A nativity scene the size of a small house burnt in Cusco’s main plaza last night, just minutes into 2017, as celebrations & fireworks exploded all around. Given the volume & size of fireworks exploding in the plaza, the fire was no real surprise. No doubt Peru’s political/catholic establishment will pray this is not a portent of things to come in 2017. See film of fire and film of midnight in the plaza (both utube) and news report (in spanish).
Very much unlike the UK, health & safety is not such a major concern in Cusco/Peru. As far as we could see none of the fireworks exploding in & above Cusco were part of an organised display. Instead individuals & small groups take it upon themselves to buy fireworks of varying sizes, and then let them off when the time comes – in the street, out of windows, from handheld tubes, or just handheld. Mega fireworks are openly on sale in Cusco’s markets & streets, and indeed in the main plaza last night. Unsurprisingly amidst the excitement & noise, there are accidents! This fire was eventually extinguished by firefighters who’d struggled to access the plaza, most of the nativity scene was destroyed, although some of the figurines in it were saved. The actual nativity scene had been created by local Andean artisans in honour of deceased Peruvian artist Antonio Olave Palomino, and installed in the square on 21 December, but almost certainly had not been fireproofed at all.
We however had mised this drama! We’d been in the Plaza until about 11.30pm, before taking off up the hill behind the cathedral. Our group had decided to get up high and look out over Cusco at midnight, so a fast lung-busting 20minute climb later saw us seated with drinks on a patch of green wasteland next to a friend’s apartment overlooking much of Cusco. From here we were treated to a majestic display of fireworks & very loud bangs across the whole city from about 11.50pm to 12.15am. Our cameras couldn’t do it justice, but this film (utube again) from last night gives you an idea.
We skipped back down the hill around 2am to our hostel. The main plaza may have been cleared, but there were plenty of people still partying in bars & out in the streets, with plenty of fireworks still banging away. Yet today when we wandered around the main plaza & centre nearly all the rubish & mess had been cleared away, as had the remnants of the nativity scene. And its 2017…