Sunday, August 12, 2007


Lima is subdivided into districts, each with its own mayor and municipality - all of course subject to the mayor and municipal authority of metropolitan Lima. The district where we live in Lima is Jesus Maria, but one that we like to visit every time we go is Miraflores.

At one time, long ago, Miraflores was a suburb of Lima. Almost a separate town, in fact. Today it is an integral part of the city, harboring a number of hotels, restaurants, and banks. It is the hub of the city's middle class night-life, with cafes, bookstores, art galleries, some of the best restaurants in the country, and upscale shops, including the very nice seaside shopping mall of Larcomar.

Miraflores has served the city well in this regard, with venerable institutions such as the Pacifico movie theater (the first to have air conditioning), the Haiti cafe (it's been there for 47 years), and the Tiendecita Blanca cafe (been there for 70!).

The Tiendecita Blanca used to be the spot where my mom would meet friends for tea once a month to get away from the rat race, and where she meets them still when she visits. The Haiti has been there so long, that for many Miraflores would not be Miraflores if the Haiti were gone.

At the heart of the district, however, is Parque Kennedy, a trapezoid of greenery amidst the traffic and bustle. One of the attractions of the park is the nightly craft and antiques market.

The kids like it (as do I) because they can get cool stuff for relatively cheap prices there, and it's just fun to look around.

I also like it because there's always a good chance of running into this guy:

It's Mario Poggi (you may not recognize him without the green hair).

Mr. Poggi apparently is very intelligent, artistic, speaks several languages, graduated with very high rankings from several universities, and is a killer.

Until 1986, Poggi worked as a police psychologist. In that year Lima was shaken by a serial murderer who quartered his victims and littered remote areas of the city with the remains. Angel Diaz Balbin was captured as a suspect and Poggi assigned to analyze him. In the course of his analyses, Poggi became convinced that Diaz was the feared "descuartizador" and garroted him with a belt.

After serving four years in a psychiatric ward Poggi -now universally known as "el loco Poggi"- rejoined society as Lima's most noted eccentric. For example there is a video on the web of him stark naked in a shower in which he declaims about sex, the government, and other subjects. He has given his children by a new marriage names like Neurona H2O, and is said to have crashed social events dressed as the Viceroy Amat.

On a previous encounter I bought his book, Yo solo se que soy un imbecil, in which he includes a sketch of "How I killed the descuartizador." He signed the book for me and included his telephone number.

I've never dared call.

Another Miraflores institution is Calle San Ramon, better known as "la calle de las pizzas," or Pizza Street.

Pizza street is so called because virtually every groundlevel joint on this one block alley is a pizzeria. It is pretty sedate during the day, but at night the place comes alive.

The patrons show up and the barkers come out to lure you into their employers' restaurants with offers of discounts, complimentary pisco sours, or cheap beer. The food's not great, the sangria worse, but the atmosphere and energy can't be beat.

Arrive late, stay late. Then, maybe, just move a few doors down.

That's what we did on Ceci's last full night in Lima, moving our center of operations to one end of the street and into the Old Pub.

Ceci, Gina, Susana

My cousins Juancho, Mito, and Ceci

The Old Pub has been there since ... oh... 1997. It has great character and is very cozy place to have an after-dinner beer.

In any case, there's always another place right next door...

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