After getting up at 6:30am this morning, I was on a fruit truck at 7:30am for a 30 minute ride to Huilloc to meet with Raul. Raul is one of the new Mosqoy students, so I hadn’t met him yet since he isn’t living in the house in Cusco and since there is no mobile phone service in his town I was having an impossible time confirming our appointment. Even though we had confirmed the appointment with his father 3 weeks ago, I was heading up there without knowing if Raul would even be at home. After arriving about 8am and asking a few people which direction their house was it didn’t take me long to find it. I first saw his two younger brothers, about 10 and 3, and then his mother. It also didn’t take me long to realize that they had no idea that I was coming. At least that’s the way it seemed to me. Either Raul’s father never passed along the information, or everyone had completely forgotten. After all, their quiet Sunday morning was now disrupted by the odd site of a 6’7” white man sitting down to their kitchen table. But as always in the communities I’ve visited here, they were extremely welcoming and within 20 minutes I was being fed.
In total the family was the mother and 4 children. Raul is the oldest of these, followed by his sister and then the two younger brothers I saw initially. The littlest one was actually 2 ½ and named Guido. Once again here was a small child that couldn’t keep his eyes off me. Even though he had a great smile and lots of energy, this one was a bit shyer with me and it took a while to get him to interact. The family and I just chatted generally for a long while and we started to get along well. I really liked Raul and could tell that he was making a real effort to get conversations going. He is going to be studying tourism in Cusco so I thought this was a really good start for him being able to understand tourists. Just after 9am we moved outside to catch a bit of the sun and warm up while we chatted some more.
It was then that something quite weird happened. Raul’s mother, through Raul since her Quechua is much better than her Spanish, asked if I would like to be Guido’s godfather and cut his hair. I was a bit shocked and certainly confused, but also extremely intrigued and slightly afraid of offending them if I said anything other than yes. I also remembered that Ashli had said that she is a godparent to a few children, and with her busy schedule I figured it couldn’t be that strenuous a role. After a quick set-up, which involved putting some flower petals in a bowl, I had a pair of scissors in my hand and was cutting a small child’s hair. With each cut I was putting the clippings into the bowl on top of the flower petals. The whole experience was entirely confusing to me, but I really felt like I was being pulled into this family at the same time. After I finished I was holding Guido and having a photo taken as his new godfather. And all of this was within less than two hours of meeting everyone in the room!
When I got back to the house that afternoon Ashli explained the process to me. Apparently there are 3 types of godparents here in Peru, which I have to imagine is yet another combination of Quechua traditions with Catholicism, although that hasn’t been confirmed by anyone. The first is the serious one that I tend to know from Catholicism and that’s the godparent who is named at the child’s baptism. This is really the big one and would most certainly be someone that is close to the child’s family. That wasn’t me of course. The second is the hair cutting godparent, which is me! This is the person that gives the child there first haircut. Normally this is done in a large ceremony with lots of family and friends around, but mine was a much calmer affair. Ashli did mention that Peruvians often like to choose a foreigner for this one because they want it to be someone that has money, something that nearly all of the foreigners that come here will have when compared to rural Peruvians. Anyway, I don’t think it involves much more than staying in touch and sending a few presents occasionally, which is definitely not a problem for me. And then I mentioned that there is a third one, but I completely forget what that one is. After she explained the one that I am I suppose I just stopped listening.