appendages. This year, it was worn by the grandson of its original owner, my friend Pedro Solano (on left).  Pedro, nieto..and with a new touch: a piece of chicken (maybe?) hanging from the condor’s beak.condon w chickenAll right. Enough of Carnaval for this year, except for one last photo, of a moment when two Taytas Carnavaleros stood on the edge of a precipice, tapping on those little drums as they would as long as Carnaval lasts, while the clouds come down around them. two tayta con nubes

And now – time for CAñAR BOOK CLUB.

Scholarship program progeny in Judy's book corner

Dear Readers: I’m getting enthusiastic responses from many of you with suggestions for good books (see below). My own reading has taken a very positive turn with the visit of friends from Canada bearing prize-winning books by Canadian authors. All My Puny Sorrows, by Miriam Toews, is one of those books so riveting that you try not to read too fast, so it won’t be over too soon. I resist until bedtime, when I know I’ll only have 20 minutes of reading until I drop off. Others beside my bed: His Whole Life, by Elizabeth Hay, and February by Lisa Moore.

From other readers, with comments:

  • A Long Long Way, an Irish novel and WWI story by Sebastian Barry. I’m not a big fan of war novels, but those Irish have the language down. Every word is beautiful.
  • ROOM by Emma Donaghue. An adventure of a different kind.
  • River of Doubt, which I loved. On our trip down the San Juan River in Nicaragua last year, we took a short “jungle tour.” One hour of sucking mud up to the knees, and trees covered in spines, we’d had enough.
  • Anything That Burns You: A Portrait of Lola Ridge, Radical Poet, by Terese Svobodaabout the life of an early 20th-century radical poet.
  •  The Distant Marvels, by Chantel Acevedo. Her novel is set in Cuba from the 1860s to the 1960s. We’ve been to Cuba twice and appreciate the pictures Ms. Acevado paints with her words.
  • The Mapmaker’s Wife: A True Tale of Love, Murder, and Survival in the Amazonby Robert Whitaker. A book that tells the engrossing story of her solo trip down the Amazon River to reunite with her husband. A great and true adventure.
  • The Tomb of Seville, by Norman Lewis
  • A Marriage of Opposites, Alice Hoffman
  • The Art of Memoir, by Mary Karr
  • The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative, by Vivian Gornick.

Thanks to all!    Please keep those titles coming and tell me why you like them.


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10 thoughts on “Carnaval – again!

  1. Thought of you as our book club read Gloria Steinem’s autobiography. Expect you have read it…and/or knew her personally at some point in your life!

  2. Yes great photos and I’d love the hear the music. One more book to add to the list. A wonderfully written and impassioned account a living a year with the Fulanis, the largest nomadic tribe in Sahelian Africa set mainly in Northern Mali where I used to work. Read “Walking with Abel” by Anna Badkhen. The book just came out.


  3. Got it the first time, but it was lovely to see again. What wonderful photos!

    I just read Ursula LeGuin’s The Telling for the third time. It’s about trying to understand other cultures and the difficulties of withholding judgement. It really resonated for me after our recent visit to Canar.

  4. Wonderful photos! I thought I saw Michael in one of the close-ups of the men (bottom left?). I remember the parade we experienced at Christmas time when I was there! The cooked cuye (and us laughing that they made us “cuye–sy”). How great that you have a musical partner now! I’m wondering why I don’t have any of those colorful fabrics in my collection! Love,Lisa

  5. Love your Photos wish I was there in person. I live vicariously thru you. would love to have a CD of the music.

  6. HI Lisa – no, not Michael in sunglasses and scarf (wait until I show him!) but you’ll see him next Chronicle, where he’ll be featured in domestic updates. Come anytime to collection textiles for your collection. You can grab a skirt and blouse too!

  7. Judy, las fotos son impresionantes. Esas celebraciones parecen sacadas de mundos mágicos y extraños pero son reales aquí y ahora. ¿Qué felicidad tener a una etnomusicóloga contigo, eso es perfecto. Te mando una gran abrazo.


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