Monday, November 30

Finale: Giant Bear-Like Dog Saga

The Marcela saga comes to an happy ending, for now. 

A woman who buys puppies and then sells them came by today and took four puppies, including Oreo, my little spoiled one. 

Sergio's mom, la Señora Delia and David (Sergio's brother and Marcela's original owner) all decided collectively to keep little Kamikaze (or by her nicer name, Chocolate).

*Sigh* We'll see how cute she is when she's four months old and terrorizing the bakery. 

Laura gets F- in handwashing clothes

So I suck at it. Washing clothes by hand, that is. Sergio has tried several times to teach me, but most of the time he just gets frustrated and says, "Go do your things, kitten. I'll take care of it." 

The first time I washed clothes with both Sergio's mom and dad, they broke out laughing!!! 

As of late, I have been trying to get these things down--washing clothes and dishes by hand and managing without water for a day or so. So today, when Sergio said it was time to wash, I insisted he let me help. 

When we were at the other apartment the first month, they had this nice little laundry sink on the back patio. Sergio's family actually has one too, but have had to use it for washing bakery dishes. So it's out of order for now. 

We used four or five different washpans to have various batches washing, rinsing and waiting for the line. We filled buckets of water to keep the washing going. 

Sergio's dad joined in, which makes things go faster, but also makes me a TEENY bit uncomfortable because my intimates are in the batch.

But even with his help, we have spent the last three hours washing our dirty clothes just from last week. As I write, Sergio is still at it. (Yes, he eventually gave up on me.)

I asked Sergio today if, after three months, I was getting any better at washing. He said, "Well, if before you were at a 3, now you're at a 4." Unfortunately the grading scale in Peru is 0-20, so I'm still far from a passing grade. 

But I get style points for enthusiasm! Here's the final product:

Riots in Arequipa: 2002

Yesterday, doing research for my case study on Peru, I found out about the 2002 riots in Arequipa, now my home! Here's a good excerpt of the full report by Moises Arce:
"In mid-June 2002, the residents and local government of the city of Arequipa, Peru, fiercly opposed the sale of two state-owned electric companies, Egasa and Egasur. The popular protest turned violent, and the central government responded by imposing a state of emergency and a curfew. The popular uprising successfully derailed the privatization program, not least by triggering a cabinet shake-up and thus weakening the newly installed democratic regime of Alejandro Toledo. Arequipa's local officials and residents dreaded higher electricity prices and worker layoffs. They objected to the sale of electric companies that were profitable under state management."

Sunday, November 29

El Jardin de Cerveza

Last night, we went to see the band Libido at Arequipa's Jardin de Cerveza ("Beer Garden"). Tickets cost us $2.30 each, so we figured it would be win-win however the band performed. 

When Libido finally got on stage around 12:30 a.m., their show was fantastic. And I even understood! It's hard for me to catch lyrics, especially live. 

This ballad I found a video of was my favorite: "No voy a verte más" (I won't be seeing you anymore)

Misti's lookin' misty

Our volcano, Misti, was looking a little, well, misty during magic hour last night.

Maybe that means rainy season is coming?

Saturday, November 28

Pt. 3: Giant bear-like dog was stolen?

Remember Marcela? Our giant bear-like dog? She's actually a mastiff, but I forgot to tell you that she disappeared about three weeks ago!

The theory was that someone left the doors open to the bakery and Marcela escaped. This is of course not unusual, and how she ended up pregnant from a street mutt. 

What was unusual, however, was that Marcela the mom left her eight newborn puppies behind (there used to be nine, but she sat on one--yes, she did--and killed it). And she didn't come back. Not that night. Not the next day. Not ever. 

For a dog of her size, she would be hard to miss wandering the streets. Plus, all the neighbors know her, and always ask "Muerde?" ("Does she bite?"):
So we started taking care of the eight puppies ourselves, assuming Marcela had either been roadkill or was picked up by a friendly stranger. Soon, we gave two little pups away, so there were only six left. 

Then, we hear from a neighboring vendor downtown that she's seen Marcela! With a new owner! 

How could that be? It's almost two miles to downtown. 

La señora Delia has a theory that one of the very cunning boys at the bakery took Marcela and sold her for a hefty sum. He's always showing up to work (where he earns $8.50/day) with a brand new blackberry or something, so no one would be surprised to know that he is into dealing stolen dogs.

Even though she loves Marcela, señora Delia decided to leave the dog there for many reasons. Giant bear-like dog is too big and too hungry for us to take care of. 

In the meantime, what about the pups!? Well, they survived their first few weeks without a mom no problem. Just today I cleaned up their area and gave three of them their first bath. This is pre-bath Oreo, with some nicely matted hair:

It's time for them to go, but all of us are too lazy and sentimental to sell them. Sergio finally hardened his heart enough to give one away today. But he was sad afterwards and was sure he wanted to "keep them all." 

I, personally, have little patience for too many pets, or pets at all. Growing up on a ranch, I learned that animals are for working and eating.

