This weekend on 11th April, people from all over the San Cristobal district of Peru’s Southern Moquegua region will gather in the community of Sijuaya to celebrate the annual Charango festival (Sarawja – charango de oro). In the local Aymara language Sarawya means “I’m leaving”. Given this name because the festival takes place after carnival celebrations, it is like a closing ceremony bringing together all the families from the communities.
The Charango is a traditional Andean stringed instrument. It originated in Quechua and Aymara communities in post Columbian times and was most likely based on the vihuela brought by the Spanish conquistadores. They were originally made from the shell of an armadillo but are now more commonly made from wood. There are some interesting stories about why the Charango was made with its armadillo shell back. One story is that the local people at the time didn’t have the know-how to shape the wood in such a way;, another story is that because the Spanish did not allow the local people to play their traditional music so the Charango was their answer, a lute like instrument hat could be hidden under their ponchos.
The festival this weekend is an important cultural event in the area, and in Peru as it represents Peru’s rich cultural heritage.