National Geographic : 1990 Jun
Enduring Echoes of OFFING HIS MASK, a member of Los Panchi tos dance troupe takes a breather from vigor ous street dancing during a mid year festival in Monsefu, a town on the northern coast of Peru. With its origins deep in the past, the dance pokes fun at figures of the present. Coursing through the streets, the dancers enact a sort of morality play in which the wry dramas of everyday life are played out to the amusement of spectators. The finger of ridicule points to a landowner who abuses peasant workers, a judge who decides cases in favor of the rich, a priest who asks for money-indeed, some priest masks have horns. Though the dances, found throughout Peru, take place within the context of Roman Catholic religious festivals, they originated in pre-Christian times. "Through the Spanish chroniclers we can trace their roots at least to the Inca, and no doubt they go back much further than that," says Andean scholar Guillermo Cock. Thus the people of the north coast of Peru hold dual citizen ship in the worlds of past and present. Their passports are the activities and arts of the Moche and other cultural predecessors that still endure-dances, pottery, weaving, boat making, ceremonies for the curing of the sick, and the ubiquitous chicha, corn beer brewed here from ancient times.