Monthly Archives: July 2008

Your Tour Guide Re-Speaks


My exact location is Trujillo, La Libertad. I am staying outside the historical centre in a hotel designed for businessmen on small budgets. This strategic choice is based on a hotel choosing technique I developed for Mexico. You have to put up with a boring modern building in a boring modern district, but on the other hand you get good service (for example, wi-fi to your room, even if not all the electric plugs work during the daytime), but you get these things at a price designed for people who do not budget in terms of Euros or dollars, and you do not have to handle any tourists. I divined by Internet that this hotel was one such, and in fact everyone else here is a businessman. Rooms are $16, there is running water 24 hours a day, the official hot water actually gets fairly warm, and they serve you coffee and tea.

I arrived after a long and increasingly depressing day of travel during which all I ate after breakfast were four mandarin oranges because the other food available looked as though it could be cholera ridden, and I forgot that I was carrying a whole Andean cheese. When I went out to look for dinner, I was less coherent than I realized and could not find the historical center, although it is quite nearby. My God, thought I – if the center is fact still here, it may not be functioning (that does happen, you know – think of Managua). I who had dreamed all day of real café con leche at night on a Spanish street, nearly choked on the fumes of the suburbs and could not face the greasy food I could find, as my stomach had succumbed to the combination of noise and smoke. I ended up eating an odd dinner of yogurt, papaya juice, fruit salad and maté de coca in a health food store whose owner kept asking, are you sure you do not want honey with that? No, it is already sweet enough, I said. I had already amazed him by ordering plain yogurt, no topping, and rejecting sweetened condensed milk as a garnish for the fruit salad. (The specialty of this health food store was health food cakes.)

Then in the morning I got up to the usual thick winter fog which, combined with the smoke and the grayish brown drab of all suburban buildings, keeps spirits low. I did business I needed to do in other suburbs, by taxi. Unlike Lima, however, all rides were short and all rides cost just around a dollar. (You negotiate prices with cabs in Peru, by the way, there are no meters, and in Lima some of them start out with really high proposals. The haggling can be fatiguing and the ritual is interesting: you argue informally through the window and then, if you finally get in the car, the interaction starts over in a different mode as you salute each other politely and formally: “Buenas tardes.”)


Amazingly the fog lifted slowly throughout the morning. By noon the sun come out. Next, a wind came up and actually blew the smog away. I had the last cab drop me near the Plaza de Armas and walked out onto it in the bright, beach-infused light I remember, to discover that the entire colonial center has been restored and is beautiful, with the flags all up for fiestas patrias snapping jauntily in the high breeze.

There are many colonial mansions, now used for different things, including LANChile, the House of Emancipation, the House of the Schoolteacher, and the headquarters of the APRA party (which advertises the Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre dental clinic, by the way), and no cars are allowed on the Plaza de Armas. There are many of those distinctive Peruvian wooden colonial balconies, all in very good shape, and walking across the stones in the clear air I caught a glimpse of the Lima I once knew.


On the plaza you can see, among other things, the façade of the Colegio Nacional de San Juan, where César Vallejo taught in 1913 and 1914 (yes, it was right on the plaza, y’all – he did not live entirely as badly as people like to say). A nearby church with what I think are remnants of mestizo Baroque frescoes has been decommissioned and turned into the César Vallejo Auditorium, where lectures are given. (In the House of Emancipation there is also a Vallejo room, showcasing all the books on and by him they have. These are most of the books that appeared up to 1980, including a 1979 edition of Víctor Fuentesbook I never read and should, and the offprint of an article by Luis Monguió. The only new book they have is a facsimile of his legal dossier, which I would love to read and perhaps can somehow. It ends in 1928 and I need to find out whether his case was closed then, or what. I have heard a rumor that one reason he never returned to Peru after leaving in 1923 was that he remained a wanted man.)

