Folklore: the Guinea Pig Festival
December 1, 2016
It looks like in Europe there are two things people know about Peru: that Machu Picchu is there and that people eat guinea pig.
If you are not among those who do know it, let me shine some light on the topic. That cute, little furry thing you used to have as a pet when you were a child, is actually food here.
Cuy, as it is called in Spanish, has been part of the local cuisine since the pre-Inca times, and Peruvians just love it. Roasted or fried, cuy is a true delicacy. It is often cooked whole (that is with head, eyes, teeth, ears and claws) and served with potatoes and rice.
I decided to wait a week before trying the local dish. Not because of my soft feelings for the furry little thing (which is not, as I thought, that little in the end), but because I was lucky enough to come in time for the local guinea pig festival.
The picturesque town of Jesús, South of Cajamarca, is situated 2555 MASL. Last Sunday, its Plaza de Armas got filled with people celebrating the 101st anniversary of the town, and the 7th Guinea Pig Festival.
Music, colors, and dances invade this sleepy mountain town and bring it back to life for a few days.
But the guest of honor is, of course, the guinea pig. Both alive or dead, the cuy is indeed the main attraction of the day. People come from the neighboring villages to proudly show their guinea pigs that they raise in their farms or houses and to participate to the guinea pig contest. The guinea pigs are divided per category and awarded according to the best fur, the heaviest cuy, or the best… costume!
At the end of the contest, the judges elect the king and queen of guinea pigs, and the party goes on with live music until late at night.