Annoying Carnival Water Games
The start of February marked the start of Carnival here in South America, and with it comes a particularly annoying tradition: Ambushing people with water.
I had hoped this practice was isolated to Peru alone, but it seems to be overwhelmingly prevalent in southern Ecuador as well. Men, women, children, and moving vehicles become targets for young (and sometimes old) pranksters.
I'm having a hard time walking around the streets of Loja comfortably. I'm constantly scanning the sidewalk for signs of wetness—an indicator that a bucket full of water might be poured on my head from above—or the gleam of a neon-colored water gun in the hands of a smiling, wild-eyed assailant.
Adding to the attacker's watery arsenal (of super soakers, buckets, pitchers, hoses, bottles, and balloons) is the use of cans of spray foam, which effectively cover a target in a heavy mist of white cream.
Now I'm all for fun and games, but when I'm carrying an expensive, water-sensitive digital camera in my pocket, it's nerve-racking to walk the streets. Not only that, but I find it quite cold here (I'm in a fleece pullover and long pants 24/7), and getting colder because I'm wet isn't exactly an appealing proposition.
It was only a matter of time before I got hit though, and this afternoon was the day. The left side of my body was covered in water from a wet, flirty teenage girl with a plastic bag who apparently thought it would be a fun icebreaker to toss the contents on me. I was not pleased, but at least spun in time to protect the camera.
In Lima, the government is trying to contain the mayhem:
If the person involved in the 'attack' is aware that they may cause bodily harm, this is punishable by law, said Luis Lamas Puccio, a UN National Correspondent for Peru in Criminal Law. Lamas explained that when adults were injured charges were up to eight years in prison.
On the other hand, if a minor is injured, charges can be up to 10 years. "Problems arise when, because of carnival, there are injuries and even deaths. If a water balloon is thrown at a vehicle, the motorist could lose control and die", assured the legal specialist.
According to Peru's national police, on the last Sunday of February 2007, 80 people had to be treated for injuries while 1,068 people were caught attacking pedestrians or vehicles—excusing themselves because it was carnival.
Some quotes from an article about the problems (on livinginperu.com):
On paper, this should be a happy and joyous time of year for many law-biding citizens, unfortunately for most it is not. This is a stupid and dangerous time of the year, used by some to inflict pain and suffering on others. Women are humiliated at random by idiots throwing/spraying water on their clothes for sexual reasons. Some women are scared to leave their houses because they know they will be targeted. People are attacked with water balloons while in motor cars on scooters or motorbikes, thus causing many accidents. Businesses and homes are damaged because some idiots prefer using paint (in some case urine) instead of water. I hate this time of year in Iquitos. It gives the malicious and hateful a chance to act even more reckless than normal. My property has been damage before and my wife embarrassed.
A lot of Peruvians that I know are scared to be in Lima for Feb. They would rather travel to Arequipa or even outside the country if at all possible during the month. They all have stories of being attacked and not only getting wet, but also having things that they are carrying (official paperwork, documents, expensive books, etc) destroyed. It's a pretty ugly tradition.
(sigh)… I really preferred the anonymous kissing of Brazil's Carnival, to the watery terror of Peru and Ecuador's celebrations.