Sitting in the back of my parent’s station wagon driving to Ocean City, MD I’d stare out the window at the houses passing by wondering who lived there, imagining the clever conversations they must be having, the interesting food they must be eating and the great belly laughs that filled their sunshine filled homes. I was ten years old and I romanticized what existed in these houses, believing the lives they led were filled with TV moments. I’m not ten years old anymore but the romantic in me is still thriving. Now my lens has shifted from the houses on Route 50 to the rest of the world. Whether driving through the charming town of Valladolid or walking the tourist filled Avenue des Champs-Elysees I am equally enamored with the history and the landmarks as I am with the daily routine of those that live there.
There is still much of the world I want to see. Thanks to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival I can enjoy a curated glimpse into different countries and cultures and see the people that by simply performing their daily routine are carrying forth traditions.
“Peru is one of the world’s most biodiverse nations, containing ninety microclimates across extreme variances of altitude. The uniqueness of Peru’s diversity lies in the connectedness of its landscape in the form of rivers, roads, and pathways that existed long before the Inka Empire (fifteenth–sixteenth centuries) and Spanish colonization (sixteenth–nineteenth centuries). Across its different altitudes and climates, communities exchange commodities and practices, shaping deeply rooted but constantly changing daily customs and celebrations.
Every year, craft makers from Cangallo province create masks for Three Kings Day (January 6). The masks are used by dance troupes who perform to celebrate Jesus’s birth. With a mixture of flour paste, sugar, and glue Nilo Prado creates masks with different combinations of colors and styles, differentiating the three categories of dancers: guides, children, and machus, or captains.
The Santa Ana neighborhood in Ayacucho is noted for its tapestries characterized by a creative combination of pre-Hispanic and contemporary Western influences. Inspired by the recovery of ancient technology and Wari cultural themes,maestro Alfonso Sulca weaves traditional symbols and patterns with a contemporary aesthetic. His weaving techniques are typical of the region.
Chicha silk-screening is a creation of artists from the central highlands of Junín, who hybridized the prismatic color combinations found on their typical clothing for poster advertisements throughout Peru. Pedro “Monky” Tolomeo is a pioneer of the chicha poster movement in Lima, creating customized phosphorescent posters for iconic groups, including Los Shapis and Chacalón y La Nueva Crema.
“According to our grandfathers, this bridge was built during the time of the Inkas 600 years ago, and on it they walked their llamas and alpacas carrying their produce.”
—Eleuterio Ccallo Tapia
The Inkas built the Q’eswachaka Bridge using a local grass called ichu (Jarava ichu) to make q’oya, braided ropes that could be destroyed after crossing the Apurimac River. Now the bridge is rebuilt annually by members of four Quechua communities: Huinchiri, Chaupibanda, Choccayhua, and Ccollana Quehue, who work together to maintain the tradition. Thanks to their communal effort, the bridge has survived for hundreds of years, acting as a link between the past and the future. Braiding the ropes symbolizes the constant connection of the communities to their traditions.
The Marinera is Peru’s national dance, with roots in the Spanish fandango, African zamacueca, and indigenous couple dances. The dance portrays a couple’s flirtatious pursuit. The woman, in her embroidered pollera (skirt) and handkerchief, teases the man with her graceful movements.”