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Peru: National Treasures – Pisco Sours, Ceviche and Cumbia

Peru is often known for its archaeological treasures such as Machu Picchu. Others point to its natural and ecological treasures of the Amazon Jungle or Andes Mountains. Some bloggers have taken a different course, and pick national treasures that appeal mainly to the 5 senses.

Laura of Menos Canas [es] takes advantage of the day of the pisco sour to reflect on diverse issues that in one way or another are in the limelight. Let's read some of her post, Let's drink pisco!

Hoy se celebra el día del Pisco Sour y, muchos hacemos planes que involucren esta bebida como debe ser. Esta vez, antes de partir a “piscosourlandia”, comparto algunas ideas que surgieron en una conversación con amigos cercanos. Hace algunas semanas escribía en este espacio, algunas líneas alusivas a cierto espíritu antichileno en el país. No me retracto en lo absoluto, al contrario, aprovecho el acontecimiento del día de hoy para reforzar algunos puntos muy particulares.

Si hay algo de lo que los peruanos nos hemos lamentado durante los últimos meses fue de la compra de los supermercados WONG por Cencosud. Al respecto se ha dicho mucho, no solo sobre la pertinencia de dicha compra, sino además sobre las motivaciones que pudieron subyacer a la venta; sin embargo, lo cierto es que el corazoncito peruano reclamó y, ello es lógico. Ahora bien, se ha mencionado también que tal vez si la compra la hubiera realizado una compañía que no fuera chilena, el dolorcito hubiera sido menor pues habría originado, por así decirlo, la herida en lugar de reforzarla. No exageramos cuando afirmamos que el rencor ante Chile se encuentra a flor de piel y temas delicados como el de WONG o, ahora el de la demanda peruana ante La Haya lo evidencian.

Today we celebrate the Day of the Pisco Sour and, as we should, many of us have made plans involving this drink. This time, before heading to Pisco Sour Land, I'd like to share some ideas that came out in a conversation with close friends. Right here, a few weeks ago, I wrote a few lines alluding to a certain anti-Chilean spirit in the country. I absolutely do not retract myself; on the contrary, I take advantage of today's event to reinforce specific points.

If there is something Peruvians have lamented during recent months, it was the purchase of Wong Supermarkets by Cencosud. Much has been said about this, not only about the appropriateness of that purchase; but, also about the motivation that could underlie the sale. What is clear, nonetheless, is the Peruvian heart complained and that's logical. It has been also said if the purchase would have been by a non-Chilean company, the pain would have been less since it would have just caused a wound instead of reinforcing one. We aren't exaggerating when we say the anger towards Chile is just beneath the surface. Delicate situations like Wong, or the current Peruvian case in The Hague, make that clear.

There are some very good blogs about Peruvian food, but while schatz67, in El Urbanito [es], is an expert he doesn't have a specialized blog. His is varied, and that means that once in a while he post about his culinary experiences, such as this latest post, Ceviche on biceps:

Caminé en dirección hacia el Parque Mariscal Castilla. Estaba pensando en un cebiche y me había acordado de un dato sobre una cebichería, El Limón, ubicada en Lince también. Paré en un kiosko a comprar alguna revista para leer durante el almuerzo, hay mucha gente que no entiende eso de almorzar solo y lo ve como una actividad inconcebible. Yo no me hago problemas, he vivido un buen tiempo “de a uno” y no hay soledad que no sea compensada con un material interesante para leer. Andaba hojeando la revista cuando vi un promontorio de cañas de guayaquil sobre el retiro de la acera coronado con un letrero:”Cebicheria El Pescado Loco”. Un atril con la carta además de una pizarra con tiza indicando los platos del día son la fachada de un local bastante pulcro y limpio donde había una regular cantidad de gente. “Hay gente, no debe ser malo”. Primer error y contradicción del día, sobre todo cuando la afluencia responde a un motivo extra-gastronómico.

