Saturday, November 19, 2011

Illimo has a Birthday

Illimo (E-yee-moe) is one of those long and narrow small towns straddling a major highway in northern Peru. Most of these ‘whistle-stop’ towns are nondescript, uninteresting, dirty and generally not worth a visit, so when we saw advertisements distributed in Chiclayo this week regarding a celebration of Illimo’s 106th anniversary we didn’t decide to go until over coffee this morning when we couldn’t come up with anything better to do. We’re glad we did.

Illimo is a 45 minute bus combi ride from Chiclayo. One of the first things we noticed upon entering the town was how clean it was. Typically there is a lot of trash in the streets of towns like this, but not here. Streets off the highway are also wider than normal and the homes and businesses are well maintained.

The celebration activities are scheduled for four days starting today and are staged in the principal park. Illimo’s economy is mostly agricultural but they also produce a significant amount of honey for the Lambayeque Region, so today’s headline event was a bee-beard contest. Unfortunately I lost the majority of photos I took today, but what happened is that men skilled in bee handling allowed themselves to be covered with bees. To do this a queen bee is placed on the individual and the bees swarm to the area she was placed. Helpers with smudge pots continually apply smoke to the bees to keep them tranquil. When the contest is over the queen is returned to the hive, hopefully to be followed by her swarm.

I say hopefully because there were a lot of bees who didn’t seem interested in reentering the hives. When a group of young bee handlers challenged me to sit next to a hive, I fully expected to be stung but it didn’t happen even though many of them landed on me.

Daniel, who won second place and 200 soles for his effort was completely covered with bees (one of the photos I lost). He was stung once in the belly but shrugged it off. His mother was rightly proud of her son.

We bought several products from one of the many kiosks surrounding the park. This one is operated by Daniel’s uncle.

Illimo has a good feel to it. Though it’s a city and not a tiny village, you can walk the streets in relative quiet on wide sidewalks without the constant din of motos and taxies or the crush of people. It also appears to be a safe town, as attested to by several citizens we talked with. And there’s the cleanliness.

Monday the celebration focuses on music, with several name entertainers from Lima including Cachay and Jackie Castañeda. We might go back. We’d like to try more of the local food, plus it would give me the chance to reshoot the lost photos.


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