There are many traditional Spanish cafés, and strolling is done very slowly. I went to art galleries and a concert of choral music, including a Carnaval song from Arequipa with mestizo tones. I ate a fancier lunch than usual, consisting of three courses and costing three whole dollars. It involved the usual chicken, potato and pasta soup, camote huancaína with raw shrimp (I do not really like camote or raw shrimp, although one could see these were excellent shrimp, but the huancaína sauce was first rate), pescado a lo macho (the pescado was not the best, but the shrimp, cooked this time but still in their shells, and the sauce were again first rate), and chicha morada. I drank fancy coffee costing almost a dollar. As I walked home through the colonial buildings, now lit up with retro lanterns, I actually saw a tuna.


Trujillo, founded in 1534, is TRUJILLO DE PERU – the first Trujillo is in the province of Cáceres, in Extremadura, where the Pizarros were from and where Francisco Pizarro still has his house (that would be his father’s house – he was illegitimate and I do not think he grew up in it) and where Francisco de Orellana‘s 15th century house is now a hotel. (By the way, there is a card game called NABUKO in which you pit 48 famous generals and conquistadores against each other in single combat – think of it, Cortés vs. Attila the Hun – and this game has a blog.) In any case it is amazing how calming it is to have escaped tourists, to have witnessed city streets not entirely choked with traffic, and to have walked home from the center of town in a city.

It was, in sum, like spending a day in New Orleans in the areas not destroyed by Katrina, known as the “Sliver by the River” or the “Isle of Denial,” without paying attention to any other parts of town. But then the official line is that Peru is advancing, building, so you should not listen to semi-Luddite me. Just answer me this question: is it only my perception that the quality of food in the typical menú del día has declined? If so, do you not see how, as élite Peruvian cuisine rises to new gastronomic heights, the food of the poor grows more Orwellian?


In any case, today the news includes these items:

+ water and electrical bills for Trujillo public schools have not been paid for two months, so the respective companies have turned them off and schools are functioning without lights or water;

+ there is a marvelous photoblog of things written on Lima microbuses and combis;

+ Nicolás Yerovi writes in Peru.21: “A qué genio ha contratado / la digna ciudad de Lima / que a la pobre la ha dejado / convertida en una ruina, / a los limeños en fieras / con los nervios destrozados, / y el tímpano de cualquiera / en despojo desdichado.”;

+ there is an unjust international order and prices are not based on supply and demand but on shameless speculation practiced by powerful groups (Amen, Guillermo Giacosa who wrote that, it is part of my famous 1981 research insight for whose sake I should have changed my major to Economics);

+ in humans between ages 40 and 50, the neurons which prevent anxiety die, never to be reborn;

+ funding to restore the famous mestizo Baroque church at Angasmarca, “the Sistine Chapel of Northern Peru,” has been found;

+ I would like to go to Angasmarca and I wish I had a 4×4 vehicle, like a Land Rover or a Jeep.

+ Angasmarca has a blog. The blog has music on it, so we will sing.



Filed under News, Theories

On Movies on Buses

Now some long distance buses in Peru play videos. The choice of videos, however, is really shocking, they are so violent. I am wondering whether this is just my luck or whether it is a generalized phenomenon.

Yesterday, while driving through for hours through some of the most depressing industrial slums I have ever seen, including the entire city of Chimbote twice, we were treated to two videos. First, Rambo. Then, one about human trafficking in the D.F., Juárez, and New Jersey, with some very graphic rapes and beatings. I and the several of my neighbors – these passengers being a very hard working, broken down, and exceedingly sweet crowd – seemed to want to watch videos so as not to look out the windows, but on the other hand, kept looking out the windows so as not to have to see what was happening in the videos.

I kept thinking, these people live in this landscape and these videos are what are on their TV screens … while commercialized cumbias blare in the smoke-filled streets, drowning out, sometimes, the sound of construction. How do they handle it? I think they handle it because food, cell phones, transportation and Internet stations are still available, there is some employment, there are goods in the markets, and there is no war here.

That is to say that Peru has not yet turned into a one hundred percent ruined African country, and that consumerism is an effective drug. I am told that Dickens was horrified by the United States when he visited because it was so much more savage and ravaged than his London. This is how I feel about Peru as it is now.



