Few animals are as highly revered in Peru as the cuy, or guinea pig, one of the most popular delicacies in the Andes. And every spring, Peruvians honor the furry rodent with the Cuy Festival—also known as “Festicuy.”
Festicuy is celebrated throughout Peru, but Jesús, one of Cajamarca province’s 12 districts, has hosted its event for over 80 years. Dr. Manuel Cerna Vásquez, mayor of Jesús district’s capital city (also called Jesús), says the objective of the annual festival is to promote the consumption of cuy. The one-day celebration draws a crowd of 3,000 people to the district of 14,240 inhabitants.
Visitors should bring their appetites to Festicuy. There is a wide variety of cuy cuisine available, including cuy in wine sauce, fried cuy and cuy stew served with choclo (maize), another Andean staple. After the food festival, there is also a cuy race and a contest to determine the heaviest cuy. Last year’s winner tipped the scales at 2.8 kilos (6.3 lbs.), beating out four competitors.
But the highlight of the festival is the cuy fashion show, in which farmers present their cuyes in lavish costumes designed to mimic members of society: farmers, miners, school teachers, priests, historical Inca figures, and even brides and grooms. The most creatively dressed pair of cuyes are crowned festival king and queen. The winners are determined by the loudest applause from the audience, and their owners go home with $300 soles ($120).
Besides providing visitors with countless photo ops, Festicuy also offers tourism opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable to the towns in central Peru. Local restaurants generate extra business and bands get publicity from playing in the dance celebration that concludes the event.
For Elard Anton Alvarado of the Municipal District of Jesús, it’s still all about food. At Festicuy, “You can find the best cuy and choclo desserts in the district.”