Even Kamikaze (below), the one who kept leaping from the second floor down to the first in hopes of escaping, can't convince me. She has a hernia, poor thing, probably from all her falls. 

We'll see. In the meantime, the bakery boys keep feeding them and making them fight each other. Everyone is happy. Maybe even Marcela. 

Friday, November 27

Sub Sweet Potato for Pumpkin, Chicha for Hot Cider...

...and you have our Thanksgiving dinner in Peru!

I had been promising for weeks to make a traditional meal on this very American holiday. Expectations were high and, considering I'd never cooked a turkey before and didn't know if all the ingredients were available here, I was pretty nervous. 

When I told my grandparents that I would be cooking dinner, they, being the thoughtful people they are, sent me a box of dried goods I surely couldn't have found here--stuffing mix, gravy packets, canned cranberry sauce and butter mints. I started feeling a little more confident that I could make it happen. 

Tuesday I went shopping and found everything but pumpkin. In a country with such diverse produce, it didn't occur to me that they wouldn't have pumpkin. Ack! Thanksgiving dinner without pumpkin pie? What was I to do?

I gave my mom a call Thanksgiving morning to get help coming up with any traditional alternative to pumpkin pie she could think of. She told me I should try a sweet potato pie, which was brilliant. Peru has about 5,000 different kinds of potato. Surely, I though, one of them would be sweet. 

While Sergio went to the market to buy sweet potatoes, his mom, Señora Delia, came upstairs just as I started to peel the potatoes with the only knife I could find, a 10-inch chopping knife! Worried for my fingers, she stopped what she was doing to peel the other nine potatoes herself. My fingers thanked her. 

Sergio's dad, Señor Raul spent the whole day cooking with me. He was in the States for about six years in the 1970s and was really excited by the prospect of eating another Thanksgiving dinner 35 years later.

Sergio himself was a little concerned that I didn't know what the hell I was doing. It's true; until yesterday, I had never cooked a turkey. When we took the turkey down to the industrial bakery oven downstairs, many of them were worried that I was cooking the turkey in the exactly wrong way. I finally had to say that "You may be right, but this must the American way to do it, so on Thanksgiving, can we cook it the American way?" 

The turkey turned out just fine! We had dinner right on time, around 7 p.m., when the bakery could be put on hold. The final menu you can see below along with Sergio and his parents. We had turkey with cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, jello with peaches, salad, rolls and sweet potato pie.

See that pitcher of purple liquid at the end of the table? No, it's not a gallon of wine. That was Señor Raul's contribution to the dinner, and what gave it a Peruvian spin. It's chicha, a sweet drink made from purple corn. 

Sergio and I invited all the bakery workers and their families to join in. Between everyone, 10 people had Thanksgiving dinner. Below is a photo of Señora Alejandra cutting the turkey with her two children. Little Carlitos, her son, really loved the butter mints my grandma sent, and before I realized it, they had all disappeared!

Before we ate, I explained the history of the holiday, and then what it means for Americans today (a.k.a. pigging out and then watching football). Then, as we do in my house, everyone gave thanks for the blessing in their lives. Some gave thanks for their families. Some gave thanks to God. Some gave thanks for a steady job. Others gave thanks for learning new things each day. 

Yesterday I realized the opportunity I have here to share the most cherished, unique and lesser known customs of my culture. Not Britney Spears. Not Hollywood. Not Coca Cola (although I am very impressed by that company).  But giving thanks to those we love in a unique way. I'm proud of my culture and happy to share it. 

That said, before I went to bed, I realized that maybe cooking this meal was more about recognizing a special day for me than it was about thanking Sergio's family. But even if that's what happened, I don't think Señor Raul was disappointed. He had seconds!

Wednesday, November 25

Free Trade and the Amazon: the Case of Bagua

Photo from RadioMundial

The fatal incident in Bagua last June (see NYT story) came to be a decisive moment for Peruvian President Alan Garcia Perez' administration. El Comercio, one of Perú's national newspapers reported the official casualties: 11 policemen dead, 3 indigenous dead, 109 injured and 36 civilians detained. But indigenous sources confirmed that more than 20 civilians died and 140 were injured. Months later, the Peruvian human rights organization APRODEH published a report confirming that 61 civilians disappeared, 133 were detained by the police and 189 were injured. The international press had other numbers altogether: The New York Times reported 24 policeman and 10 civilians dead. Days after the incident, the BBC reported 40 civilians and 14 policemen dead.  

El incidente fatal en Bagua llegó a ser un momento decisivo para la administración del presidente Alan García Pérez. El Comercio reportó que las cifras oficiales fueron 11 policías muertos (dos de ellos desaparecidos), 3 nativos fallecidos, 109 heridos y 36 detenidos, pero los indígenas afirmaron más de 20 nativos fallecidos y 140 heridos. Después, la organización peruana de derechos humanos APRODEH confirmó que 61 civiles desaparecidos, 133 detenidos por la policía y 189 heridos. La prensa internacional publicó otras cifras. Los números oficiales del New York Times reportaron que 24 policías y 10 civiles murieron. Días después, BBC reportó que 40 civiles y 14 policías murieron. 

