Monthly Archives: July 2008

Junco y capulí

I am leaving in the morning, to the Vallejo birthplace and the nearby thermal baths at Cachicadán. I was about to say I was sure there would be Internet access, but not sure the electricity would be reliable enough to permit me to see the Internet. Then I erased the sentence because I realized that if there is no electricity, there will be no word processing or television. I need word processing for the reasons you can imagine, and I need television because I have run out of reading material and it is hard in these mountains to get even a newspaper. So I have decided there will be electricity. But if I do not post, you know why. I am either away from the Internet, or in transit to Lima, or in a whirlwind of Lima activity before I leave.

Speaking of television: having seen several hours of it over the past week, something I had not done in more than five years, I can say that the shows have changed. Almost all of them involve something supernatural or futuristic, and all but the soap operas and TVE are even noisier and more violent than before. I am speaking U.S. as well as Peruvian, Venezuelan, Puerto Rican, Mexican and Colombian television (those being the types of television my relatively fancy hotel – $18 of fancy – gets).

Now I am going to see if I should buy a camera I do not want. The only camera I want is the old fashioned 35mm one I have at home. I had a digital camera but I did not like it because a) it involved using the computer, which I already do enough, b) one was expected to erase and/or manipulate the pictures after taking them, which subtracted all the mystery, art and skill from photography, c) it was a present I felt obliged to accept, from a person I was afraid of and at the same time felt obligated to.

I lent it to some Escuela Militar Leoncio Prado people – horrifying, I know – to take pictures of each other with at a lunch, and they got so much olive oil in it that it stopped working. I did not care. It means I have taken no pictures this summer, but I do not like taking touristy pictures. Now, however, I think I might need to take some research pictures, and I have discovered that you can buy used miniature 35mm cameras right here on the plaza for about $25.



Filed under News

Reading for Pleasure Wednesday: Doris Lessing

I have at last read The Grass is Singing which is brilliant and impactante, epoch making for many reasons. Of all books mentioned in this post, this is the one most worth discussing. I will therefore discuss it least.

I have also been reading The Poisonwood Bible, which is a good book although Kingsolver is not Lessing. The morbid reason I enjoyed it is that it is about the Congo, which is poorer than Peru.

By chance I read a large part of the Cuba Diaries, which was interesting, in part because I also went to Cuba while the author was there.


The Cuba Diaries, however, were most fascinating because I am currently located in another really poor country. When I came back from Havana, people who had also been there wanted to commiserate with me about how terrible it was. I said, have you been to Lima or San Salvador?

That was some time ago. Now, typing with one hand because I must use the other to hold the computer’s plug into the wall (bathroom plugs are typically the only ones which work easily, but I fear water droplets and shorting the machine out, electrocuting myself or starting a fire), I say that although I cannot say it to most of my Peruvian friends, who are upbeat and hopeful about the current economy, Peru currently reminds me not of Cuba but of Nicaragua.


Think wartorn-ness, capitalism, ruins, smoke, neoliberalism, garbage, foreign investment, grime, more smoke, hunger, and lots of poets and much culture buried, yet still growing in the pile, and very charming people who are also far more resilient than I can imagine being.

I do not want to say it but I think both of these countries have been ruined for the foreseeable future. I think everyone not engaged in subsistence farming should be removed except for some caretakers and engineers, so that the land can heal itself.

Update: Of course, I wrote this days ago on the coast and now I have been in beautiful, uncongested, unpolluted Huamachuco for a week and I don’t feel the same way – even about development, which they seem to be doing in a smart way here. 



Filed under Bibliography, News, Theories

Cebichería Marlin

This is the best restaurant I have been to in Peru in 2008. It used to be, or seem to me, that all restaurants were this good – Peru was like France in that way – but now they seem to have declined. In any case, we have the Cebichería Marlin and it is in Huamachuco.

From the Plaza de Armas take the calle peatonal to the end, and turn left immediately. The Cebichería Marlin is halfway down this block on your right.



Filed under Resources

Mais regardez

Many Peruvian internet cafés are covert porn theatres, and others are de facto ones, because they are primarily used that way. You can tell some of the seriously pornographically oriented ones because they have curtains around each computer.

I avoid such places, and here in beautiful Huamachuco, where I am (I walked to Markawamachuko today!) I have found an internet café which doesn’t just say “no porn watching by minors,” it actually has pornography blocking software.

This means, of course, that I cannot see most of the blogs I would normally visit. If you are gay and out on your blog, I can’t see it, and I can’t see the Unapologetic Mexican, and there are many more, including the tourism sites about Huamachuco and its region to which I wanted to link.



Filed under Banes, News

“Containing What Happened to Me During This Voyage, Until I Arrived at the City of Lima”

And eighteenth century Franciscan writes:

Ya que vino el día partí por dentro de una quebrada, y así fuimos hasta mediodía, y aquí, dejando la quebrada, entramos por entre dos cerros, y venimos a subir por aquel cerro de lajas de afilar que dije cuando fui a Angasmarca, cuando iba para Lima desde Guamachuco. Ya que llegamos arriba, me fui derecho a casa del cura, el cual me recibió con mucho agasajo. Se mandó llamar al Alcalde, el cual me buscó bestias y un peón hasta Guauras, que distaba de allí cuatro días.

He went from Huamachuco to Angasmarca to Huaraz to Lima on mountain paths, as I would like to do.



Filed under Bibliography

Santiago en Huancayo

Today is the feast of Santiago, the Apostle, and it is very important. This videoclip was from Huancayo, in the central sierra, but we can also download whole songs by bands from Santiago de Chuco such as the Grupo Cukollakta and the Conjunto Libertad.

Santiago de Chuco’s fiesta is the most interesting because it was there that Vallejo got arrested long ago. It is customary to imply that he may have been unjustly accused but I have heard he was packing a pistol on this occasion and saying that his enemies “Ahora sí que me las van a tener que pagar,” just like a character in a telenovela.



Filed under Songs

Collective Van II

I like the mototaxi concept and the fact that motataxis look rather like 1920’s cars, but my favorite mode of transportation is still the combi or collective van. Those who criticize combis are not wrong in anything they say, but I love combis nonetheless. They are extremely folkloric, they are more comfortable than buses, when you know the streets and roads well enough to know which combi to jump onto, you know a lot about your town, and I associate combis with unusual intercity travel, and with going to the beach or an interesting university campus.

I also never get tired of listening to the different singing styles of the drivers’ assistants, who in addition to making change and stuffing the passengers inside must hawk the van and its route, let the driver know when he is opening and closing the door, and function as a rear view mirror by telling the driver when it is safe to change lanes. It seems to me that the song of the driver’s assistant could be a son or an urban avant-garde poem. The outlines would be something like this.

Centro, centro
Sube sube sube sube
(entra entra)

baja baja baja

Avenida Avenida
baja baja baja


Pasajes pasajes
Tenga su vuelto

Arequipa Arequipa
sube sube sube sube

I would have to work on the typography and contextualization to make it really interesting.


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Filed under Poetry