Hot Chocolate and Togetherness in Cuzco
By Hebert Edgardo Huamani Jara (translation by David Knowlton)
Christmas in Cuzco is a time of much demand for products and services, commercialism is strong, but it is also a time of brotherhood. To build this solidarity many groups in the city organize feasts, dinners and especially what are called chocolatadas in honor of the birth of the Christ Child.
For chocolatadas, groups get together and raise money and donations to prepare and serve hot chocolate and biscochos, a light sweet bread with raisins, along with gifts of toys for children. They then either serve it for the groups members and family, or they open their doors to the public. In general these chocolatadas are very popular. They are held in all the different points of the city, but especially in the local markets. It has become a custom of the entire city.
Since December is a time when the rains are generally strong and the evenings and nights, as well as sometimes the days are cold, we are not talking cold in solely temperature, but in terms of wind chill due to the high humidity. The cold is particularly penetrating and even at home it is hard to escape. As a result people bundle up with lots of clothes on, at the same time many people catch colds.
At this time when everyone feels the climate, a time of the solstice, Cusqueños ban together to not only show solidarity, but to literally give everyone warmth in a cup of hot chocolate. Public and private institutions. as well as other organizations do this to integrate people in society, ike for example children, especially poor children. Not only do they share hot chocolate and biscochos with them during this season, they also give them gifts.
Children, and often their families, come from miles away to stand in line for the hot chocolate and gifts. Sometimes families even sleep in the streets while waiting. The joy of the children when they get their plastic toys–little cars, toy soldiers, pistols and dolls– is contagious. There is nothing like holding them in your own hands. This makes Christmas a special time. It is not some mythical nordic Santa Claus who is giving them gifts but the social institutions of the city.
The motive for organizing these events is solely the desire to share with children, young people, and adults.
For example the Networks of Youth (Redes de Jóvenes) — an organization of youths in Cusco dedicated to the well being of the community– prepares hot chocolate and biscochos to bring together neighbors together. They also carry buckets of hot chocolate to the markets to share with all the children who come from the countryside with their parents bringing Christmas ornaments to sell.
Many families also organize chocolatadas with biscochos in remote parts of the city for all the children and old people of the city.
In addition to all the other institutions, the municipallities also organize chocolatadas for the people who come from all parts of Cuzco, even distant communities. They come to receive a cup of hot chocolate which is a demonstration of solidarity of the political authorities with the community.
This part of the Christmas season is a time in Cusco where chocolatadas appear all over the city, from day to day. As a result, though a time when damp cold seems to reign, it is a time of solidarity and warmth. This may be part of the reason why Cuzco is a place with a strong sense of identity and solidarity.
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