Although the facts remain unclear about what happened in the northern Peruvian province of Bagua on June 5, 2009, it is very clear that the indigenous communities of the Amazon have distinct ideas about how the jungle should be developed than those promulgated by the Garcia administration. The violent encounter between police and indigenous civilians was the result of an indigenous protest that blocked the main highway. The protest was part of a series of demonstrations initiated by Amazonian indigenous groups that opposed the opening of large tracts of the Peruvian jungle for oil exploration and hydroelectric plants. These protests interrupted oil production, halted transportation and commerce on important highways, waterways and in airports. They spread from the north of Perú down through the southern sierra, where at one point, the protesters took over a station of the huge natural gas plant Camisea.

Aunque los hechos se queden inconcretos sobre lo que pasó en la provincia norteña de Bagua el 5 de junio de 2009, es claro que las comunidades indígenas amazonicas tienen ideas distintas de las que se promulga la administración de García sobre en cómo se debe desarrollar la selva. El enfrentamiento violento entre la policía y civiles indígenas fue resultado de una protesta indígena que bloqueó la carretera. Dicha manifestación fue parte de una serie de protestas iniciadas por los grupos indígenas amazonas que se opusieron a la exploración petrolera y la construcción de plantas hidroeléctricas en grandes áreas de la selva peruana. Las protestas cortaron la producción del petróleo, pararon el transporte y comercio en las carreteras, los ríos y los aeropuertos. Las cuales sucedieron desde el norte en la selva hasta el sur en la sierra. En un punto, los indígenas tomaron una estación del gran proyecto de gas natural Camisea.

Specifically, the protesters opposed regulatory changes made by President Garcia to facilitate the development of projects by multinational companies in the Amazon. These changes were part of a regulatory overhaul to prepare the country for its free trade agreement with the United States and Canada (just implemented this February 2009).

Precisamente, los protestantes opusieron unos cambios de regulaciones en las leyes peruanas que hizo el presidente Alan García para que sea mas fácil para las compañías multinacionales obtener permiso para su proyectos en la selva. Dichos cambios fueron parte de una revisión regulatoria para preparar al país para el trato de libre comercio con los Estados Unidos y Canadá.

Many Peruvians said that the changes were a step forward for the country. They would help Peru open itself to international commerce and investment, finally using the country's available natural resources to bring wealth to Peruvians. Even more, in a country were almost 30% of the population lives in the capital city and another 40% live in urban areas, basic necessities like water, electricity and oil are at the front of many people's minds.

Muchos peruanos dijeron que los cambios fueron un paso adelante para el país. Los cuales apoyaron al Perú a abrirse más al mundo, usando por fin su gran cantidad de recursos naturales para enriquecer a la gente peruana. Además, en un país donde casi 30% de la población vive en la ciudad capital y la otra 40% vive en ciudades urbanas, las necesidades básicas como agua potable, energía y petróleo son las primeras consideraciones.

In contrast, the people of the jungle said that these regulatory changes made it more easy for foreign companies to circumvent the local indigenous community in pursuing their development projects.  The fact support their perceptions. A study done by Duke University concluded that already "at least 58 of the 64 areas obtained by multinational companies for oil exploration are located on land titled to indigenous people." They felt that the government was implementing a development strategy by force. Worried for the loss of their land and feeling excluded from the decision-making process, the indigenous groups organized with strength and started a series of protests that culminated with the events in Bagua.

En cambio, la gente de la selva dijo que estos cambios regulatorios hicieron más fácil el dejar de considerar sus opiniones y derechos en futuros proyectos en la selva. Un estudio hecho por Duke University concluyó que “por lo menos 58 de los 64 áreas obtenidos por compañías multinacionales para exploración de petróleo se quedan sobre tierra designado a la gente indígena.” Además, se siente que el gobierno esta implementado una estrategia de desarrollo por la fuerza. Preocupando por la perdida de sus tierras y sintiendo excluidos del proceso, los grupos indígenas organizaron con fuerza y comenzaron la serie de protestas que terminó con el evento de Bagua.

Defending his position, President Garcia expressed an opinion held by many Peruvians: "We have to understand that when there are resources like oil, gas and wood, they don't belong only to the people that had the luck to be born where they are. If so, that would mean that more than half of the country's territory would belong to a few thousand people." In reality the Amazon population is much bigger; according to a recent national census, there are more than 320,000 indigenous people that live in the jungle. Nevertheless, the laws reinforce his stated development policy. All of the mineral rights in Perú are owned by the government, regardless of their location.

En defender su posición, el presidente García expresó la opinión de muchos peruanos cuando dijo lo siguiente: “Tenemos que entender que cuando hay recursos como petróleo, gas y madera, ellos no pertenecen solo a la gente que tuvo la suerte de nacer ahí, porque eso significaría que más de la mitad del territorio del Perú pertenecería a unos pocos miles de personas.” En realidad, la población amazona es mucha más alta; según una encuesta nacional, hay más de 320,000 personas indígenas que viven en la selva. Sin embargo, las leyes refuerzan dicha política de desarrollo. Todos los derechos sobre los minerales en el Perú son del estado, sin importar su ubicación.

