Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tomorrow morning, early (ouch!), Susana and I are on our way to Ayacucho for Independence Day weekend.

Salaverry and the Huatica

On my way today to the 17th Lima International Book Fair I walked up Avenida Salaverry toward the fair site at the Parque de los Proceres, built in commemoration of the forefathers of Independence.   The park, however, also bears an older name -Matamula- a leftover from the days when it was part of an hacienda with that name.  

In fact, the whole area was divided into haciendas and agricultural fundos. What made that possible was a constant 1 m./100 m. slant to Lima from downtown to the edge of the cliffs overlooking the ocean.  The pre-Columbian dwellers of the area had a taken advantage of that and directed water from the Rimac River into irrigation canals that they dug criss-crossing the area.

Jesus Maria fell under the jurisdiction of what became known as the Chiefdom of Guatca, whose lord administered the lands along the canal known as the Huatica River.

One of the branches of the Huatica once emptied into what is today the Campo de Marte, one of Lima's largest parks.  There, on what was once the land of the Hacienda Santa Beatriz, the river formed a small lake, the Estanque de Santa Beatriz, in which limeños bathed and even rowed boats into the 20th Century.


In the image above, the lake can be seen at the base of the Monument to Jorge Chavez, before the monument was moved to its current location at the junction of Salaverry and Guzman Blanco avenues.

The Huatica then flowed toward the sea, roughly following the path  traced today by Ave. Salaverry and emptied into the ocean at Mar Bella in Magdalena.  The path there can still be traced as it is that which the road follows down toward the beaches at Mar Bella, next to the old orphanage.

The lake, still evident in the 1937 photo, was subsequently drained and filled. The Huatica, however, isn't entirely gone.

Under the streets of Lima, the water still runs to the Campo de Marte, which is criss-crossed with small channels.  Some of these connect to two parallel channels which run the length of Ave. Salaverry, from the Campo de Marte all the way to a park at the top of the cliffs above the sea. 

Several times a month the gates are opened and water sent down the channel to flood, and thus water, the wide median strips of Ave. Salaverry, Ave. Pershing, and parts of Ave. Javier Prado Oeste.

Then, for a brief time, the Huatica still flows.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Oh, the sting of ostracism...

Last night after spending the afternoon at my aunt Toya's house, Willy, Helba, and I headed downton with the intention of attending a free recital on charango by an Ayacucho artist at the Club de la Union.  

The Club de la Union is an exclusive social club and one of the oldest.  It is associated with "old money" and its location on the Plaza de Armas, near city hall and the Presidential Palace, bespeaks the influence exercised by its members.

It also has a reputation for stuffiness, and it seems it's well-merited.  They actually denied me entry because I was wearing blue jeans!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Rally against recent Supreme Court decision regarding Fujimori's "Colina" death squad

On Friday, the 20th, an instance of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Javier Villa Stein, hearing matters related to some of the accusations against the members of the Fujimori dictatorship's notorious Grupo Colina death squad issued its verdict.

The members of the death squad -formed from among serving Army personnel- operated out of the military head quarters in Lima, and was commanded directly by then president Alberto Fujimori through his aide and spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos.  The Grupo Colina members were later shown to be responsible, and convicted, in the torture, murder, and disappearance of journalist Pedro Yauri, union leader Pedro Huilca, nine students and a professor La Cantuta University, fifteen people -including an 8-year old child- in the neighborhood of Barrios Altos, and nine peasants in the locality of Santa in Ancash.

The Villa Stein decision found -in contradiction of an earlier Supreme Court verdict- that the crimes of the Grupo Colina did not constitute crimes against humanity (crimenes de lesa humanidad) because such "can only be perpetrated against civilians" and the death squad was formed "to kill terrorists" and terrorists "are not civilians".  In other words, what matters is not the crimes but the supposed intent.  Morover, if there is no crime against humanity then there can have been no conspiracy to commit crimes against humanity. 

The decision thereby reduced the convictions to ones for murder and opened the door to reductions on sentencing and, and even completions of sentences from time already served, and potentially could serve as a mechanism for the release from prison of Alberto Fujimori.

The decision has been roundly condemned -from the President's office on down- as the details and implications of it have become clear, and Villa Stein has come under suspicion due to a series of changes made in the composition of the bench in the course of the proceedings.

Human rights groups and the victims' families called for a show of indignation in front of the Palace of Justice for Monday evening, a call which was assisted by La Republica newspaper announcing the demonstration on its front page.

The more I read about this decision, the more indignant I got.  Thus, come 6 pm, I was at the steps of the Palace of Justice to add my voice, as a Peruvian citizen, to that of the victims' relatives who continue their fight for justice.

Murdered journalist Pedro Yauri's daughters
"Washing the flag"
Congressman Mario Huaman
Daniel F, musician, founder of seminal Lima punk band Leuzemia
Genaro Ledesma former member of Congress and the Senate

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Birthday Luncheon: My turn to cook!

Today, it was my turn to treat myself by cooking a big meal for the family - and, yeah, to show off a bit.

Usually we have at least one gathering at the apartment when we are here, and this time I used my birthday as an excuse to gather everyone here, even if it was two days after the date.

I decided for a Chinese buffet, and started cooking last night so I could get ahead on some things and lighten the load this morning.   That gave Diego and I time to to  the market in Jesus Maria for a few last-minute items -mainly a fresh halibut that I steamed in the oven with some vegetables and scallops.

I accompanied that with some steamed rice, fried rice with Chinese sausage, sauteed vegetables, red-cooked pork, soy sauce chicken, explosive pepper chicken wings,  steamed broccoli with mushrooms and oyster sauce, and beef slices cooked in a spicy broth.