Me ubiqué en una mesa esquinada y observé la composición del público. Oficinistas, abogados, dos o tres parejas y tres o cuatro grupos de chicas, una mayoria femenina sin lugar a dudas en un sitio casi lleno. En eso vi salir al objeto del deseo de las chicas presentes; no, no era Dayvis Dragón, tampoco una espectacular fuente de cebiche, era el mismisimo Arni Hussid con dos platos humeantes que acababan de salir de la cocina. Enfundado en un jean de diseñador y un polito verde pegado que hacia resaltar una bien trabajada musculatura el hombre es el factótum del lugar; hace las veces de dueño, tomador de pedidos, relacionista público y depositario de babas y miradas violadoras de la concurrencia femenina del lugar. De pura casualidad y sin ningun tipo de planificación había caído en la cebichería del polifacético modelo.

I was walking towards Mariscal Castilla Park and thinking about a ceviche when I remembered about this cebichería [a restaurant specializing in ceviche]. I stopped at a newspaper stand to buy a magazine to read during lunch. There are a lot of people who can't comprehend eating lunch alone and see it as something inconceivable. I don't care. I've lived a long time as “just one” and there is no loneliness that can't be fixed by something interesting to read. I was browsing through the magazine when I saw a bamboo promontory at the sidewalk's edge, topped off with a a sign: Cebichería El Pescado Loco. There was a stand with the menu, as well as a chalkboard indicating the day's specialties, facing a very clean-looking locale where there was a good amount of people. “There's people; it can't be bad.” First error and contradiction of the day, moreover when the crowd was due to a non-food related motive.

I settled into a corner table and observed the composition of the crowd. Office workers, attorneys, two or three couples, and three or four big groups of women. There certainly was a female majority in an almost-full locale. That's when I saw the object of the women's desires come out. No, it wasn't Dayvis Dragón, nor was it a spectacular plate of ceviche. It was the one and only Arni Hussid with two steaming plates just out of the kitchen. Dressed in designer jeans and a tight green tee-shirt showing off his well-worked musculature, the man was the jack-of-all-trades of the restaurant. He was owner, waiter, public relations persona, and the recipient of drooling and lewd looks by the restaurant's female public. By sheer coincidence, with no planning, I had ended up in the multi-faceted model's cebichería.

Meanwhile, Rain, of Puerto Asterix [es], writes about a subject close to many of us: music. She reflects on various popular rhythms, and others less so. I'd like to focus on what she says about Peruvian cumbia in her post Musical diversity:

Calificar a las expresiones musicales diciendo: ésta es buena, ésta es mala, sería la opción más cómoda. Lo que sucede es que hay gamas, corrientes, actitudes, circunstancias, visiones, y en esos ámbitos, la cumbia de raigambre andina y norteña que es la más popular, preserva cierta frescura en su intensidad. Hay un romanticismo declaradamente férreo que atraviesa la cumbia y la sella con emociones que originan temas superpopulares. Cuando ves a tu alrededor que la gente ama canciones como Embrujo, vas comprendiendo cómo se va desarrollando la identidad de los peruanos. Análogamente puedes comprender otras idiosincracias por sus más entrañables ritmos. Aquellas canciones que millones de personas bailan apuntan a lo que significan las modas más allá de las imposiciones de la publicidad.

Qualifying music by saying: this is good, this is bad, is the most comfortable option. What happens is there are ranges, currents, attitudes, circumstances, visions, and in those environments, cumbia with its Andean and Northern origins is the most popular and preserves a certain freshness in its intensity. There is a declaredly iron-willed romanticism piercing cumbia and searing it with emotions which create extremely popular songs. When you witness people around you loving songs like Embrujo, you begin to understand how the identity of Peruvians is developing. Analogously, you understand other idiosyncrasies by their beloved rhythms. Those songs millions of people are dancing to point to what fashion is beyond the imposition by publicity.

Translated by Alejandro Garcia.

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