While the president declared a state of emergency in April 2009, the conflict didn't come to a head until Bagua in June. At that point, the government had to choose between responding to indigenous demands or risking more protests that would destabilize the country's sources of energy and put in question security for international investment in Perú. Days after the violent incident, President Garcia apologized for not having consulted the indigenous community in his plans for developing the jungle. He reversed the regulatory changes that would have opened the Amazon to more development. The indigenous community took the decision as a victory. 

Aunque el presidente declaro un estado de emergencia en abril, el conflicto llegó a su clímax con Bagua en junio. El gobierno tuvo que elegir entre responder a las demandas indígenas o enfrentar más protestas que desestabilizaran la fuente de energía y pusieran en peligro la seguridad del país para inversión extranjera. Días después del conflicto, el presidente García se disculpó por no haber consultado a la comunidad indígena en sus planes para la selva y anuló los cambios que la hubieran abierto para el desarrollo.  La comunidad indígena tomó como una victoria la decisión.

Tuesday, November 24

No water in Arequipa

We woke up today with no water, which as I wrote about before, is nothing out of the ordinary. 

But what's different about this "blueout" is that it's city-wide! Authorities estimate it will last at least until 7 a.m. tomorrow morning--24 hours!

Let's hope that it at least rains so we can wash the dishes! But given the record we've got going so far, that's not likely. 100 days without rain.

Monday, November 23

"There's a space in the back!"

The small vans or combis used for public transportation in Peru all have a cobrador, someone who opens and closes the van door, calls out the destination to people on the street, and collects the money at the end of the ride. 

The vans are tiny, and usually run over capacity. But what do the cobradores do? They say, get on in, "al fondo hay sitio" ("there's a space in the back")! 

This phrase is also the name of a primetime Peruvian telenovela that talks about class relations. A rich landowner sold his big plot to development; the resulting homesites were only accessible for the wealthy. But the landowner did leave one plot of land for his best worker, a member of the lower class. Generations the class battle in the neighborhood is strong. 

In a country with such a disproportionate distribution of wealth--from families that eat at the finest restaurants in Lima and travel to Europe every summer to the Andes residents who live on less than $1 a day--surely this show reflects Peru classist society.

The following 6-minute clip shows what happens when the poor woman arrives at the stuffy wealthy family's party. Later, it shows what the poor family's hoppin' party is like down the block:


Sunday, November 22

It's pishtacos not fishtacos. And they're real!

The Andean Quechua people have an old myth about pishtacos, vampire-like men who suck the fat out of their victims. The Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa wrote about pishtacos in his book, Death in the Andes:

Pishtacos "needed human fat to make church bells sing more sweetly and tractors run more smoothly, and now, lately, to give the government to pay off the foreign debt ... They not only slit their victims' throats but butchered them like cattle, or sheep, or hogs, and ate them. Bled them drop by drop and got drunk on the blood."

Sergio’s grandfather is said to have had a run-in with a pishtaco. As a truck driver, he slept on the side of the road one night, and woke up with a giant cut on his lower back where he thought the pishtaco had extracted his fat.

And grandpa's not the only one. Just this week the Peruvian police reported (see NYT story) that they had captured suspected assassins with bottles of human body fat from their victims. They planned to sell the fat on the black market for use in skin treatments. 

Check out this AP report on it:

Saturday, November 21

Peruvians in the United States

Last night at the institute I teach at, El Cultural, myself and two other professors talked about universities in the United States. How to apply. Costs. Where to apply. Requirements for foreign students.  Many students were interested in how to receive their masters, and even how to move permanently to the States.

It got me thinking about Peruvian immigrants in the United States. Actually, Sergio isn't the only member of his family to have lived there. His paternal uncle moved to San Francisco permanently in the 1970s. Soon after, Sergio's father followed him and spent about seven years in California. He recalls his family being among the few Peruvians in the area. Numbers have surely grown. In 2000, the U.S. Census counted 293,000 Peruvian immigrants in the United States. 

In one of their recent reports "Coming from the Americas," the Census Bureau comes to some interesting conclusions. Most South American immigrants to the States live in either Miami or New York, not the west coast. Compared to other Latin American immigrants, they are the most educated, more than 49% having superior education. They are also most likely to have managerial or professional occupations and least likely to have service occupations in the United States.

I'm sure I'll get more info on Peruvian immigrants to the U.S. as my work with El Cultural progresses. The institute works in partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Lima to promote cultural exchange in addition to teaching the English language. 

Thursday, November 19

How could Brad Pitt be sexier?

The only thing that could make Brad Pitt sexier is if he were Latin.  Just my luck, here I've found his Cuban twin--William Levy!

