Thursday, August 15, 2013

Peruvian Pride

According to reports on television and in the newspapers we are in the grasp of La Niña…we being most of costal Peru. We’ve had no rain in Chiclayo but over the past few months each day has begun cloudy and cool; not at all our usual weather. During mid-day the sun breaks through but the wind has a slight chill to it. In the late afternoon the clouds roll in again from the south. The clouds are dark and ugly. In Wisconsin they would be a sure indicator or an impending storm. Here their only purpose seems to be to obscure our usually red/orange sunset. Palm trees and colorful exotic plants just don’t look the same in this icky weather. The official opening school date for public schools in the north of Peru has been pushed back to next Monday in because many kids are ill from the effects of the unusual weather. The only plus for me is that I’m able to wear my old motorcycle jacket that I rode with for many years and miles in the mid-west. It is one of the few possessions I couldn’t make myself part with. I’m not looking forward to the heat of November through February but neither am I enjoying this visit from La Niña.

The Peruvian girl’s volleyball team recently won fourth place in the FIVB under 18 tournament in Thailand. Natalia Mâlaga is the team’s coach and could probably be elected president of Peru right now. Peruvians have a lot of interest and pride in their sport teams. In fact they display pride in most activities that have a local or national cultural focus. Every Sunday morning in every town in Peru there is a ceremonial parade honoring one or several institutions in the context of the nation. You can see love of country in their eyes and posture as they sing the national anthem, as opposed to the United States where the national anthem often becomes an individual spectacle performed by someone attempting to screech as many notes as possible into a single musical bar.

One of my values is loyalty to and love of my country and I appreciate the often fervent pride I see expressed by Peruvians toward Peru, which started me wondering why Peruvians would be proud of their country. After all, it’s a third world country with over 30% of the population living in poverty and in many ways is primitive by western standards. The more I thought about it the more curious I became and decided there was no better way  to satisfy my curiosity then by simply asking friends, family and acquaintances why they are proud to be Peruvian. The overwhelming initial response was, “Because I was born here.” When asked to be more specific the answers generally fell into three categories, with history being the most often mentioned.

Peruvians are intensely proud of their Inca history. Many of the older folks spoke sadly of the Spanish conquest that imposed by force the acceptance of a different language, religion and customs. A younger woman teacher wiped away tears up as she lamented that young people no longer know about Peru’s heroes who fought for independence and in the Pacific War…equating their names with streets instead of deeds. I found that comment to be a bit puzzling because in many of the schools we’ve visited, walls and shelves are decorated with paintings and craft work with a patriotic theme, including such personages as Miguel Grau and Francisco Bolognesi. Many people spoke with pride that pockets of pre-Spanish Peru still exist in the highlands, where clothing, customs and even the Quechua language have been preserved. There was a time when teaching or even speaking Quechua was prohibited.

Geography was the next most common answer. I was several times asked rhetorically, “Where else can you find costal desert, forested highlands, snow-capped mountains and jungle?”  A fair question and it dovetails with the rich diversity of plants, animals and birds which was the third most common answer to my question. With most of the people I spoke with the conversation stopped there, but with several younger university educated people I pushed a bit farther, pointing out that what I had heard so far was either ancient history or a gift of nature….was there nothing of the present that Peruvians are proud of? This question resulted in a potpourri of answers ranging from Peruvian writers led by Mario Vargas Llosa to Peruvian cooking to the potato (and Pisco Sour) originating in Peru, the Peruvian Paso horse and Peruvian music and the Marinara dance.

No one mentioned the modernization that is taking place in the cities or the increasing number of young people completing high school and college. Perhaps those concepts are not meaningful to them now, but I suspect they will be recognized as another source of pride in the future.

No comments:

Post a Comment