Monday, September 3, 2012

A Neighborhood Street Fair

Diego Ferre is one of many small communities that in total make up the city of Chiclayo. It is bordered to the east by Chiclayo’s airport and to the northwest by the Real Plaza Mall. At some point in its early life each community is given a certificate indicating its legitimacy as an administrative unit and date of recognition. Many of these communities hold an annual street fair to celebrate their anniversary. The purpose beyond celebrating is to raise money for the community, which usually includes the neighborhood church. Diego Ferre celebrated this past weekend.

Diego Ferre’s church celebrated its thirty-seventh anniversary this year. We’ve attended two weddings, a baptism and a funeral service in this church. The church was built mostly from local residents donating to a ‘buy a brick’ program. Much of the proceeds realized from fair sales go toward maintenance of the church.  

A typical street fair lasts from two to four days. It starts with setting up portable kiosks in the street surrounding the neighborhood’s principal park. The kiosks are used to prepare and sell food, house games and hold raffle prizes. Prizes are either purchased from small sums donated or are provided by merchants.

One of the kiosks is used as a jail. For 50 cents you can have the jailer arrest anyone you choose and have them incarcerated. I took advantage of the opportunity. I reminded Maribel that she had forgotten to buy coffee that day and had her thrown in the ‘slammer’.

What I enjoy most about these fairs is the feeling of camaraderie. The people working the kiosks are all local volunteers. Most are long-time residents who take pride in their church and community. Fair visitors not from the neighborhood are treated cordially but reservedly as is common with most Peruvians when dealing with ‘strangers’.  If the stranger wants to, all that’s necessary to break the ice is to make a friendly comment during or after purchasing and consuming some delicious anticuchos and picarones. Voicing the traditional - “barriga llena… corazòn contento” (belly is full, heart is content) will always trigger a flood of smiles, questions and comments faster than the no-longer-a-stranger can reply to.

And returning to the neighborhood days and even weeks after the fair has ended is sure to get you smiles and waves. You may not be a local, but you’ve been accepted and will be remembered and welcomed. That’s one of the qualities I like about Peruvians.

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