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February in Lima: Carnival, Day of San Valentin and Politics

san valentin peru

Waiting for San Valentín / Esperando a San Valentín

A previous summary of the Peruvian blogosphere, dedicated almost entirely to “Operation Audacious Employee,” generated several interesting comments which highlighted certain points that were not very clear or that caused legitimate confusion to people who are not familiar with Peruvian society. To add one more opinion to the matter I'll extract this paragraph from the post “Thinking About Operation Audacious Employee” [ES] from the blog The Other Drum, which was not included in the last overview.

Si nos quedamos pensando que el problema son “los pitucos de Asia” no vamos a llegar muy lejos. Tampoco sirve de nada decir “todos somos racistas”. No es solo cuestión de raza. Muchos factores nos hacen sentirnos superiores o inferiores a la persona que tenemos al frente: el sexo, la vestimenta, el modo de hablar, el tamaño, la presentación… Tendríamos que comprender cómo es que estamos siempre midiéndonos con cada persona con la que interactuamos. Por qué nos hemos acostumbrado a hacerlo así. Cómo podemos cambiarlo. Algunos dicen que el mercado es el gran igualador que borra estas diferenciaciones. No lo es. Crea otras. Si una sociedad está programada para jerarquizar y discriminar a la gente, el mercado sólo introducirá nuevas variables de jerarquización y discriminación. El problema pasa más bien por desprogramarla.

If we keep thinking that the problem is “those snobs from Asia beach”, we are not going to get very far. Nor does it do any good to say “we are all racist.” It's not only a question of race. Many factors make us feel either superior or inferior to the person in front of us: gender, clothing, the way we speak, size, presentation … We would have to understand just how we are always measuring up to each person we interact with; why we've accustomed to doing so; how we can change it. Some say that the market is the great equalizier that erases these discriminations. It's not. It creates others. If a society is programmed to hierarchize and discriminate against people, the market will only introduce new variables of hierarchy and discrimination. The problem comes trying to deprogram it.

Between the topics that have been in the political arena, we find state reform. Mariana Olcese of the blog Perú Político (“Political Peru”) tackles the subject in his post, the “State Reform: for the senate or the future?” in which he argues that “the government of Alan García has taken a step in what seems the correct direction: to demand that the political parties arrive at a consensus with respect to how the government should be arranged and how to reform it.” Olcese goes on to make a small chronicle of what happened followed by a reflection on the matter:

No se puede obviar la cuestión de si es que esos líderes convocados son realmente líderes que pueden aglutinar a agrupaciones de la sociedad civil que permitan hacer sostenible la reforma. En otras palabras, la reforma no se puede llevar adelante sin una difusión clara de ideas y propuestas a través de dirigentes, en lugar de anuncios a medias que terminan por generar pánico entre la población por asociarlo a pérdida de puestos de trabajo y de asistencia social, como podría causarlo la noticia de la fusión de organismos públicos descentralizados y programas sociales. Finalmente, antes de seguir con las etapas del proceso de reforma del Estado, es fundamental plantear a dónde se quiere llegar con eso. Decir “gobierno pequeño y eficiente” no significa nada si es que el ciudadano de a pie no sabe cómo puede medir esa eficiencia, qué es lo que debe esperar y qué canales puede utilizar cuando no están cumpliendo sus expectativas. Definir objetivos y metas cuantificables y con cierto tiempo estimado debe ser central en la reforma del Estado.

The question that cannot be avoided is whether or not those summoned leaders are really leaders who can form a critical mass of civil society which would make the reform sustainable. In other words, the reform cannot be taken forward without a clear diffusion of ideas and proposals through leaders, instead of announcements by the media which ends up generating panic among the people by associating it to loss of welfare and employment like the possible merger of various state organizations and social programs. Finally, before going on to the stages of the process of state reform, it is fundamental to understand where this is all headed. To say “small and efficient government” does not mean anything if the everyday citizen does not know how to measure that efficiency. What is it that we should hope for and what channels can we use when the government agencies are not fulfilling their expectations? Defining goals and quantifiable objectives within certain timeframe must be central in reforming the government.

But not everything has been political this past week. San Valentine's Day was celebrated and Mu digressed about how the day will be observed by residents of Lima in his hilarious post San Valentine Statistics:

3.) Sobre el telo. El 70% llegará temprano al telo y encontrará sitio y se revolcarán durante un aproximado de 40mins – 120mins. Del 30% que no encontró telo, un 10% se irá a la Costa Verde, un 15% se irá a comer y volverá al segundo turno y el último 5% se meterá a un cine vacío a no ver la película. En San Valentín, nadie se aguanta.

3.) – About sex-hotels. 70% of people will arrive early to a sex hotel and will find site and they will be get it on for about 40 – 120 minutes. Of the other 30% that did not find sex-hotel: 10% will go away to Costa Verde; 15% will eat and will return to try again; and the last 5% will go into an empty cinema not to see the film. On San Valentine's Day, no one holds back.

But reality is usually different from what we read. If you want to take a look at how some Peruvians really find romance then read the post Viva Vivanda! which sheds some light on the behavior of prudish Lima:

De llegada aquí lo primero que me dicen es donde comprar. Obviamente el lugar indicado no será ni metro ni Plaza Vea, el lugar indicado para comprar comida es Vivanda. Mis amigas me recomiendan Vivanda con la alegría propia de las adolescentes que acaban de descubrir un nuevo “point” de entretenimiento… …¡Claro! Aun no había caído en la cuenta de que cuando una persona va de compras al supermercado, no solo va a comprar comida o bebidas para la semana, va a conocer gente, a mostrarse, a darse miraditas entre la compra del brócoli y el tomate o a sonreír tímidamente, mientras eliges el pateé para el desayuno.

