Enjoying el Carmen and its Afro Peruvian culture
This week, my study abroad program went on a trip to el Carmen. We went to visit an Afro Peruvian community, and it was a lovely time filled with good food, fantastic music and plenty of hip moving, and lots of pool time. (Yes, in Peru, there’s every color of the rainbow kind of people). Peru is a country that is racially divided which is rooted by its colonization history.
But anyhow, to start our weekend trip, we hopped on a private bus to start our 3-4 hour bus ride. I had my neck pillow, my phone on full charge, bottled water, and a book to accompany me during the hours ahead. Most of the ride I read, but once I started to get sleepy, I closed my book and I snoozed off into a deep sleep…only to be later awaken by a lot of shaking. We were driving on an uneven dirt road which was peppered with holes and rocks. It was a very bumpy road up until we got to our lodging place. It was an hacienda, and we were the only ones to occupy it that weekend. I had 2 roommates and I couldn’t wait to start enjoying el Carmen.
We ate interestingly seasoned chicken with rice and beans for dinner, and then later some of the group got together in the media room and watched “Inside out”. It was my first time watching the cute kid movie, and I enjoyed it. I shed a tear or two (I’m such a crybaby). Afterwards I went to sleep and I woke up revitalized the next morning from my awesome sleep.
So Saturday, after breakfast of bread and coffee, we had a talk with Carlos, he is basically a pioneer of the Afro Peruvian community. He works very hard to educate people about the Afro Peruvians, and he also advocates for better rights. We learned quite a lot about the history, the struggles, and the advances of the Afro Peruvians. It was very enlightening and it made me think how racism is a negative phenomenon and how racism is manifested differently depending where you are in the world. In Peru for example, some people think that racism does not exist. In Peru, being politically correct doesn’t exist. Racism is conveyed in jokes, in the media, and in daily language. It doesn’t seem as severe, but I beg to differ.
The next activity was a music and dance lesson with two siblings of the renowned Ballumbrosio family. The Ballumbrosios are the equivalent to the Marleys. We were in front of famous Afro Peruvian people essentially. I highly enjoyed learning how to play the “cajon” (a wooden box with a hole in the middle of one side), the “cijada de burro” (it’s literally the bone of a donkey’s jaw), and the “cajita peruana” (musical instrument reinvented from the Catholic collection box). The instruments were unconventional, but nonetheless, they were so great to listen to.
It was so much fun and I couldn’t stop laughing when we started the dance lesson. Talk about being coordinated and having rhythm. After a while I got the swing of things and I was able to enjoy it more. By the end of the hour dance lesson, I was covered in sweat and hot. I wanted to jump in the pool, but we then had dinner. All in all the weekend was pleasant and I enjoyed it. I was able to learn and experience part of the Peruvian culture that I hadn’t seen before. Usually when one thinks of Peru, I bet it’s all about the llamas, Machu Picchu, and the Andes, but as I have seen and learned, Peru is super diverse, in its land and in its people. It’s such a great country to visit that’s for sure.
Side note: wear mosquito repellent at all times possible and sunscreen. While we had free time, I laid out near the pool to get some tanning done and I also played volleyball for a brief moment. Playing volleyball was brief because we realized we were being attacked by baby mosquitoes (they looked like gnats). By the end of our weekend trip, my legs were covered with red mosquito bites. I scratched like crazy, and that was not the wisest of things to do. Another unwise thing that I didn’t do was to put on sunscreen. I was burned and in pain. Several days later I was peeling like crazy. I’m still peeling (2 weeks later). Lesson learned.