Buscando Sol y Responsabilidad Social
I just returned to Lima from an overnight trip with my history professor, some students from our class and members of the DARS (Direccion Academica de Responsabilidad Social) at La Católica. We traveled to El Carmen, a district of Ica known for its rich Afro-Peruvian culture. This area was also hard hit by an earthquake in 2007. DARS already has a community development project in a little town called La Garita also located in El Carmen. They offer workshops for the women and children of this village and also helped to reconstruct about 40 houses destroyed by the earthquake. Now, the DARS in looking to start a project in the city of Chincha and my history professor was asked to write a report about the area’s history. So, us students went along to help conduct some interviews and to visit the projects La Católica has there.
We first arrived in the city of Chincha and headed to a restaurant for breakfast. There, we interviewed the owner of the restaurant, the granddaughter of Italian immigrants (who is married to a man that is half Japanese…). She talked to us about the history of Chincha, the immigration and the subsequent fusion of cultures. Her food, for example, is a fusion of traditional Italian with Peruvian influences.
Then, we got on a combi headed for El Carmen. El Carmen is the district’s capital and home to many Afro-Peruvians. We stayed with a family of musicians and dancers. Their walls were covered with photographs of women in bright dresses dancing and groups playing cajon. The general feeling in this town was incredibly distinct from that in Lima. You got the sense that everyone knew each other. People called to each other in the streets and everyone’s door was always open– no need to knock. People on the street always greeted you with “Buenos días” or “Buenas tardes” and children ran up and down the block dancing and playing soccer in the relatively empty streets. Walking around, it was easy to see this was a poor area and many of the houses still showed signs of the devastation caused by the earthquake. We ate lunch at one of the only restaurants in town while interviewing a local. Lunch was a dish typical of the area called sopa seca con carapulcra which was pretty tasty. I couldn’t understand much of what the man said –he spoke very fast and had a distinct accent– but he told us a bit about El Carmen’s history and what happened after the earthquake hit. He works with a number of different NGOs and told us about their vital role in the reconstruction of the town. That night, we all sat around and talked and I got to know some of my Peruvian classmates (finally!). They said if they hadn’t known I was a gringa, they would’ve pegged me as maybe not Peruvian, but definitely Latina. Woohoo! What a compliment.
The next day we headed out of El Carmen to La Garita where DARS has some ongoing projects. (But not before seeing some zapateo from some of the kids in the plaza.) The houses in La Garita are even more simple than those in El Carmen. Many have roofs made of woven cane or sheets of tarp. This community lives mainly off of agriculture and they find work when during the different seasons, depending on what crop is ready to pick. We got to see the school, which is in the final stages of its reconstruction and a few of us participated in the workshop with the kids. Many of them were very friendly and outgoing, coming up to us and initiating conversations. Later on in the day, some members of the DARS work with the mothers, many of whom are still having emotional/psychological problems as a result of the earthquake. After eating a lunch of arroz con pollo in one of the homes, we got on a combi back to Chincha and from there caught a bus back to Lima.
It is moments like this weekend that I am so glad I chose to come to Peru. I got to see a very distinct part of Peruvian culture; I got to meet people and see places I would have never seen as a tourist. I also FINALLY got to know some Peruvians my age outside of the classroom. Overall, it was a fun experience.
Although I am missing Halloween in the US, today is also El Día de la Cancion Criolla, a celebration of Peruvian music. Hopefully I will get to celebrate by heading to a peña to hear some live music. This coming Thursday I head to Puno for “Puno Week” and a tour of Lake Titikaka. I am reeeeeally excited about it. The following weekend I return to Chincha with IFSA for some sun and some lessons on the cajon and zapateo. Then comes Thanksgiving dinner, our sendoff dinner, finals and then– Chau Perú! I’ve got about a month and a half left and with all this traveling, I’m sure it will go by quickly. It’s hard to believe my time here is almost up!
Happy Halloween to all my gringitos! Un beso– chau!