Thanks to Will as the co-star, I have become attached to a Mexican telenovela (soap opera) called Sortilegio. Weeknights at 9 p.m. What the show lacks in acting talent, it makes up in hotness. Jacky Bracamontes is quite the saucy actress as well.

And just your luck, I found this promo in English:

Wednesday, November 18

The War on Ceviche

Painted near the port in Arica, Chile: "Lemon juice doesn't kill germs"

El cebiche es conocido por todo el mundo como un plato típico y querido por los peruanos que trae pescado crudo cocido en jugo de limón y rocoto. Pero muchos extranjeros no saben de la guerra del cebiche.

Known and enjoyed worldwide, ceviche is a traditional Peruvian dish consisting of raw fish cooked in lemon juice and seasoned with rocoto. (See a photo of my plate of ceviche.) Many people, however, don't know about the war over ceviche.

Aunque Sudamérica no haya visto una epidemia del cólera desde los 1800s, el Perú, por una falta de agua potable, buenos servicios de desagüe y buena asistencia de salud, especialmente en los pueblos jóvenes, llegó a ser el epicentro de una epidemia continental de cólera en 1991. Como resultado del aumento en la temperatura de las corrientes oceánicas que vinieron con “El Niño,” la bacteria cólera pudo crecer y dispersarse más fácilmente en el puerto chico de Chimbote al norte de Lima.

Even though South America hadn't seen a cholera epidemic since the 1800s, Peru, for it's lack of drinkable water and inadequate sewage systems and healthcare--especially in the shantytowns--came to be the epicenter of an continent-wide cholera epidemic in 1991. As a result of the rising ocean temperatures that came with El Niño, the bacteria cholera could grow and spread more easily in the small port town of Chimbote north of Lima.

¿Pero que tiene que ver la epidemia del cólera con “una guerra del cebiche”? Cuando el cólera apareció en Chimbote, casi todos los infectados dijeron que comieron pescado antes de enfermarse. La batalla pública entre las recomendaciones de salud y las acciones de las industrias afectadas pareció como una guerra. Como publicó la revista peruana Caretas en un articulo satírico escrito al estilo de una obra del teatro, el gobierno propaló informaciones contradictorias sobre los riesgos de comer pescado. 

What does the cholera epidemic have to do with a "ceviche war"? When cholera appeared in Chimbote, almost all of those infected said that they had eaten fish before getting sick. The public relations battle between sound health recommendations and the assurances of those industries affected by them played out like a war. As the Peruvian magazine Caretas outlines in a satirical article written in the style of a theatre play, the government provided contradictory information about the risks of eating fish and contracting cholera. 

La serie de eventos descritos por Caretas en la “Tragedia de Errores,” revela unas contradicciones tan irónicas que si no hubieran muerto tantos peruanos, podríamos habernos reído de ellas. Por ejemplo, el 7 de febrero, el Ministro de Salud Vidal aconsejó a los peruanos que no comieran cebiche, hirvieran el agua para beber y no viajaran a la playa. Pero solo tres días después del anuncio, el presidente Fujimori y su familia fueron a la playa de vacaciones.

The series of events described by Caretas in it's "Tragedy of Errors" reveals contradictions so ironic that if so many Peruvian hadn't died in the cholera epidemic, they might be funny. For example, on February 7, Health Minister Vidal recommended to all Peruvians that they not eat ceviche, boil water before drinking it nor go to the beach.  Only three days after this announcement, President Fujimori and his family took a beach vacation.

Obviamente, el efecto de sus sugerencias fue que los peruanos dejaron de comer cebiche y el pescado en general. Muchas cebicherías quebraron. Al extremo que la municipalidad de Lima confiscó platos de cebiche vendidos por los vendedores en las calles. La presión de la industria pesquera debió haber sido fuerte porque solo una semana después, un grupo de oficiales del Ministerio de Salud, doctores y periodistas cenaron juntos, comiendo solo pescado.

Obviously, the effect of the Health Minister's recommendations was that Peruvians stopped eating ceviche, and even fish in general. Many restaurants went bankrupt. To an extreme, Lima's city government confiscated plates of ceviche sold by street vendors. The economic pressure on the fish industry must have been strong between only a few days later, a group of Health Ministry officials, doctors and journalists had a public dinner together where only fish was served.

La guerra llegó a su clímax cuando después de dos semanas el presidente Fujimori visitó Pisco, comió cebiche frente a todos los periodistas y dijo que su familia nunca dejó de comer pescado durante la crisis del cólera. El Viceministro de Pesquera copió el ejemplo del presidente y también comió un plato de cebiche. El Ministro de Salud tuvo que afirmar, aún diplomáticamente, que el comer la comida cruda es peligroso y aumentar la campaña de comida sana.

The war came to a climax when after two weeks, President Fujimori visited the town of Pisco. He ate ceviche in front of a group of journalists and said that his family never stopped eating fish during the cholera outbreak. The Fishing Viceminister copied his example and also ate a plate of ceviche. The Health Minister had to quickly affirm, although diplomatically, that to eat raw fish is dangerous. He quickly accelerated the campaign for sanitary consumption.

