Thursday, December 22, 2011

Out of Site: Virgencita de Caacupe, and the Swearing Out of G-31.

I spent several days out of site a few weeks ago (but only now have an internet connection strong enough to post this update). But thanks to some wonderful friends, I got the opportunity to do one of the most quintessential Paraguayan traditions. I participated in the pilgrimage to Caacupe. Its hard to describe the role the Virgencita de Caacupe plays in the Paraguayan culture. In the space of about a week, around 300,000 people go to Caacupe, cumulating on the 8th of December. The majority of pilgrims walk at least part of the way there. For the rest of the year, Caacupe has a population of only 42,000, and Paraguay itself only has a population of around 6,460,000. So having 300,000 people converge on one spot is phenomenal.

For me, the most fascinating part of the experience was the sensation of walking together with thousands of other people. It’s a fun, celebratory atmosphere. We walked from 9pm to 1am on the night of the 7th. Walking at night has the benefit of avoiding the intense summer heat, and considering we are walking up one of the largest hills in the country, that is important.

Many people come to pray for a miracle, or to give thanks for prayers answered in the past year. But many people (not just Yankees like me), come merely for the experience of participating in a longstanding, uniquely Paraguayan, cultural tradition.

This photo is from a visit to the church last year. During festival de Caacupe, it was much to crowded to get past the courtyard.

I definitely want to do it again next year, and walk maybe two or three times the distance. I’m much to lazy/out of shape to do a marathon (or any sort of running honestly), but I can walk of ages! I’m also thinking about trying to bike it. Anyone want to join me?

The day after walking to Caacupe, I went to the G-31 despideda (goodbye party). I’m G-34, so G-31 was my sister G. They means they were the agriculture and environmental education group that swore in a year before us. When we swore in they had already been here a year. Now that they have sworn out, that means…. I have been in my site for a whole year, and a new Ag and EE group (G-37) has sworn in. We are now the older, more experience G! I didn’t really feel much last year when the old group swore out just as we were swearing in. After all, I hardly knew them. But this year it has been hard saying goodbye to people I have come to respect and gotten to know well. I no longer have wise seasoned Ag volunteers to turn to when I have a question (actually I still have the talented Ag coordinator). It’s the first time that a G has sworn out, and I have really felt the loss. I miss you G-31.

1 comment:

  1. Good morning how are you?

    My name is Emilio, I am a Spanish boy and I live in a town near to Madrid. I am a very interested person in knowing things so different as the culture, the way of life of the inhabitants of our planet, the fauna, the flora, and the landscapes of all the countries of the world etc. in summary, I am a person that enjoys traveling, learning and respecting people's diversity from all over the world.

    I would love to travel and meet in person all the aspects above mentioned, but unfortunately as this is very expensive and my purchasing power is quite small, so I devised a way to travel with the imagination in every corner of our planet. A few years ago I started a collection of letters addressed to me in which my goal was to get at least 1 letter from each country in the world. This modest goal is feasible to reach in the most part of countries, but unfortunately it’s impossible to achieve in other various territories for several reasons, either because they are countries at war, either because they are countries with extreme poverty or because for whatever reason the postal system is not functioning properly.

    For all this I would ask you one small favour:
    Would you be so kind as to send me a letter by traditional mail from Paraguay? I understand perfectly that you think that your blog is not the appropriate place to ask this, and even, is very probably that you ignore my letter, but I would call your attention to the difficulty involved in getting a letter from that country, and also I don’t know anyone neither where to write in Paraguay in order to increase my collection. a letter for me is like a little souvenir, like if I have had visited that territory with my imagination and at same time, the arrival of the letters from a country is a sign of peace and normality and a original way to promote a country in the world. My postal address is the following one:

    Emilio Fernandez Esteban
    Avenida Juan de la Cierva, 44
    28902 Getafe (Madrid)

    If you wish, you can visit my blog, where you can see the pictures of all the letters that I have received from whole World.

    Finally I would like to thank the attention given to this letter, and whether you can help me or not, I send my best wishes for peace, health and happiness for you, your family and all your dear beings.

    Yours Sincerely