Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Eye that Weeps

El Ojo que Llora is a singular monument in Lima's Campo de Marte ("Field of Mars") park, a gift to the people of Peru from Danish artist Lika Mutal. Moved and inspired by a photographic exhibit on the civil war which Peru endured throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Mutal designed a monument intended to commemorate the dead of that conflict and to inspire reflection on violence and the passions which lead to it, as well as its effects.

The monument, unveiled in August 2005, consists of an eye-like stone embedded in a larger one, set upright in the center of a labyrinth. From the "eye" -when it is on and open to the public- water drips constantly in the manner of tears. The labyrinth is of crushed purple marble, and is bordered by 32,000 rounded stones, on some 26,000 of which volunteers wrote the names, ages, and dates of death or disappearance of victims of political violence from the war.

It is this latter feature that makes El Ojo que Llora such a singular, and controversial, monument, as it includes and mixes not only civilian victims, but soldiers and police officers, and accused subversives killed in prison by the police. Although this was uncontroversial at the time, and even a feature for which the piece was lauded, in time reactionaries seized upon it to defame the artist and attack her work.

In part that was due to a perplexing dictum from the Interamerican Court for Human Rights in 2006, which -along with finding that the Peruvian state was liable for the extrajudicial execution of several dozen imprisoned Shining Path prisoners in 1992, and that the families were owed indemnizations- ordered that their names be added to the monument, a monument over which neither the Court nor Peru's central government had jurisdiction. That not only brought indignation from Peru's conservatives, but then raised it to a fever pitch against the monument itself when it was revealed that those names had been there all along.

In the context of a generalized offensive against the left in this country, conservative and outright reactionary commentators verbally attacked and insulted Lika Mutal and El Ojo que Llora as "a monument to terrorism," and figures all the way up to Congressmembers called for the removal of the monument. Thankfully they did not hold sway.

In Septemeber 2007, however, El Ojo que Llora was severely vandalized. Orange paint was poured on the central stone and splattered on the name stones, many hundreds of which were knocked loose, scattered, and even broken. The stones were put back in place, but it has proved impossible to fully remove all traces of the paint.

Today, el Ojo que Llora is kept behind locked gates -I had to sneak in through a hole in the fence, and was soon ejected by a guard- and only open to the public on a few days a month. The names on the stones are fading, being barely discernible, which is perhaps in keeping with the country which, it seems, would rather forget rather than remember, reflect upon, and understand the violence which produced those names.

Update on the Graña House

Back in August I made mention of the house above, located on the corner of Av. Salaverry and Jirón Mariátegui in Lima's Jesús María district in relation to its appearing in a 1944 film about life in Lima, Lima Family. In 1944 it was occupied by the Graña Garland family, whose scion, Francisco Graña, was a noted physician and surgeon.

In 2003 one of the last, if not the last, surviving children of Dr. Graña, Mocha, passed away in the house after a long illness. The property, alredy neglected at that time, sat apparently empty for some time thereafter.

I happened to be strolling by this morning and, noticing a plaque near the doorway and a seal above it, I approached to take closer look. Nowadays, it turns out, the grand old house is occupied and used by San Marcos University's School of Letters and Humanities.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It's my first full day in Lima, and I've had the nice surprise that, despite warnings of cold weather, which had been so terribly affecting the country -specially in the south- , the sun is shining and it looks like everyone who can be is out enjoying it.

It feels like early spring, instead of the start of winter.

One unpleasant development is that the Jesus Maria municipal government has started work on the Agora, a plaza in the earliest part of San Felipe.

Granted, the Agora wasn't exactly a gem and in needed some cosmetic work, but the mayor of Jesus Maria has advanced with the project first without properly consulting the residents (some alleged that there was even subterfuge) and then against their expressed opposition, and that of the original architect as well as that of the National College of Architects.

Moreover, the proposed design of the remodel itself has some odd aspects to it. To begin with it would put in a floor of different materials ranging from cement, to brick, to artificial turf, in a target-like concentric design. And that, around a 4 m reflecting pool, which has led more than one to wonder if, and how, this pool would be maintained any better or cleaner in the future than so many of the city's other neglected water features.

I guess we'll have to see, as the proyect will go forward because "it has already been started."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

In Lima!

Got here without incident after on-time and uneventful flights. My brother was supposed to pick me up at the airport but he forgot to, so I caught a taxi home.

Getting home from the airport was no big deal. It's not like I don't know my way around or speak the language. I waited a bit just in case, remembering that these guys tend to allow 45 mins from plane landing to exit when figuring out when to be at the airport. Heck, even if Tono had come, I'd still have had to book a cab.

I didn't rent a phone at the airport, and started regretting it right away as I couldn't get ahold of anyone. Then I remembered that unlike the US, here there are actually pay phones everywhere, so I got ahold of Diego and Juancho, my cousins, and we coordinated our plans. Then I went to the nearby Metro supermarket and bought a phone at the kiosk there.

We met at the apartment and then went out to Gaston Acurio's newest venture, Panchita, a restaurant that specializes in anticuchos and other grilled meats. It was actually quite good, with a lot of attention paid to the decor, the service, and small details like the wait staff's uniforms, that made it an inviting and friendly place to eat, even though it was quite crowded -a 45 min wait, on a Tuesday night!

The waiting itself wasn't bad at all as the bar staff was quite skilled in mixing the house drinks, which contained some surprising ingredients -huacatay, for example, and even aji amarillo!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Off to the airport ....!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ok, I'm officially and, now, de facto, on vacation and can start prepping for my departure --as soon as we deal with some other matters first (like S's high school graduation!). I leave eleven days from now, but if experience is any guide, those will pass both slower and far faster than one expects.

In response to several queries: Never fear, I do indeed intend to maintain the blog on this upcoming trip!