Caretas citó, como el final dramático de su obra, que como resultado de la guerra y las informaciones contradictorias y la confusión del público, un nuevo brote del cólera con más de 500 casos, se mostró en Chimbote.

Caretas cites as the dramatic finale of their play that as a result of the public relations war, contradictory information and public confusion, a new cholera outbreak of 500 cases occurred in same port town the epidemic started in--Chimbote. 

Entre 1991 y 1994 en el Perú, 3,000-10,000 murieron del cólera y aproximadamente 330,000 fueron hospitalizados. Aunque hayan pasado 15 años, se preocupa de que, a causa del calentamiento global, la temperatura oceánica va a crear un ambiente ideal para la bacteria cólera, lo cual presentará un gran riesgo para la gente del Perú.

Between 1991 and 1994, approximately 3,000 and 10,000 Peruvians died of cholera and 330,000 were hospitalized. Although 15 years have gone by, scientists and health officials worry that, with global warming (see NPR story), ocean temperatures will create an ideal environment for the cholera bacteria, a scenario that could again present a great risk for the people of Peru.

Postscript: This essay is one of my first for Spanish class, translated for your reading pleasure. I hope to have more interesting topics coming your way in two languages!

Tuesday, November 17

Spy Games

In hindsight, maybe last weekend wasn't the best time to pop on over the border. Peru claims to have discovered a spy--a member of the FAP (Peruvian Air Force) who sold secrets to Chile. 

As if things weren't already tense enough between the two countries. 

Beyond Chile mass-producing and then claiming as it's own an originally Peruvian liquor, pisco, the two countries did fight a devastating war over the Atacama desert from 1879-1884. 

Peru and ally Bolivia lost, while Chile annexed the region rich in guano, a fertilizer in demand in Europe at the time. Before the war, this was the border layout:
So on top of old and deep wounds, recent events don't bode any better for improved relations.

Peru just brought a maritime dispute with Chile before the Hague, claiming that the maritime borders are not clearly drawn. Chile thinks that in earlier treaties, the line was drawn due west out into the Pacific. But Peru says that the ocean border should go southwest, following the land border (check out the map to see what I mean).

And along with the rest of Latin America, Chile is militarizing, and just announced it was interested in $665 million worth in U.S. arms.

So take all that, add the pisco thing, throw in a spy and you have the recipe to start an all-out diplomatic and rhetorical slap match.

Both at APEC summit, Garcia cancelled a meeting with Bachelet and shipped out a day early after learning about the incident. Supposedly, Garcia also pulled his ambassador to Chile back to Lima for talks. Calling Chile a "tiny republic", he has directly implicated executive branch involvement.

Bachelet slapped back, calling Garcia's "grandstanding" accusations "offensive." The Chilean government has denied any involvement in espionage. 

Glad we made it away from the border without too many problems.

Photos from Arica, Chile

Here Sergio is checking out Arica, a green oasis in the middle of the driest desert in the world, the Atacama. Driving seven hours through southern Peru and northern Chile, it's hard to understand that they both wanted that unforgiving terrain at one point. 

Sergio and I went to Arica's bluff, a meaningful place both for Peruvians and for Chileans in the War of the Pacific between the two countries that took place in the late 1800s. Here, Chileans claim a grand victory (hence the gigantic Chilean flag). Peruvians claim a bitter loss and a heroic event, when military commander Alfonso Ugarte threw himself from this same bluff into the sea to save the Peruvian flag from being burned.

Sergio eating pichanga, a delicious Chilean dish with sausage, chicken, beef, hot dog and onions all sauteed in a delicious soy-based sauce. Below are the french fries. To the right is Chile's loathed beer, Escudo, which they nickname escupo (spit). To the left is a Pisco Sour a la chilena. Sergio did admit that it wasn't bad, even though it's traditionally a Peruvian drink.

Friday, November 13

Spending the weekend in...Chile?

It's been three months already, and you know what that means--time to renew my tourist visa!

When I arrived at the airport in Lima, they gave me 90 days in the country. The good news is that I found a company willing to offer me a work visa! The bad news is that I still need to renew my visa to have more time to complete the work visa process. That means leaving and re-entering the country one more time to receive another few months.

So Sergio and I are leaving tomorrow morning for Arica, Chile. We will spend a few quick days there, get a new stamp on the ol' passport and then be back in time for Spanish class Monday morning.

Check out this map to see where we're headed.

Thursday, November 12

Tremor No. 2!

I was just about to go to sleep when my bed started shaking. Then I realized it wasn't just the bed. It was the walls! And the floor!

I'm still not used to living in earthquake territory, so it took me about two seconds to realize it was a tremor! By the time I had hopped out of bed and run to the nearest doorframe, it was over. 

But earthquakes are no joke here. In June 2001, Arequipa experienced a 6.9 on the Richter scale. Twenty one people were killed and 47 homes collapsed. In 1600, an earthquake decimated the city only sixty years after its founding. Other major earthquakes occurred in 1687, 1868, 1958 and 1960. 

