~ Laura from Mommy Maleta
I am six months in to my new job as an English teacher for a kindergarten class in Lima, Peru. While I have spent plenty of time stretching my mouth and wrinkling my nose to teach my five year olds some tricks to produce short vowel sounds, I have also been learning.
Most recently, I learned how Peruvians celebrate Fiestas Patrias. One of the most important celebrations of the year, the holiday commemorates the day that Peru gained its independence from the Spanish Empire.
Interestingly, the celebration actually spans 2 days: July 28th and 29th. The 28th focuses on Peru’s independence and the 29th honors Peru’s Armed Forces and National Police.
Rather than give you an outsider’s report on the holiday, however, let’s peek into the classrooms and spill out into the hallways of my new school and see how the students and staff celebrate.
First of all, whether it’s a birthday party, or a school event, invitations are both very important and very inclusive in Lima. For most of my student’s birthday parties, for example, the entire class including the teachers (yes multiple) are invited. This is a portion of the beautiful invitation that our school sent out for Fiestas Patrias.
The theme for the school’s night time, Fiestas Patrias event translated into English is, “We are architects of our culture.” In order to display this theme the students and staff presented a parade which reminded me a lot of the opening ceremonies at the Olympics. Rather than countries filing in, however, each class represented a region or time period within Peruvian history.
The parade began with a brief video presentation highlighting some of the beautiful landscape of Peru set to a backdrop of patriotic music. It was followed by a military march led by some of the high school boys, a salute to the Peruvian flag, and the singing of Peruvian national anthem.
Next the Peruvian culture’s architecture was represented both by video, and first through fifth graders fully costumed, to accurately recreate the progression of indigenous cultures that comprised the country’s history. The grade levels entered in as follows:
Third Graders (my middle daughter’s class): Representing the Chavin & Paracas Cultures
Fourth Graders: Representing the Moche and Tiahuanaco Cultures
Fifth Graders: Representing the Huari, Lambayeque, and Chimú Cultures
First Graders: Representing The Inca Culture
Then the parade shifted from the ancient time periods to show the three geographic regions of Peru. About sixty Pre-K cuties filed in representing the following regions.
Pre-3: La Selva or Jungle Region
Pre-4: La Sierra or Mountain Region
Kindergarten: La Costa or Coastal Region
After the darling regional procession, the tone switched dramatically. The second graders represented the conquest, and the history of Peru unfolded with these events.
Second Graders: The Conquest
Sixth Graders: The Viceroyalty time period and and the founding of universities
Seventh Graders: Precursors to Peruvian Independence
Student representation of José de San Martín, the general who won Peru’s independence.
Eight Graders: War in the Pacific
Ninth Graders: Republic Aristocracy
Tenth Graders: Return to Democracy
Some speeches, a traditional folk dance, and a grand finale horse show concluded the parade, but it also signaled the dinner bell. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, students, teachers, and anyone else who was lucky enough to be around, enjoyed typical Peruvian dishes and chicha, purple corn juice, until about 9 pm.
Both my daughters discovered they liked anticucho, or cow heart, that night. I still haven’t tried it. My girls say it tastes like spicy steak.
But that is the beauty of experiencing another culture. I could have never convinced my daughters to eat anticucho. But surrounded by the sights, smells, friends, and patriotic excitement of a new country, they embraced the invitation to try something new. I think that is what we will all remember most about our first Fiestas Patrias in Peru.
Mommy Maleta is a world traveling mother of 3 who can also be found on tennis courts, soccer fields, sipping coffee with friends and reading in comfy corners.