As additional treats, Willy ventured back to the tea house in Chinatown this morning and arrived here with an armload of sweet shrimp buns, and black-bean and white-bean paste-filled buns.  For dessert, Marina brought her yummy rice pudding (arroz con leche), with an extra can of condensed milk for those who like it extra sweet!

Explosive pepper chicken wings

Red-cooked pork

Sauteed vegetables

Fried rice

Broccoli and mushrooms with oyster sauce
They must've liked it all, as every bit got eaten. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Birthday dinner

Last night we finished off the birthday with a family dinner at a Chinese restaurant, the Wa Lok chifa in Miraflores, were we enjoyed some good food, fun company, and a delicious rainbow cake made for me by my niece, Rafaela.

Here, the waiters are singing "Happy Birthday" to me in Chinese.  (Boy, I look like crap! It had been a busy day, and I rode to the restaurant with the car window open, so my hair is a mess.)

Thursday, July 19, 2012


During a phone conversation with Liz, she convinced me to treat myself to lunch somewhere special for my birthday, so after a morning shopping in Chinatown, I invited Willy to lunch at Malabar.

On the way there, he decided that he wanted to treat me instead, which I naturally accepted, and we called Juancho and José to join us.

Malabar is a white-tablecloth restaurant in San Isidro's Camino Real area.  It is the brainchild of  Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, who is widely regarded as one of Lima's more inventive chefs.

The entrance is fairly nondescript, and there is nothing flashy about it.  In fact, it could be easily missed. Inside, however, is a very nice -and surprisingly comfortable- space.  The tables are impeccably appointed and -other than the bar area- the decor is subdued. 

The bar itself is incredibly well-stocked for a Lima restaurant bar, but perhaps the most conspicuous element is the large painting of two nude bathers that hangs over its seating area, directly facing the restaurant's entrance.

On a previous visit to Malabar, we noted that Schiaffino was focused on the flavours and ingredients of Peru's jungles.  In fact, it was on that fusion that he largely built his reputation.  Those elements are maintained still in a few dishes and but this time around Schiaffino had turned his attention to the Andes.  However, what we ate was not the typical "Novo Andina" fusion that has been done -and perhaps overdone- with varying degrees of success here.

For starters, while we waited for José and Jacho to arrive, they brought us a small bowl of traditionally toasted (no oil, no salt) cancha -dried corn kernels- accompanied by cubes of salty cheese from Ayacucho's Puquio province.

Next, when they brought out crusty bread, we were provided with little trays containing two tiles of piedra de Huamanga, a type of alabaster characteristic of Ayacucho's Huamanga province and long used in art and folk crafts in the region.   One of them was chilled and had a hollow filled with butter, the other had been heated to allow each of us to keep his piece of bread warm. (It didn't really work, but it was a nice idea.)

The food, as I've said, was not the usual Novo Andina fusion, in which chefs and cooks too often rely on heavy sauces.  Schiaffino's touch is much lighter and refined, as fits a restaurant that even in city with so many restaurants, and so many good ones at that, is marked as one of the highest-rated gourmet stops.

José ordered a dish of roasted suckling pig, which was crispy on the outside and moist inside, and Jacho had a dish of rabbit with a peanut polenta, which they both enjoyed.

Willy ordered a dish of rockfish -we thing it was a mero- over mushrooms and boiled Brazil nuts in a sage-infused gravy.  It was delicious, specially the sauce.

My own selection was a piece of paiche -a large jungle fish- in a sauce made with masato and topped with black tapioca.  It was very nice although kind of hard to eat with a fish fork and still enjoy some of the sauce in each bite, so I asked for a spoon.

To finish the meal we ordered the selection of traditional Lima desserts.  Clockwise from the center: suspiro de limeña, arroz con leche, picarones, mazamorra morada, and lúcuma ice cream.

As I said, today was a day of culinary indulgence.  And there was yet more to come ...

Trip to Chinatown

Today is my birthday and so far it has been a day of culinary indulgence.

 This morning Willy and I went on several-times postponed shopping trip to Chinatown. I'm cooking a luncheon for the family on Saturday and I needed some Chinese ingredients that apparently can't be found easily elsewhere - in fact wherever I had asked, people didn't know what I was talking about. Luckily, I found what I was looking for in a couple of shops on Jirón Paruro and Calle Capón.

Before shopping, however, we stopped for some breakfast.

Willy knew of a tea shop on Capón which he had been taken to 35 years ago by a friend of the family, the late Otto Perales, whose wife was Chinese-Peruvian.

Even though the selection was small due to it being yet relatively early and the kitchen having not yet fully gotten into gear, what we had was good and fairly classic -some har gow, pork and shrimp siu mai, chicken baozi, and a bao stuffed with a sweet paste including dried shrimp which was by far the best thing we ordered.

Then, having gotten our breakfast and shopping done, I invited Willy to lunch at Malabar restaurant in San Isidro.

However, we first stopped around the corner from San Francisco Monastery, and kitty-corner from the seat of the Constitutional Court, at a hole-in-the-wall shop that was a favorite of Mama Pali's, for some roasted pork sandwiches.  Willy and Toti had told me about them and Willy makes it a point to get one whenever he is downtown. 

The shop is literally streetside.  We pulled over, idled the car, and order our two sandwiches, urging the shop keepers to hurry up before the cops came over to ticket Willy because the stoplight ahead had changed and it was a no-parking area.  They laughed and assured us that the cops were their pals, to which Willy muttered "that's fine, but it's me they'll give the ticket to."

Anyway, the sandwiches were delicious, with bits of crispy skin and moist meat in a crusty roll.  Perfect to eat while sitting in stopped traffic, and at just s/.2 each, a bargain.