One of the main reasons as to why I travel is so I can see how other cultures live and experience life. For me it is the most captivating and important reason as why I leave home and it is also what stays ingrained within my memory the longest. I love seeing the sites of the countries that I visit but understanding the people; that is where the true experience lies. This past weekend in the small town of Casma I found what I was looking for.
Casma is not a hot tourist destination. Actually Lonely Planet says “Casma has little to do except watch the whirring of passing buses.” While this may be true for the typical backpacker traveling through South America, volunteers of Perupedia were fortunate enough to have an inside look at a typical (but amazing) Peruvian family, while in Casma. Julio’s family, possibly amongst some of the most gracious people I’ve ever met treated us and took us in as family.
No more than a few seconds after we stepped off the bus we arrived to one of Julio’s family members store. There we were warmly greeted and were given a delicious dinner immediately after our arrival. The moment that we entered the store we became a sort of extended family and everyone, young and old, was eager to make us feel welcomed. This generous hospitality was shown again and again as the weekend progressed. Whether it be breakfast, lunch or dinner our hosts were nothing but generous to the four of us.
The town itself is a small coastal town made up of large families that live with or near each other. Families in Peru stay close and therefore this town as well as many others like it are made up by people who for the most part know one another, or at least know of their family. The streets of Casma are always filled; from people selling all sorts of food to the neighborhood children playing volleyball or tag or even a group of older gentleman playing a game of cards. Stores and restaurants are not run by employees but rather teams of family members who come together to earn a living. It’s a close knit lifestyle; kids are best friends with their siblings and cousins while the adults work together in the home or elsewhere.
Because we were there for Julio’s niece’s wedding it was an incredibly special time to watch this family unite for a memorable evening. As for all weddings the mood here was positive but the energy was especially high. I’ve been to a lot of my own cousins weddings, and though they were also lavish and extraordinary events, this one was especially unique. As people shuffled into the reception you could feel the momentum building. People were eager for the band to begin playing so they could descend on to the dance floor. Once the music did begin there was no hesitation for people to start dancing. The floor was packed within minutes by young and old alike. No one is scared, hesitant or embarrassed by their dance moves. Dancing for Peruvians is like walking. It comes as second nature and it is required at any event.
As for us Americano’s… Well once the music started roaring, I don’t think we could resist the temptation of shaking it a little. Even if we had tried to pass on the dancing, I am positive Julio’s family would have physically forced us onto the floor. Even after dancing for fifteen minutes straight I would try to sit down for a quick glass of Cristal but would be beckoned back to dancing within seconds. When us four volunteers decided to call it a night at around 4:30 AM everyone else was still at it and it apparently kept on going until around 7:00!
Sure a trip to Casma may not be all that great for the average tourist, but for us four we got to see a part of Peruvian life that other backpackers may not see on their voyages. Everything from walking down the streets, through the market and of course celebrating Jackie’s nuptials made for a better understanding of life in Peru.