Monthly Archives: August 2008

Your Travel Guide Recontra-speaks


I have played the song “Cholo soy (y no me compadezcas)” before. I posted it with a photo safari type video here, and it was taken down. Then I said que el Perú es de la conchaesumare, ¡putas! And the video I wanted, returned. Most of the images are not as cheesy as the opening frames.


Effort exerted by all: A
Amount learned: B
Quality of experience: C

Life is hard unless you are rich or you are a luxury tourist, and Peru, as I have said before, appears to me to be on its last legs ecologically. This has a great impact on the quality of life for all but the very most privileged. Considerando en frío, imparcialmente, I recommend Mexico City over Lima, but I always go to Peru, because qué puedo hacer, chola soy y no me compadezcan. (Watch those videos I just linked, they are amazing – the ideal of blanqueamiento is far from dead!)


When people in Lima tell you this winter is colder than any you have experienced there before and you must bring a heavy coat, take it with a grain of salt, for they exaggerate. You do not want an overcoat but a wool sweater and a jacket, because you are looking at São Paulo levels of cold, not Santiago or Buenos Aires levels of cold. You are certainly not looking at New York levels of cold, no matter what anyone may say. And you do want to take the risk of being forced to buy a wonderful Peruvian coat, which, as I have pointed out before, are sold at very low prices.

I know these things but was nevertheless convinced to take to Peru an overcoat I only wore twice in ten weeks. Sitting with it in the airport, bound for the tropical heat of Panama and then the subtropical Houston, I noticed that although I think of it as new, my coat has bald spots in the cloth, a tear in the lining, and an incipient hole. I am glad to have noticed this, as it is not a coat for Louisiana use but rather my “Chicago coat,” by which I mean the cashmere and wool coat I wear at the MLA. I could have replaced it with a vicuña and alpaca coat of similar quality for about a quarter of what this one cost me on sale when it really was new. I also could have had it refurbished in Lima for far less than this will cost in the U.S.


You do not really get to explore this airport when you fly into it, as you walk almost directly from customs out to the parking lot: it is small enough not to need intra-airport buses, trams, or planes. In parallel fashion, to fly out you walk right in from the parking lot. This never ceases to surprise me since it belongs to such a large city and is, or was at least at one time a major transfer point. I used to experience it as a dark and faraway place, but I must have transferred that onto it from the various nighttime rides I have taken to it. It is in fact airy and nicely lit, and not at all far from recognizable parts of town. Checked luggage is now transported on carts, whereas the first time I came the bags were carried to and from the planes by workers carrying them just as bellhops do bags in upscale hotels.

This airport seems to average only two international departures per hour. All destinations I saw listed while I was there this time were in the Western Hemisphere. You have to go to Mexico or the United States to get to Canada or Europe. The first time I came, the plane next to mine was an AEROFLOT plane on its way to Havana and Moscow. This time there was not even an IBERIA plane going directly to Madrid. Was there ever? Is it just I who assume that in Spanish America there always is such a plane? I believe there used to be, but that Madrid has been replaced in Spanish America by Miami. (People in Lima call the United States “Miami” in the same way as New Yorkers call Los Angeles “California.” As in: “Seattle, what part of Miami is that in?” “It never snows in California.”)

When you go into this airport from the street, it appears that there is almost nowhere to sit before checking in. It is worth knowing that if your ticket counter isn’t open yet you can go upstairs to the restaurant/bar, the Starbuck’s (remember, though, we are boycotting them), and the shops – and the smoking lounges – located before security. In the pleasant restaurant I had papaya juice, hierba luisa infusion (with a tea bag, not fresh hierba luisa) and a tamal criollo that was not fully thawed. This cost $7 and was therefore one of the seven most expensive restaurant meals I had in over two months of existence this summer in Peru. (Compare it, though, to the $11 I spent for lunch later, in Houston, for a salad and water, and the $24 I spent at night, back home, on chirashi sushi and a glass of wine.)

Security here is not nearly as neurotic, or as humiliating as it is in the United States. Before security, shopping is light and tasteful, but after security you can do very heavy shopping if you are so inclined. The items I saw worth buying were the women’s T-shirts, good cotton and very well cut, but I was too lazy even to buy Pisco, which I regret. Pisco, tant pis. I am always amazed at duty free shops, though, because you can buy the same items in department stores for less money. I do not understand duty free shopping except perhaps if you are going to and from countries where the items sold, or substitutes for them, are not available at all.


