In the sun, in the shade
Today, the remote village of Cabanaconde in Colca Canyon, Peru feels like a place that’s just rolled out of bed — mussed, shuffle-footed, and a little slow to react. The mood is the same as in that first part of the day when caring about the passing of time is undone by fleshy practicalities like eye-rubbing, head-scratching, and wedgie-picking.
Even on this sun-warmed afternoon, Cabanaconde feels like the morning after a party that went too late. There’s a mess: donkeys, dogs, and sheep have left piled turds all over the streets in such quantity that avoiding them is futile. There’s weariness: doors are shut, sidewalks are empty, businesses are open but the workers aimless.
The whole town seems to be rubbing its temples, groaning a quiet
As we eat our cheap menú del dia lunch at tiny Sol y Sombra restaurant, our limbs thicken with “ma-kul-kee,” a word that means the soreness that results from any time spent exploring Peru’s heights and depths, like our hike deep into Colca Canyon. The spelling of mac-kul-kee is unclear — more important to using the word effectively is to grimace dramatically while extending the closing “eeeee” vowel sound.
We’re the only people in the restaurant besides a woman in the kitchen, cooking our next course, and a young girl, head down in homework at another table.
The noise of brass horns and drums approaches the plaza, just outside the restaurant’s open doorway. The song they play is measured and meditative, unusual emotions that pull my attention away from my cozy, warm bowl of chairo (a soup of dried meat, potato, and vegetables).
I wander over and toe the line on the floor between the restaurant’s unlit interior and the sunny plaza. I’m in the shadows looking out into sun.
“It’s a funeral,” I whisper back to Todd.
About a hundred people enter Cabanaconde’s main plaza and march clockwise, shadowing the footsteps of the musicians and pallbearers. The women wear traditional dresses and broad-brimmed hats, intricately and colorfully embroidered. The men — some bearing the weight of the dead, some brandishing black flags — wear work outfits or casual clothes.
The somber procession disappears into San Pedro Alcántara church, leaving Cabanaconde as quiet and empty as before.
Do you know the spelling for “mac-kul-kee”? Let us know in the comments below.