This past Friday at the training center, we celebrated the Día de la Canción Criolla which (if you haven’t figured it out already) translates to Day of the Creole Song. For a little history break down, this holiday was established in 1944 to honor music that has origins in colonial Afro-Peruvian culture. Over time cancion criolla grew to include not only musical influences from Africa but from Spain and the Andes as well. Some of the music included in the Cancion Criolla genre are the Marinera (Peru’s national dance), the Lando, and the Festejo.
I, for one, was super hype about this because learning about Afro Peruvian culture makes the piece of paper that says I have a BA in African American Studies proud and my heart go pitter patter as well. Our training staff did an amazing job at coordinating this day – Most notably on
all the mouth-watering Peruvian classics. We had arroz con leche classico – Which is basically like a rice pudding with something called mazamora morada on top. Mazamorra Morada is this sweet gelatin like substance that Peruvians love. We also enjoyed a delicious little treat known as picarones. Those are basically like little rings of fried dough ecstasy that are topped with syrup or honey – you can wipe the drool from your face now, thanks. Last but never least in Peru we indulged in anticuchos. Anticuchos are beef hearts and are extremely popular here. You can see people grilling and selling them on a stick on almost every corner. At first, I was very hesitant to try them but I soon found out they are all that and a bag of chips, the bees knees, and the bomb dot com all rolled up into one. They were tender, seasoned excellently, and honestly tasted like any other part of the cow that I’ve eaten.
On top of all the muy rico food, each language group (we learn Spanish in groups according to
our levels) focused on a special dance or performance. Our group learned the Festejo – a tradionally Afro-Peruvian Dance (again my AfAm heart goes pitter patter). So let me break yall off with another history lesson real quick:
The Festejo was created by enslaved Africans on the coast of Peru. The majority of enslaved Africans in Peru came from the Congo, Angola, and Mozambique and African slavery was focused on the coast because they were not accustomed to the cold climate of the sierra. As in all other countries where there were enslaved Africans, Afro Peruvians mixed the music and dance of their ancestors with the elements of the music and dance of their oppressors. The Festejo is supposed to be a sensual rhythmic dance representative of virility, youth, love, and vigor.
Many times, the clothing used when dancing festejo are purposely reminiscent of the clothing of enslaved Africans. The women generally wear a flowing colorful or plain white dress with a head scarf and the men generally wear black pants with a white shirt or sometimes no shirt at all. The dance is also done completely without shoes.
We only really had a day to practice and one day I would love to learn more. Anywho, why continue to talk about it when there’s video of us droppin’ it low in an Afro-Peruvian context for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!