I need to work on my reaction time.

Wednesday, November 11

It's no Brazil, but it's bad

While Arequipa has far from the electrical problems Brazil experienced yesterday--no electricity in 18 provinces for six hours--rolling blackouts and "blueouts" (my name for a water outage) are weekly occurrences.

Usually, blackouts and blueouts rotate between neighborhoods, but sometimes, the city cuts electricity to a certain block. That was the case this morning at the bakery in Miraflores

At four a.m., la señora Delia told me, someone arrived at the door warning that they were going to have to cut the electricity off in thirty minutes. As you can imagine, for a bakery that produces most of it's bread in the wee hours of the morning, an hour or two without lights or ovens is extremely costly. 

At first, la señora Delia was her sweet self with the messenger. "Please señor don't cut our electricity. Please señor I have to run my business." But when that didn't work, she got nasty. "Listen usted (a stern usted), if you cut my electricity, you'll pay for every sol I lose."

That and offering to pay 10 soles for the man's breakfast convinced him, and she got her electricity back. 

The bakery escaped disaster, that is, until around 6 p.m. when the water went off for two hours. The city usually announces on the local radio when they plan to have a blueout and in which neighborhoods. But often, it still comes as a surprise, as it did today. The bakery, again, was out a main ingredient for prime cake-baking hours. 

Tuesday, November 10

Literature on and from Peru

Thinking about coming to Peru? Interested in Peru? Bored? 

Want to read about this Andean country?

Here are some good non-fiction books I've found:

The Peru Reader, edited by Robin Kirk and Orin Starn
The Last Days of the Incas, by Kim MacQuarrie
The Monkey's Paw, by Robin Kirk
Cocaine: White Gold Rush in Peru, by Edmundo Morales

Or if you're looking for literature, Mario Vargas Llosa and Jaime Bayly are two excellent contemporary Peruvian writers:

Death in the Andes, by Mario Vargas Llosa
Conversation in a Cathedral, by Mario Vargas Llosa
Don't Tell Anyone, by Jaime Bayly

Monday, November 9

The world famous chef you've never heard of

Gaston Acurio. 

Don't worry; I didn't know about him either until today, when some friends from Colorado came through. They knew about Mr. Acurio, now the most important, and most famous, chef in South America. 

Acting as a veritable ambassador of Peruvian food, his restaurants have spread throughout Europe, Peru and now are opening in the U.S. This Los Angeles Times article from last January says he will be taking his restaurants to New York, San Diego and Los Angeles in 2009:
"Everything in our work is inspired by putting value on Peruvian products that are undervalued," Acurio says. "We are trying to globalize our traditions and make them global brands."
And in Peru, he publishes a series of cooking books, seen here on sale at a newspaper stand:

Mr. Acurio also just recently opened a restaurant in Arequipa called "Chi Cha" that I went to this past weekend with Tami and Coco. Here's Tami with her classy Chi Cha menu:
I had arroz fashion, a risoto-like dish with a spicy red sauce and fresh-water shrimp.

His restaurants are relatively high-priced here in Peru, where dinner per person is usually less than $3-4. Dining with four people, our meal cost $45. But it was very worth it!

So if you're passing through LA, San Diego or New York....or Lima....look for Gaston Acurio! 

Saturday, November 7

What? A NYTimes story on Peru?

I've waited three months, but the New York Times finally covered Peru!  

Their Andes correspondent Simon Romero is usually following Chavez' every ridiculous move in Venezuela or covering the Chevron conflict in Ecuador, but with the help of Peru stringer, Andrea Zarate, this article came out today: "Ecosystem in Peru is losing a key ally"

“With Peru’s glaciers predicted to disappear by 2050, the Andes need trees to capture the moisture coming from Amazonia, which is also the source of water going down to the coast,” said Mr. Chepstow-Lusty in an interview from Cuzco, in Peru’s highlands. “Hence a major program of reforestation is required, both in the Andes and on the coast.”

Nothing on this scale is happening around Ica. Instead, the growth that one sees in poor villages are of shantytowns called pueblos jóvenes, where residents eke out a living as farmhands or in mining camps.  

If you're interested in Peru and the environment, I recently posted about the struggles Arequipa faces, as well as global warming's effects in Andes.

Friday, November 6

Photographic activism

Speaking of photos, I just finished reading a collection of essays about Peru edited by Robin Kirk and Orin Starn. The last entry included is a photo essay by Lima-based TAFOS, an organization dedicated to putting the power of photography in the hands of Peruvians.

