Expat writer Barbara Drake describes how she got pulled into doing the “Whipping Dance” at 15,000 feet above sea level.
El Fotografo and I were making friend with our camping neighbors — a comparsa from Cusco — at the Qoyllur Rit’i pilgrimage last weekend, when suddenly one of the young dancers snatched me by the arm.
“Come on, dance,” she said.
No, I said, several times — No to the satin skirt being pinned around my (enormous) down jacket, No to the elaborate flat hat (montera) being strapped on my head, No to the leather whip being thrust in my gloved hand.
No, because this gringa didn’t want to risk having a heart attack by foolishly dancing the “Yawar Mayu” (River of Blood) ritual whipping dance at 15,500 feet above sea level.
Not even El Fotografo took my objections seriously: “Look, if you want to get your interviews with them, you have to dance.” He pushed me into the circle of comparsa members that were looking on.
Disconcertingly I noticed a few turistas running over with cameras in hand. I was fair game for all.
So I went along with it…