Festival Patrona happens every July in the jungle village of San Roque De Cumbaza, Peru. I really had no idea what these festivals meant, when I moved here ten years ago.
When my son Jacob was only two and I was struggling to get through the eight day event of loud music and drunk villagers. Daniel (my husband) came running towards me quite excited and asked “can we run the 8 day event – organize it?” I said straight up “No!”
“What are you crazy?” So he put our family’s names on the list. He said it’s ok, our turn is not for another 5 years. Well two families dropped out and we were the next on the list for this year. “What! How can we?” So this is how our year began.
Festival Patrona is an indigenous festival with many traditions. Although some of these traditions are becoming lost as the village moves closer to the modern world. Focusing more on drinking and fun, leaving behind their roots. We wanted to bring these traditions back along with culture and community as the main focus.
Daniel worked really hard for months before the festival bringing together our team of around 20 helpers on the weekends, to discuss ways in which to protect the original intention of these festivals.
This is our story of a family sacrifice to create an 8 day event, for the local village of San Roque De Cumbaza in the heart of the Amazon Rainforest.
This story is taken from the perspective of Trina Lerner Brammah the wife of festival chief organizer Daniel Lerner.
Day One – Children’s entertainment
Daniel had hired a bouncy castle with a slide. Which is a big deal for the local children who have very basic toys. The scene was utter chaos, when I went there with my kids on the first afternoon. There was a 13 year old boy in charge of almost 40 crazy, excited, village children. So between 4pm and 9pm for the next 8 days, I was forced to volunteer at the bouncy, wild castle. In charge of shouting at all the kids so excited to have such a treat in the plaza.
I had forgotten how much I love naughty kid’s. Reminding me of my work in another life back in the UK. That opened my heart so much.
One sole for 10 minutes was the deal. It’s amazing the extent desperate kids will go to for a few minutes of heaven.
‘so what can I get for 50 centimos’
‘is it free’
‘no, one sole for 10 minutes’
‘so can I have a go for free?’
‘go on then’
Went on like that every day, kids sneaking on, driving me crazy. Let’s just say every kid in the village, had a few goes.
Day 2 – Mural Art in the theme of Peruvian Myths and Ledgends
Daniel was clever to invite me, to be on the list as a mural artist. Got me out of his way for the first two days. happy hanging out with some of Peru’s most talented mural artists.
Hanging out with artists:
Breakfast and lunch, chatting around the fire, in the communal, festival kitchen, while the event helpers, prepared food.
The artists were always drinking coffee in the morning. looking a bit deep, thinking about their art work.
“That t-shirt, you got on is really cool, where did you buy it?” I asked Jose Silva “My work” he said “wow really!” These dudes were really something special. So we had a few wines and had some amazing chats about art, the world and shamanism. Making art for the same reason, with the same consciousness. I was at the right mural party. Super cool, nice, interesting, healer, and loving, soft – beautiful artists. First gift of the festival.
Feeding the festival guests – kitchen mayhem.
Daniel had invited a family from Chazuta to help in the kitchen ‘Maria Elena’ became everyone’s mother and friend. Wow, the most amazing food. She cooked every day for 30 to 40 people sometimes. Getting up at 2am in the morning with our team of helpers, to make rosquitas and chicha – the traditional festival food.
“What are you daft? Do you think I’m getting up at that time?”
SORRY IF THIS ARTICLE OFFENDS VEGETARIANS – THE COW LIVED A FREE LIFE – THIS WAS AN INDIGENOUS FESTIVAL – FOUR COMMUNITIES WERE INVITED FOR THE FEAST.
The more time spent in the festival kitchen, I realized that these people were my jungle family – my people. So beautiful, our people of trust. And I love everyone’s kids they play with our kids at home. So this massive house of people cooking and cleaning for free, getting a bit tipsy as they worked. Became our family for the week. I had no idea that would happen. I am just a westerner after all and community celebration is not in our culture anymore.
Day 3 The Pandilla Music
Music comes, oh yes! The rhythm, gets ya. For some reason my fear of what people thought of me had disappeared. Being the center of attention in a village is quite scary. Then the tiredness, adrenaline and need to make things happen, just takes over. I was set on fire with energy. Feeling so at home in the cooking house where the music played all day. With a room where people danced and bought beer. Danced like in my own living room, with all the visitors watching the ‘Gringa Loca’ (crazy white girl).
All night cooking frenzy.
We all broke off from moving to the beat when a massive cows head carried on a stick, a belly and a leg came through the dance floor. A kitchen table full of dead cow. Time to feed all the communities, everyone at the party and all our families. Marie Elena from Chazuta had been cooking all day and now there was a dead cow on the table. What do we do? Our main chef has gone to bed. I had bouncy castle duty. “I’m not cutting up and cooking no dead cow! I’m a vegetarian” I cried.
At 9pm our kids and the cooking team’s children were all wide awake. Cenida , Lizeth and the rest of the team were all chopping the meat in a panic. We have to get this cow in the pot. I was on kid’s duty so we all went dancing. Eventually they all dropped at about 11pm.
So I got to work on the carrots. “I’m not chopping, no dead cow!” Lizeth would laugh her head off. “Get the wine out Trina and peal that bucket of garlic.” As part of the festival there was a barrel of wine for the workers and musicians. At 12pm things start to get a little crazy, drunk men come into the house. Lizeth with a plastic bag on her head, smiling. On a mission to get the cow in that pot. Fire going outside, piggy back rides.
“I will just pop out for a dance, back in a minute.”
Chopped the onions then, peeled the garlic. “so what should we do with the tomatoes? Peel them, no clean them – peel them.” Some friends pop in squeeze a few oranges, for the sauce. A mad hatter’s tea party that night. I will never forget it though. One of my top ten favorite nights of all time. I fell asleep on the floor with my kids at 4am, the cooks carried on until the early hours. Then Maria Elena came back on the scene, we are saved!
To be continued……