Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter in Popayan sans chocolate

Bubba, Dixie and Philipe just before the procession reaches us
Easter here is a very different thing that what I've grown up with. For one, there's no chocolate, no bunnies, no hunting. It's much more what it actually reflects - the solemnity around the death of Christ and his resurrection. Even here it is more solemn than I saw in the very catholic Malta a couple of years back. it's a time for families to gather, many visit the 12 stations of the cross while reciting the appropriate prayers and stories, and the procession here was very slow and sad.

Cathedral in Popayan - actually our hostel was in the old convent building adjacent to the dome
On Thursday Philipe, Dixie and Bubba and I arrived after a rather long, read 12 hour bus ride that was 5 hours extended because of a breakdown. Although it enabled us to drink beer and eat copious amounts of ice cream all afternoon, we arrived into a wet Popayan after dark, and were pretty much escorted by a really kind couple to the hostel. Lucky we had called that afternoon to book, as I don't think any of us were up for walking around hunting out somewhere to stay in a city that its centre closed off for processions in the dark and wet.

But we made it in time, headed out to wait for the parade, gave up after 2 minutes and instead hunted out some much needed, 'proper' food. Bubba and Dixie were wowed by some chunky soups, and I feasted on a plump trout while Philipe had a very juicy steak. We did see a bit of the procession - it was slow, very sad, very thumping due to the militar drums, and after about half an hour, I got tired and followed the others back to the hostel.

We were to see the procession again the next night - and it was pretty much the same. It must be hard carrying these very heavy floats (solid silver and timber) for about 4 hours of procession. respect. There are a number of floats - all statues of the virgin mary, and then jesus on the cross and laying down, that proceed very slowly from church to church. Philipe and I cornered ourselves in a Cajero Automatico (ATM) as we arrived a little late to the heaving crowds lining the streets. the procession was quite long and drawn out, but was great to see so many people there to experience it.

On the way up to the 2nd station of the cross
the daytime though was a lot more active - thousands of people flock to Popayan every Semana Santa (the whole week is off for school children, and people work until Wednesday, then have Thurs/Fri off but are back to work Monday) and it really was a family event in Popayan. There was a sort of feria on the way up to the twelve stations of the cross, complete with taffy and bubbles. But on the way up, many groups of people reciting prayers, and many as a family. Perhaps this might be the only time they do this, but I still think a respectful way to understand the reason for the holiday. Much better than the excessive chocolate that we seem to have, even though I do think this is rather tasty:)

The white finish of Popayan makes it a very genteel city
Popayan is another beautiful colonial city (though it was all rebuilt due to an earthquake at the turn of the century). It's white also - like Arequipa, and quite grand, like Sucre, and polished - like Cuenca in Ecuador. Each country seems to have it's pretty city, and Popayan was one of these.

Yesterday though we left the white walls, and headed to see Wolf and Fabiola, a couple we had met biking in northern Chile. Wolf is German but lives here with Fabiola for most of the year in a town called Tulua. It's actually quite nice - very relaxed and completey off the tourist track. Today we moseyed around the town, completing the slow sunday walk in the central plazas where many men were talking and playing serious games of Chess. Nice pace.

On the way back to their house, I got to snack on yet one of my favourite empanandas so far - this time a thinner pastry, with almost a curry potato filling, and best thing - baked over hot coals. Delish. No pic though:( We ended the day with a drink at Fabiola's nephew's bar - a rather swish affair upstairs in town. Sort of white leather lounges, and high wooden stools. Very not south american somehow, but somehow it fit.

Tomorrow we're getting treated to a drive around the Zona Cafatera - the coffee plantations, and then Tues off to see a friend of theirs who actually runs a plantation! Very spoilt. Indeed, the people here are just so genuinely welcoming and friendly! There is also, I'm told and see lots of evidence of - a lot of plastic surgery. Lipo, breast and bum implants. Both the men and women are very beautiful, and it's also the most mixed colours, ethnic backgrounds (though no Asian or pure blonds) that we've seen here in South America.

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