This is an excellent experience and it saves you hundreds of dollars compared to the cost of a nonstop flight to the United States. I have never really been to Panama, but from the plane Panama City looks beachy, clean, airy, Caribbean, and beautiful. As you can imagine, the harbor has many ships, and as the plane descends you see them and their wakes, going in different directions. The Panamanians seem relaxed. Many are Black and quite dark, with Andalusian faces and figures. They look like the population I imagine for Cartagena de Indias, another place I have not been but need to go. The airport has an express line for café con leche not produced by a chain. It costs $2.

All destinations from this airport are in the Americas, but there are more of them than there are in Lima, and many departures were announced in the hour I spent waiting – during which, furthermore, I hooked into the free wi-fi (not officially offered, by the way, in Houston) and e-mailed home. Two different airlines left for Havana at the same time. I am an American, so to me the availability of direct flights to Havana is one of the ultimate signs of extreme cosmopolitanism. It is as though there were commuter flights to the moon. It also reduces the psychological distance from Havana to the size of the actual distance, which is to say, it pastes our fragmented map of the Americas back together somewhat.


The lighting is better than any I saw in Peru, including that of a rich architect’s lair in San Isidro. Both the kitchen sink and the bathroom basin have hot water faucets as well as cold. More generally, my ability to heat and cool the air and water at will in an entire building is nothing short of amazing.

Verily, all temperatures can be comfortable at all times, as can every shade and angle of light. The eyes need not flutter, nor the body congeal and struggle against the environment. I can feel my mind expand as in few places in Peru, and I understand completely my former addiction to the very pleasant campus of the PONTIFICAL CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF PERU, and my current one to the overly corporate Café Havanna (no relation to Havana, the city, except for the allusion to coffee). I notice the incipient return of my tendency to eat and sleep irregularly, and realize how good I was about those things in Peru: one could not control the general discomfort, but one could at least eat and sleep right, and find places to walk.

(I must remember what my card reader said about making too many sacrifices and living too much in the Third World. I should experiment with the sort of luxury to which I was once accustomed: food, sleep, exercise, study, cultural activities, beautiful natural surroundings, and comfortable temperatures all at once! I did not realize then how rare the combination was, and I did not understand when people from places like Ohio, far greater consumers and wasters than myself [but also greater sacrificers and penitents], called it “decadent.”)

I really should tile the kitchen floor. I could fix the bathroom ceiling, or I could leave the telltale signs of former flooding and say they are a work of art representing the dilapidation of buildings in Peru.


Due to retirements and hires, my mailbox has been moved one slot over. Everything in it was addressed to me except a large box of dark chocolates and truffles by Godiva, unaddressed and unsigned. Is this really for me? I asked. Do you know who it is from? Who delivered it? When did it arrive? Nobody knew, and the secretary, our leader, said it must really be mine.

I took it home on the theory that it would be a good thing to have at a fall dinner after a day spent outdoors perhaps, now in starlight. When I got home, though, I opened it, and I am glad because it is really beautiful. Perhaps it came from you.


I flew away, but the video below, made to accompany a famous waltz, chronicles the flight back (also available in karaoke version.) From the plane you see the snowy peaks, and then the city lights. When you land, you drive to Lima 1.



Filed under News, Resources, Songs

Lima Family, 1944

Part I:

Part II:

Part III:

Part IV:



Filed under News

The First Punk Rock Band Was Peruvian

…starting in 1964! They are LOS SAICOS (“The Psychos,” I do believe).

See the SAICOMANIA trailer:


(It is the weekend, so we are singing.)



Filed under Songs

Lima in the Sixties!

It is the weekend, so we will learn history and sing! Like many cities, Lima swang in the sixties – while the national government fought guerrilla movements. (There were two coups d’état as well, although there was also an elected President part of the time. He had an interesting life, in my opinion.)

Part I: A great deal of modernization took place. In 1966, for example, the PASEO DE LA REPUBLICA became a freeway.

Part II: the sixties were the decade of modernity and rock. People stopped having their clothes made and bought newfangled ready made ones in the boutiques of the Avenida Larco, in Miraflores – the very district of modernity. There was a rock song about motorcycles.

Part III: see how and why Carlos Santana was thrown out of the country, as the sixties died.


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Filed under News

Action Alert – Jindal

I just received the following, which I hasten to disseminate. I’ve written Jindal. You should, too.