Filed under Banes, News

Reading for Pleasure Wednesday: Top Unread Books

From Servetus: the 106 books most often marked as “unread” by LibraryThing’s users. Bold the ones you’ve read, strike through the ones you read but do not remember well, and italicize the ones you have never heard of. Many are unread by me, and some are unknown to me. I am only interested in reading some of these.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment

One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights

The Silmarillion
Life of Pi: A novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick

Madame Bovary
The Odyssey

Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
The Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad

The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked: The life and times of the wicked witch of the West

The Canterbury Tales
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath

The Poisonwood Bible
Angels & Demons

The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince

The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes: A memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake
Collapse: How societies choose to fail or succeed

The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics: A rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An inquiry into values
The Aeneid

Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood: A true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield



Filed under Bibliography, Juegos

Your Travel Guide Speaks

Everyone knows not to be in Lima in winter, because of the weather. I would add to this that if you are traveling (as opposed to renting your own apartment), not to be in Miraflores in the month of July because it is inundated with “backpackers” and other people you left Europe and the United States to take a break from.

Everyone also knows not to go to Cusco during the month of July for the same reason. I regret to add to this list the entire department of Ancash. The tourism mentality is not a great deal better than that of a cruise boat, even if the actual tourists appear to be more hip than that. And there is this very colonial, even apartheid-esque atmosphere – there are natives and tourists, each in their role.

At other times of the year it is possible to travel without dealing with so many tourists, but in July the only thing to do in my opinion is have a connection to rent a house from a non-fancy local. This is what I could have done and should have.

I will next report from the interior of La Libertad, God willing. It is fiestas patrias and one never knows if it will be possible to find a place to stay. I have telephoned some places and they say they are dealing on a first come first serve basis.

I have the feeling there may be some hard traveling coming up but I do not think it can be harder than dealing with the inundation of adventure tourists with a cruise ship mentality I have in Ancash. I do not like these colonial situations at all, at all.



Filed under Banes, Da Whiteman, News, Resources, Theories

On Quechua Words Ending in -ay

There are many such words and I want to know the meaning of this syllable.


Yanapay (=to cooperate reciprocally)
Challay (=to sprinkle, to fall as does dew)

…and many, many others. Indeed, there seem to be -ay, -iy, and -uy verbs, but -ay verbs seem to dominate.

I know absolutely nothing about this, I am just idly observing and getting curious. Everyone speaks Quechua but me. I would like a commenter to explain the situation with these -ay words. I have been told they are not related but I am not sure I believe it. I want to know if “-ay” means “place.”

I am also curious about place names involving -huaylas, and town names ending in -az and -bamba.



Filed under Questions

Esta tarde en Lima llueve

If you have spent any time at all in Lima in winter – and I suspect the poverty of the early 20th century, although different from the current poverty, was about the same – you see why Vallejo was able to write such depressed poems about this city. The pollution, the traffic, the general deterioration, and the fact that many beautiful old parts of the city are somewhat moribund, are the main Banes. I think I will go on vacation to where the sun shines, namely the SIERRA. In fact I may be gone by the time this post comes up.

Although I prefer Peru I might secretly be Argentine or Uruguayan because I love the CAFE HAVANNA, of Argentine origin, and the LIBRERIA EL VIRREY, created by Uruguayans. These are both located on a very ritzy street in San Isidro. Besides the books, what makes the bookstore so attractive is that its florescent lighting is the warm-toned kind, not the cool-toned kind which predominates here. Besides the coffee, what makes the Havanna so attractive is that it has halogen lighting.

In any case I have decided rather eccentrically that the right districts to live in are LIMA 1 (I used to live near the Plaza Francia), BARRANCO, and certain districts of PUEBLO LIBRE and MAGDALENA DEL MAR. I am very tempted to buy incandescent light bulbs. It would be ideal to buy one of the beautiful old nineteenth century buildings and restore it, or to return the entire Plaza Bolognesi and Paseo Colón to their original beauty.



Filed under Banes, News

Reading for Pleasure Wednesday: Barbara Sher

I normally do not read anything in the genre of self-help, but a friend told me that in her I Could Do Anything… Barbara Sher sounded a great deal like me. And indeed, her ideas fit with mine, but she knows more. I am getting a great deal out of reading at this book. I believe I recommend Barbara Sher generally.



Filed under Bibliography, Resources