Last weekend, Matthew, my friend Catherine and I headed down to Chincha for Verano Negro translation “Black Summer”. We took the bus-line Ormeno (I will never ride that dirty bus again). I originally heard about Verano Negro in my trusty “Lonely Planet” book then heard about it over and over again from friends here in Lima. It is the biggest month-long celebration of the year in Chincha, celebrating its Beautiful Blackness! It was an amazing weekend! A beauty pageant, grape stomping, Cajon classes, concerts, dancing and delicious Raspadillas. Click here to read about our first trip to Chincha.
It seemed there wasn’t much going on in the Plaza de Armas of Chincha our first night there so we headed to El Carmen. This was the right move! Because we got to watch El Carmen’s annual Carnival Negro Beauty Pageant.
It was not your typical pageant with the host in a nice suit giving details and statistics of beautiful young ladies as they paraded around the stage at prime time. No, this show started at 10:30 PM (scheduled 9:30 PM) and opened with comedian telling quite a few explicit jokes despite of all the kids in the crowd. The contestants came out dancing to Afro Peruvian music and had to introduce themselves all the while panting in the middle of their choreographed dance routine.
A few of the contestants had cheering sections. All carried large poster pictures of beauty they were supporting. One group of about 20 had long pink balloons that they waved in the air every time their contestant came out. And another group set off mini fireworks for their favorite!
There were also concert performances between each act, including bands and dance groups from other cities in Peru, and even a band from Peru’s rivaling country Chile.
While we were there the pageant had the following sections: a group dance, introductions, another group dance, carnival costumes, swimsuit competition, and the infamous question and answer portion. By 2:00 AM, weary and not sure if they were going to have the evening gown portion of the competition or if they were going to announce the winner- we decided to leave!
My favorite contestant was Fabiola who had the large cheering section waving pink balloons. She earned my applaud during the carnival section of the competition. She wore a white carnival costume with feathers and a large Nefertiti style hat, and held a white sign sprinkled with silver glitter in each hand that read “Bienvenidas” – “Carnival Negro” with a white helium balloon attached to each that she let float away as she reached the end of the stage. I learned the next night that she was the winner!!.
The festivities for Verano Negro in Chincha began the next day. There was a great program schedule of the next two weeks that outlined everything that we could participate in. We decided to attend a grape stomping at the Naldo Navarro bodega (vineyard) and Cajon classes (an Afro-Peruvian drum that is a wooden box with a whole in the back of it) that evening. The grape stomping was supposed to start at high noon so we decided to eat lunch first and arrived with perfect timing at 1:00 PM ! We had a wonderful time, the host was very welcoming. We drank lots of wine and pisco (a Peruvian hard liquor made from grapes), made new friends, enjoyed an Afro-Peruvian band and dance. And yes, of course we got to dance on the grapes!
After all the dancing, eating and drinking we headed back to the main plaza for the Raspadilla Fair and to meet up with my friend Patricia who is originally from Chincha. A Raspadilla is similar to a snow cone, but with finer shaved ice, and they use a super thick syrup in Peruvian fruit flavors of coconut, passion fruit, cherimoya, peach, strawberry, chicha morado, and more.
Around 6:30 PM we head to the 5:00 PM Cajon classes at SOCIAL CREATIVA – again perfect timing. But I did not plan well for drumming, wearing my short green dress. But I didn’t let that stop me, I just wrapped my Vamo ‘pa Chincha t-shirt around me like a diaper and I was ready to go! LOL. We had a great time at a the class, check out this video from the school which also features a great dancerhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTqyTSoKIj4&feature=relmfu
That night we headed back to El Carmen for Carnival Negro. We got to see the Queen of Carnival Negro, a great concert put on by local and international bands from Cuba and Chile. The closing act was – the internationally acclaimed band/group Peru Negro! If you ever have the opportunity to see Peru Negro, you must it is truly is a treat! Then there was a big dance competition hosted by a fabulous “queen” with braids down his back. He brought girls of all racial backgrounds and from all over Peru on stage, to see who could dance to the Afro Peruvian music the best. They all had moves far better than me or any of my friends back home! The girl from Ica won.
It was truly great to see how everyone came out to support Verano Negro and Carnival Negro. People of all races came out to appreciate and celebrate Peru’s African culture.It was a weekend filled will love, music, beauty and culture, one we will always remember.