“Yesterday Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal threatened to roll back protections for our families by refusing to renew an anti-discrimination executive order that is set to expire TODAY [Friday, 22 August]. The order prohibits state agencies and contractors from harassment and discrimination based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, political affiliation or disabilities.

“We need your help by encouraging your friends and allies to call and email Governor Bobby Jindal today and tomorrow urging him to renew this law. Attached please find an action alert along with key talking points and a sample email. You can email Governor Jindal directly by going to and encouraging him to do the right thing by renewing this critically important law.

Info from PFLAG:

Don’t Let Bobby Jindal Roll Back Protections for Louisiana’s Families


“Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal refuses to renew an anti-discrimination executive order that is set to expire on TOMORROW. The order prohibits state agencies and contractors from harassment and discrimination based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, political affiliation or disabilities.

“Governor Jindal recently said “discrimination is prohibited under state and federal laws and I don’t want to create more special categories by executive order.” He worries protections for such categories would hinder faith-based organizations’ ability to contract with the state. Govern Jindal is wrong. No such laws exist protecting gay Louisiana workers from discrimination.

What you can do to help:

“We need you and your friends to call (225-342-0991) and send an email TODAY to Governor Bobby Jindal urging him to renew this anti-discrimination executive order that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, political affiliation or disabilities.

Talking Points:

“• Don’t Step Away from Equality. Allowing our State’s anti-discrimination order to expire would mean the end of any legal protection for gay citizens in the state. By refusing to renew this critically important measure, our families will no longer be safe and welcomed in the state.

“• A Law that Works Should Remain on the Books. The law currently protects our families. Its intentions serve the public and foster a welcoming environment for all to excel in the workplace. We urge you to keep this important law on the books. It is imperative and urgent that you not allow the state’s commitment to non-discrimination to expire.

“• No Known Instance of the Law Impeding Faith-Based Work. To date, there is no reported instance where a faith-based organization has been unable or unwilling to work with the state because of the law. Governor Jindal’s worries are based on speculation, not fact, and should not be an excusable justification for allowing this law to expire.”


If you have questions or concerns regarding this matter, please contact Rhodes Perry, PFLAG’s Field and Policy Manager at 202-467-8180 extension 221 or

[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[Your Contact Info]

Sample Letter [by P-FLAG]:

August 22, 2008

Governor Bobby Jindal
P.O. Box 94004
Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9004

Dear Governor Jindal:

“On behalf of Louisiana’s Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays’ (PFLAG) 1,100 members and supporters, we strongly urge you to rescind your pledge to allow our state’s anti-discrimination executive order to expire tomorrow. Refusing to extend this order will undermine Louisiana’s proud history of “Union, Justice, Confidence,” by stripping our families of the basic protections we should all have the privilege to enjoy.

“We know from experience that legislation protecting people on the basis of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, political affiliation or disabilities is much more effective in stopping harassment and discrimination along with providing the necessary education and training for state employers and contractors to understand how to comply with the law. For that reason, we ask you to stand up for all of our families and support this important executive order with enumerated protections that include sexual orientation.

“We believe that it is imperative and urgent that you do not allow the state’s commitment to non-discrimination expire on your watch.”

[Your favorite very polite closing],

[Your Name]



Filed under Da Whiteman, Movement

Havana, 1930s

This is really beautiful. I would love to visit 1930s Havana (in my time machine, of course). I am rereading Alejo Carpentier and yes, I am on an archival travel footage jag. I would show Samarkand in the twenties if I could find it. (The voiceover on this video may be distracting, but you can turn down the sound and just look.)



Filed under Arts

Reading for Pleasure Wednesday: Private Cholitude

Last Wednesday I discovered the blog Choledad Privada, a nonacademic blog by an academic (just like this one), so today I am featuring it. Read it for pleasure. If you are one of those prepared to understand it, you will instantly see why I recommend it. And it is also a FACEBOOK group, which makes it fully modern ;-).

Also for pleasure, I recommend reading Ginmar’s post on therapy at the VA, about which I know thanks to Jennifer. I have now had Reeducation extirpated with acupunture, in a house off the Avenue of the Republic of Panama. It is still always useful to know I am not the only person who has been frustrated with certain Reeducative contradictions.

All my friends are reading novels or history books for pleasure. I should be doing the same, and yet I am not. I am reading a blog called Peru Apartheid which is as interesting as a book, although the printed page is still an important aspect of reading for pleasure.

E.T.A.: Choledad Privada brings our attention this video. Check out Roberto Carlos – he’s looking good!



Filed under Da Whiteman, Movement, News, Resources