Clausura – Closing ceremony


Photo: Sue with teachers and community members

The night before our project’s closing ceremony, I laid out my clothes and reminded ten year old Sudit and her parents that they were invited to wear traditional clothes for our Friday morning celebration.
They seemed very hesitant about it, so I told them Alejandro Galiano would be there, and I showed them videos of local kids reading aloud in Kucya that I had filmed the day before. They were thoroughly engaged and wanted to watch as child after child read aloud.
Elena went upstairs and came down with her traditional pollera (a black skirt covered with a combination of store-bought and homemade embroideries and weavings.) She modeled her montera for me ( a large, flat hat with wool trim and home-made beaded chin straps. I asked where I could buy a traditional pollera and she said in Huancarani but it would cost at least 1000 soles or more than 300 US dollars. She has had hers for nearly twenty years. Sudit came down wearing her own traditional pollera which was a bit small, and everyone started to dance. Then they wanted me to try the pollera on, and dance.
Elena said I should wear the pollera to school on Friday. I said I would be proud to, but would rather have her there to wear it herself.
In the morning, she insisted she would not go; she would be embarrassed. I asked if I could offer the pollera to the teacher Margarita to wear, since I would mostly be filming and not speaking.
Friday morning, it looked like Margarita was not going to put it on, since she claimed she lacked the proper shoes. But five minutes before everything started, there she was, wearing the pollera.
Alejandro, his flute player Ramiro, and Martin all arrived around 7:30 am. Kids showed up at 8:30 and a handful of parents; we made a large circle of chairs outside, played some music and gradually more townspeople began to show up. At first only two or three kids were wearing traditional dress, but in the course of an hour, adults and children alike seemed to appear from nowhere in traditional dress.
Children read some of the stories they had written during the project. Others told riddles and read aloud from books. Adults spoke about the project, including myself. I said: “Teachers will tell you they are there to teach, but really they are there to learn. Thank you for teaching me about the things that live in your schoolyard and your town these past weeks…They say that there are three thousand languages in danger of extinction within our lifetime; please do not let Quechua be one of them.”
Alejandro spoke about native language education and thanked my research group for its three year study of child Quechua in the region. Martin spoke, and my compadre Ignacio put on traditional dress in order to speak on behalf of the Town Council. He gave a brief history of the town, which he said was originally settled by people who spoke Aymara, a language that is different from Quechua but has been in contact for centuries. Ccotatóclla means “Scarce water plain” in Aymara.
At the end, the drummers and flute began to play; Margarita and others started to dance with me, and the next thing I knew, someone was dressing me in traditional clothing for more dances. We danced and danced until it was time for lunch; I went back to pack and say goodbye to my hosts. Elena and Sudit cried and said they thought I wouldn’t return, but I reminded them that I would be back with my daughter and niece in less than a month.
I caught the teachers’ van at 2:00 pm and we descended the dirt road for the next three hours, ending up in San Jerónimo just before dark. Martin and I headed to his home; I went to call my family and he was off to teach a series of weekend workshops in an even more remote rural village by 8:00 pm.

One thought on “Clausura – Closing ceremony

  1. steve in nc

    I just got sent the link to your blog – I hadn't realized you were doing it again, my dear fashionista friend. What a treat! And now maybe you are done. I'll read backward in small chunks and also look in case you post more with stories of the girls. I hope their trip down went well.Back here in El Norte, people who dance (at least on TV where it seems most of the dancing takes place) are wearing less and less (is that the ultimate traditional garb?). If you can bring back one of those hats, maybe you could dance with my dad, who will of course be decked out in his kilt, blouse and matching hat.I always learn from your observations on culture and language. Reading back to your opening entries for this summer, I've learned why people always used to call me "supay"!I wish I could send some warmth down to you – it was 79 degrees here at 10:00 this evening. Be well, travel safe. Love to you and the girls from the relatively little mountains of Appalachia.

    Reply

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