After Kate’s recent debacle with the local muggers, I have been left alone in the house with Julio for the last five days of my stay here at his house. As easy it was to deal with the sudden alone time, I had been inkling to venture out into the city and get me some of that urbane Peru.
At this time of the year, Lima is a city of cold humid air almost always blanketed by grey clouds. If you go out in the afternoon, the wind follows you, at first tickling and teasing your skin making its way to the shivery possession it craves which is taken over by that cold misty night, so stagnant that it makes you numb. This wintery play always gets me very hopeful, about everything.
To share this amusing high, I went to the post office in Central Lima to send postcards to my friends in India; with Julio, of course, teaching me how to catch a local ‘combi’ which is kind of small bus ferrying passengers within the city. Central Lima is the oldest part of Lima. With its colonial buildings, the huge French influenced plazas, the beautiful wooden miradors (balconies) in the small streets, the grand churches, the elegant horse carriages, and the very easily accessible presidential palace standing tall at the San Martin plaza, Central Lima changed my view of the ‘culture of Peru’ from the Incan as well as pre-Incan poetic and epic cultism to an artist’s dream brought on by the bloody Spanish conquest. It’s funny how beauty has so many varied perpetrators.
After a bit of tummy filling with a Hamburger, Pastrami, and one Boston Manjar donut, I was brought back to the safe abode by Julio who also enjoyed a donut and a pudding with me. Ah well. Such is the life of a food connoisseur (read glutton) surrounded by the mouth watering food Lima has to offer.
The day after, I had made plans to meet up with Lea, one of my dig-mates from France, who was living in a hotel in Miraflores, a beautiful suburb which I hoped to give a visit to. I decided to be a little braver this time and try a bus all by myself. Julio guided me in theory, of course. Bus transport in Lima is surprisingly cheap. Only one and a half soles and I was at the Avenida Angamos Oeste from Avenida Arequipa. My target was a three decade old excavation site of Huaca Pucllana, an administrative and ceremonial centre of the then coastal Lima culture; later on conquered by Wari culture; with its adobe and clay pyramids as well as those very well made reproductions indicating the ancient lifestyles. Along with a museum, the place offers a guided tour of the site in English. Through the unfinished excavations, our dramatic guide took us on a journey from the acute sense of civil engineering of the coastal culture, the graves of Wari people in fetal position relating the previous life to rebirth, to the naked facts and rules of human sacrifices followed by the both of these cultures.
Through the picturesque Parque Kennedy, surrounded by a hub of restaurants, bars and other entertainment places, I walked to my pre-decided rendezvous with Lea. She is a very sweet girl who doesn’t speak English a lot and not very well either. So our evening was spent in awkward silences broken by formal conversations followed by the drunken giggling talks brought on by beers and Pisco Sours and then stuffing our tummies at Burger King. It started to drizzle when I reached home after dropping her at her hotel that night.
After all the colonial architecture and the pre-Incan history, I wanted to taste the music of Lima. But alas, the penas where regional folkloric and criollo music is played are mostly closed on Sundays. So it was by the stroke of luck that Wong, a Chinese-Peruvian supermarket franchise, had decided to hold Gran Corso, their 24th Independence Day Float parade on 18th of July exactly ten days before the actual Independence Day of Peru providing me an opportunity to have an experience of a lifetime.
Cultures from all over Peru, current as well as ancient, gather on this parade, borne by a huge hot air balloon with ‘Wong’ written on it in huge red script, to show off their heritage. This is basically done through advertising of different brands, products mixed with performances by different schools, colleges and artists.
It’s like all the communities bringing a part of their as well as their ancestors’ lifestyles to the stage in celebration of the glorious Independence Day.
And what a celebration it was! From dragons to little cartoon characters dancing away happily, from disciplined bands to erratically produced urban music groups, from hip-hop to salsa, from babies singing rock songs to folkloric and criollo music being performed by groups from Puno, Trujillo, Cuzco, Arequipa, other coastal as well as highland regions and of course, Lima; from Dinosaurs to Bugs, from tribal dances to post-modern ones, from pirates to ps3 soldiers to gorgeous models to break-dancers to acrobats to fairies. All of this was topped off by the awe inspiring fireworks at the end which filled the sky with innumerable lights. For the first time in my life, I thought standing up for something for about five hours was worth it. I collected some video shots of this grand function till my camera memory failed me and have posted it in the following video.
It’s been rich five days here and now I am ready to embark on my first ever archaeological dig at Huari. But this past week has created a glorious spot in my heart for the city I’m in right now. Lima is unique. When people talk of Lima, they are talking exclusively of only Lima, not Peru, but Lima; its history, its culture, its women, its streets, its road side graffiti, its bullfights, its cuisine, its youth, its football. They belong to Lima alone. This is a city of confident smart men and wise flamboyant women. This is a city of style.