The Cumpas of Jayaque
A pre-Columbian tradition, celebrated every July 23th is the “Abuts the Cumpas”, an indigenous festival deeply rooted in western El Salvador.
This colorful celebration takes place in the municipality of Jayaque, department of the Libertad, but it originates at the town of Cuisnahuat, province of Sonsonate.
Also known as the “Meeting of the Cumpas” it is a colorful expression of cronyism between people whose patrons are San Lucas at Cuisnahuat and San Cristobal at Jayaque.
There are many versions regarding the origins of this tradition. Many people attribute it to pre-Hispanic indigenous communities from Cuisnahuat, which traveled to the mountains near Jayaque to exchange products like shellfish for medicinal plants such as rue and “chichipince”. This took place at July. The meeting was celebrated with “chicha”, a fermented drink made from corn.
A second theory is based on the belief that Spanish priests in charge of those populations noticed a rivalry between the two communities and decided to take advantage of this by introducing them to the images of San Cristobal and San Lucas that later became a symbol of reconciliation and friendship. This syncretism has been maintained over the years and many people are faithful to the activities that have been inherited over the years.
There is a remarkable line of authority to organize these events. It requires the selection of the “First Chief ” who helps the “First Godfather” also assigned by all members of the brotherhood (Brotherhood). The group named “La Capitanía” is the ones who are responsible for organizing the dances and preparing the food that is given to all the attendees. A second chief and godfather help in the process.
A day where everyone are “compadres” (friends)
The pilgrimage is announced with leather drums, whistles, flutes and traditional fireworks; many people travel from Cuisnahuat to Jayaque, two days prior the main event. Saints are carried with devotion.
Cofradías are the ones responsible for providing room and board to the assistants.
The first stop takes place at the nearby town of Tepecoyo, Sonsonate, and then the pilgrims continues to the final destination at Jayaque, located at the mountains of La Libertad.
The pilgrimage ends at the entrance to the village of Jayaque where the images of saints are placed in small shrines and people offer symbolic gifts and then in return receive a bunch of rude, a plant well known for its medicinal properties.
Later the members of each Cofradía and representatives from each village exchange gifts. They then proceed to do a traditional greeting with the hands near the forehead of the other person, and they affectionately say, “Welcome friend.”
After the procession masked performers dance to the beat of the drums and melody of the flute while the image of St. Christopher, patron of Jayaque, is carried to the main church to greet San Lucas with a similar gesture used by the Cumpas.
Being a “Cumpa” is a privilege that every visitor gets to if they witness the celebrations.
The festivities continue through July 24 and are characterized by dances featuring the Cumpas of Cuisnahuat who invite Jayaque women to dance. In addition, they share drinks as “Chicha” and “Chaparro” both traditional spirits.
During your stay at Jayaque you may enjoy a pleasant climate, surrounded by the mountains of “La Cordillera del Bálsamo” and you might drink the delicious coffee processed locally.
How to get there:
By car: drive along the Panamerican Highway (CA-1) towards Sonsonate. You will see an exit indicating the road to Ateos and Tepecoyo. You must take this road and drive to the municipality of Jayaque. It takes approximately 20 on a road ascending towards the mountains.
By bus: route 105 (from San Salvador to Jayaque) at the West Terminal for US$ 1.00.
- Municipality of Jayaque: (503) 2346-5097 / (503) 2338-8008 / (503) 2346-5002
Address: Dr. Francisco A. Lima Avenue, Remberto Trujillo Diaz Street
- Date Founded: 1906 as “Villa” and 1926 as City.
- Patron: St.Cristobal
- Celebrations: 18th July 26
- Http://www.jayaquetour.com.sv / fiestas_tradiciones.html
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