The dances at the Festival of the Virgin revolve around specific intercultural interactions among many different groups in the region. The Cocasaru dance depicts men in yellow masks with a green or black stain painted under the chin of each dancer. The Cocasaru masks depict people from the yunka or the Amazon rainforest. The yellow paint represents yellow fever, a serious disease common to the jungle, or alternatively, jaundice. The green or black stain depicts reliance on the infamous coca leaf, known for its properties that alleviate hunger, nausea, and fatigue. This dance emphasizes the poverty and challenges of live in the Amazonian lowlands.
This dance also emphasizes poverty and the trials of jungle life.
Object 2015.6.6: Cocasaru mask
The yellow skin and stain on the left cheek indicate the affliction of yellow fever and addiction to chewing coca leaf.
Object 2015.6.7: Cocasaru hat
The hat is made from felted wool.
The dance of the Cocasaru relates to chronicles compiled by the Quechua nobleman Guaman Poma, on the ill treatment of the native people during the Spanish conquest. His chronicles were originally compiled as letters and drawings to the King of Spain (Phillip II and III) to expose the cruel treatment that the local Spanish authorities had brought upon the Andean people. Guaman Poma relied on the traditions of caricature that the Spanish had towards the lowland or jungle people. In the dance of Cocasaru, this caricature of representing the lowlanders still thrives in the annual dances at Paucartambo.
Guaman Poma Letter. Images from The Guaman Poma Website.
(left) a Shuar man from Antisuyu or Eastern region of the Incan empire. The Shuar are an Amazonian tribe found in the Peruvian Amazon.
(middle) Antisuyu Indians singing, dancing, and playing music. The drawing denotes a discussion on the “strange” rituals performed in the Andean region.
(right) The skeleton being buried in the tree denotes another “strange” ritual from the Andes through the depiction of how some of the dead were buried.
Prepared by Kathleen B. Connell