Cajamarca, a mountain city of some 200,000 people and capital of the Cajamarca region of northern Peru, has long been a centre of historical and cultural importance.
Visitors flock from all over the world to visit it’s renowned thermal springs and the place where Atahualpa, the last Inca ruler, was double crossed and slain by Spanish Conquistador Francisco Pizarro.
Now however, the city is gaining a reputation for hosting Peru’s craziest carnival, opening with what may be Latin America’s biggest water fight. Every year people descend en masse upon the main square with water balloons, pistols and buckets in hand to engage in a free-for-all that leaves no-one free from an almighty drenching.
Authorities in Cajamarca initially sought to ban the so called “balloon wars” due to concerns over potential damage that might be caused to the city’s architectural heritage.
Detractors of the practice have also claimed that it wastes precious water resources.
Most residents of Cajamarca however have a far more sanguine take on a practice which as one resident told local channel RPP Noticias “does not harm the ozone layer, or anything else” and is really just “good clean fun.”
Such is the popularity and the importance of water ballon throwing in the festivities that the authorities have had no choice, not only to accommodate it, but to officialise it, a move that they hope will keep people away from the main square and the most sensitive heritage sites.
This weekend marked the second official “ballon war”, held in the Qhapaq Ñan complex, a wetland area which the municipality has equipped with a large cistern and hoses for the revellers to fill their balloons.
Prizes, competitions, and, of course, free water balloons were also on offer.
The result was an enjoyable and very wet afternoon at Qhapaq Ñan for families, young and old alike.
However, as can be seen in videos taken of the celebrations on Facebook page Cajamarca Reporteros, the vast majority of people still chose to celebrate in centre of the city with local police largely powerless to stop them beyond breaking a few bags of balloons.
Officials are nevertheless confident that over the next few years Qhapaq Ñan will be the primary battleground for the balloon wars as the celebration that has earned Cajamarca the official congressional title of “Capital of the Peruvian Carnival” only continues to grow in popularity.
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