As the editors explain: 
"Apart from family snapshots, most photographs of Peru are taken by 'outsiders' looking in--tourists, journalists, anthropologists, aid workers. But the Lima-based Social Photography Workshops (TAFOS) has put Yashica T3 cameras loaded with T-MAX film in the hands of 'insiders,' with dramatic results. Not only is their relation to their subjects unique (they are members of the communities they photograph); they also capture moments invisible to most outsiders, like the lonely protest march of peasants across a Puno moor or the street vendor hawking his wares against an ancient Inca wall."
The site itself has a whole archive of photos, as well as more about the organization, but I found this photo to share here:

Thursday, November 5

Scenes from Arequipa

A view towards the northeast from inside the monastery
The cathedral behind the Plaza de Armas
The peaceful Plaza San Francisco 
The Artisans Market
From a restaurant balcony facing southeast

Wednesday, November 4

Where to find your stolen cell phone

As we were leaving the crowded San Francisco street on Halloween night, the mob became so dense that at one point both of us had to push through. 

I didn't think much of it until just a few minutes later, I wanted to check the time--and my cell phone was gone from Sergio's front pocket.  In all that pushing and shoving, someone had snatched it!

The story wasn't really worth telling until today, when I bought that same cell phone back. 

Sergio and I went down to the little black market--booth after booth of "used" and "almost new" cell phones--which, ironically, was guarded by three policeman, I assume so no one comes to *steal* the stolen cell phones.

We perused and negotiated until suddenly Sergio called me over. He had found my original cell phone!! Same blue cover. Same scratches on the screen. 

I asked the clerk if it was used or new. "Brand new, never been used," she said. I asked her what the price was. "180 soles." That's 60 soles more than what I originally paid, at the same black market I originally bought it at!

By mentioning that this might be my original cell phone, stolen just last weekend, the price *suddenly* dropped by 60 soles

When you think about the whole cycle, it's pretty funny. I bought a (probably) stolen cell phone on the black market, which was then stolen from me, and I then bought back. 

If I were a better person, I might not have supported this vicious cycle of delinquency the first time, and especially the second. 

But then again, I would be out 60 soles twice over. And at least I know where to find my cell next time it gets jacked.

Tuesday, November 3

The downer

I've tried to keep my blog upbeat--videos, photos, little vignettes. This little space on the internet isn't supposed to be a downer. But sometimes I'm going to have to give a taste of the reality here in Peru. 

The hard part about being in a developing country is not the conditions. I don't really need the hot showers, the spacious cars or the sterilized food.

The hard part is the negative feelings you sometimes get. Overwhelming sadness about a world where one child can grow up malnourished, for nothing he or his parents ever did wrong. Pity for the man with bandaged feet on the street begging for a spare centavo. Anger over the corruption and misguided policymaking that often only perpetuates the cycle of poverty. Guilt for having had a full stomach and a warm bed all this time. Shock that in a world so diverse, there could still be so much racism, especially toward the people who lived here first--the Quechuas, Aymaras and the Amazonians.

But obviously I'm not the one suffering here.  In the past three decades, Peruvians have suffered one of the most vicious internal conflicts in South America, a devastating economic crisis that, at one point, meant annual inflation of 4,100% and a dictatorship that eroded away the country's institutions. 

In the past few years, Peru's economy has been growing rapidly compared to other Latin American countries. Many people are expanding their business, adding another floor to their brick houses and sending their kids off to one of the many local technical institutes. 

Peruvians want their country to grow, but they see so many challenges. With such a tumultuous past, it's easy to understand why they would be cynical.  But cutting through that cynicism, I see their hopes and expectations for the future. These people have a lot of guts, after everything they've been through. 

Monday, November 2

Save Arequipa!

Or at least it's historical buildings. UNESCO has given Arequipa an ultimatum: if they don't start taking better care of the Plaza de Armas, UNESCO will be forced to remove its title as a World Heritage site. 

Graffiti and general deterioration of the century-old buildings made with volcanic rock threaten to devalue Arequipa's main plaza. Taking UNESCO's threat seriously, Arequipa's mayor has announced that a "special" police force will be tasked to guarding the area day and night from graffiti. Anyone caught damaging the property will be given a hefty fine. 

While they're at it, can they get the desert dust under control? That centimeter of dirt seems to make everything deteriorate around here. 

Sunday, November 1

Halloween and the Creole Song

They say you can tell how patriotic a Peruvian is by whether they celebrate Dia de la cancion criolla (Day of the Creole Song) or the American holiday Halloween on October 31. Most Peruvians, I noticed, do both.

The country has a rich Afro-Peruvian cultural heritage, a part of which is celebrated on October 31: el dia de la cancion criolla. When most Peruvians think of la musica criolla, they think of Lucha Reyes and this classic song, "La flor de la canela" or "The Cinnamon Flower": 

The celebration on October 31 mainly means a lot of local concerts, and, at the least, Lucha Reyes on the radio at home.

But last night, I couldn't hear any musica criolla over the reggaeton and salsa blasting from the Halloween-decorated clubs. All the young people had put on their best costumes and were hanging out on San Francisco street. 

The laws here permit open liquor containers in the street. The scene kind was what I would imagine New Orleans to be like on Halloween: vampires and sexy bunnies nursing handles of rum on the curb.

Funny thing: all the Americans I saw, plus me, were not dressed up for Halloween.  I thought it was our holiday after all!