Upon arrival the first think they tell me is where to shop. Obviously the said place would be neither the metro nor Plaza Vea; the place to get food is Vivanda. My friends recommended Vivanda to me with the same joy of adolescents who just discovered a new kind of entertainment … Of course! I still hadn't realized that when we go shopping at the supermarket, we not only going to buy food or drinks for the week, we are also going to get to know people, to make an appearance, to exchange glances between the purchase of brócoli and tomato, or to smile timidly while choosing what to eat for breakfast.

A supermarket can also be a space for reflection and their aisles serve well for that purpose, as recounts “Gato Vivomuerto” in his descriptive post (as the title reveals) “Unemployed: Or the stupidities that people think while walking home“:

Bueno, lo primero es lo primero. Mañana me voy a Bujama aprovechando que hay una casa donde caer por allá. Dormir como una morsa en la arena, terminar de leer los tres libros que había dejado a medias, y tomar algo que me nuble la mente. Pasaré por Metro para comprarme un par de Guisquis, de hecho, si me había propuesto pensar este evento como afortunado, había que celebrar. Aun a pesar de que no hay trago que me cause más repulsión que el Guisqui. Está bien, seamos consecuentes. Lo que compré fue vodka. Ni siquiera era buen vodka porque frente a la góndola tomé conciencia de que reventar la billetera y esperar a fin de mes ya no era una opción. Detalles, que le dicen. Luego comencé a dar vueltas por las callejas del supermercado a ver si encontraba algo que me ayudara a subir el ánimo, sobre todo porque los psicotrópicos durante episodios como éste me están contraindicados. Llegué a un punto en que solo caminaba con mis botellas en las manos ya sin pensar en los productos de mediopelo que se exhibían, sino en qué iba a hacer. Qué hacer para pasar la menor cantidad de tiempo posible como hija de mamá. Felizmente no estaba tan perdida como creía.

Well, first things first. Tomorrow I go to Bujama taking advantage of the fact there is a house where I can stay. To sleep like a grain of sand, to finish reading the three books I've left half-complete, and to drink something that numbs the mind. I'll pass by Metro, a supermarket, to get a couple Whiskeys. In fact, had I thought about this event as fortunate then I'd have to celebrate. Even though there is no drink that causes me more repulsion than Guisqui. It's alright, let's be consistent, what I bought was vodka. It wasn't even good vodka because, facing the shelves, I became aware that my wallet was thin and waiting for the end of the month was no longer an option. Details, they say. Then I started to wander the aisles of the supermarket to see if I could find something to help lift my spirits, because hallucinogens during episodes like this aren't recommended. I came to a point in which I was walking with the bottles in my hands without thinking about the little products, but rather what I was going to do. What to do to pass the smallest amount of time possible. Happily I wasn't as lost as I had though.

This month of February is not only to celebrate love; we also have carnival and the tradition in the provinces of Peru is to do what is known in the region of the sierra as Yunza and in the jungle as Humisha. In the last few years these customs have arrived to Lima and, in the blog Cosas que ocurren (“Things that happen”) “Zaferson” starts with a personal anecdote in her post “Serpentina“:

El otro día estuve con mi familia en un cortamonte (*) y, en el momento en el que a uno se le acerca la gente a aventarle globitos y papelito picado… una señora muy risueña (calientitos y cervezas de por medio, sospecho) me coloca una serpentina alrededor del cuello y se va. No le hice mucho caso al tema (Total, es costumbre que te pongan serpentinas, globitos, papel picado, etc, etc, etc, en un cortamonte), pero cuando ya fue hora de irse a casa empecé a sacarme todos los papelitos picados y miré la serpentina amarilla que tenía rodeandome el cuello.

The other day I was with my family in Cortamonte and, at the moment at which people gather to throw balloons and confetti, one smiling woman (shots and beers I suspect) placed a streamer around my neck and went away. I didn't pay much attention (after all, it is custom that they put streamers around you, balloons, confetti, etc, etc), but when it was time to go home, I started taking off all the confetti and looked at the yellow streamer wrapped around my neck.

If you want to find out how the story ends, then read the complete post. And another blogger who tells us of his February experiences is Lactose Intolerance, who in Damn February/ Damn Kids /Damn Lima describes how the streets of Lima are transformed in February:

Estamos en febrero y estamos en Lima. Un niño que te mira con cara
pícara y tiene las manos detrás de la espalda da miedo. ¿Por qué Lima nos hace esto ah? Un niño no debería darnos miedo. Pero en febrero los niños y niñas mirándome desde las puertas de sus casas con cara pícara cuando yo paso en mi combi me dan miedo.

We are in February and we are in Lima. A boy who watches to you with a mean face and has his hands behind his back inspires fear. Why does Lima do that to us? A kid shouldn't cause us fear. But in February the boys and girls watching me from the doors of their homes with mean faces as I pass by in my VW Bus make me scared.

Transformed streets, but in another sense, are what the blog Contaminación y corrupción (Cercado de Lima) (“Contamination and corruption (Around Lima)”) in the post with the same title. The images that accompany post are quite eloquent in illustrating what is being denounced. And with this, I bid farewell until the next opportunity.

Translation from Spanish by David Sasaki

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