Monday, July 28, 2014

Musical Evenings in Barranco

After starting our evening last Wednesday at the Barranco Beer Company, Jacho, Diego and I, headed around the block to the La Noche cultural center to take in an evening of Urban Singer-Songwriters.

We had such a good time that we returned the next evening to catch a one-man show by Daniel F.

Daniel F (ne Daniel Augusto Valdivia Fernandez) is a singer, composer, and poet (though he rejects that label because, he says, poetry is something higher that what he does), who's been instrumental in the Lima punk/rock scene particularly, and in Peru generally, ever since the he was the frontman for Leuzemia, a seminal Lima band.

While in Leuzemia he wrote songs such as Al colegio no voy mas (I ain't going back to school), Asesino de la ilusion (Killer of hope),  and El hombre que no podia dejar de masturbarse (The man who couldn't stop masturbating) which became well-loved classics.

On Thursday he performed all of those, as well as other older pieces and newer compositions.   The crowd, generally, seemed to know the songs and often sang along during the choruses.

As for me, it was my first time seeing Daniel F on stage and I rather enjoyed it even though I could sing along like 'most everyone else seemed to.

Craft Beer in Barranco

 On Wednesday Jacho and I returned, accompanied this time by Diego, to a spot that we had earlier checked out with Liz while she was still here: the Barranco Beer Company.

Located in downtown Barranco, a half a block from the plaza and the "boulevard" containing the bulk of dance clubs, the Barranco Beer Company was started judging from the press reports I've seen, by a trio of enterprising friends by the members of "a family with a passion for beer". A couple of them, or perhaps all three more several, had spent time abroad and been exposed to the growing craft beer scene in the US and Europe.

They somehow raised the capital and put in a set of (60 barrel?) stainless steel conical fermenters which are visible to visitors at the back of the establishment through  a plate glass divider, while the brew kettles are visible behind the bar itself.

The Barranco Beer Company is, as far as I can tell, the second brew-on-premised beer pub in Lima - after the Cerverceria De Tomas (aka Mi Cebi-Chela) in San Borja.

From L to R: Fifti Lager, Bulls Ay, Weiss Presidente

Their bill does lack a heftier, toastier beer like a porter or stout, and they do do some odd stuff - like combining beer with soda- which is unfortunate because their beer is actually quite good on its own merits, with the "Weiss Presidente" and the "Bulls Ay" being perhaps their best offerings.

Even with the beer being relatively expensive compared to what a similar serving of the mass-produced beers cost, the place is a hit and did not lack for business either night that we were there.

A pitcher of Weiss Presidente
I'd certainly keep coming back just for that weiss!

Barranco Beer Company
Avenida Grau 308
Barranco - Lima - Peru

Friday, July 25, 2014

Lunch in Chinatown

On Wednesday I was hankering to get out for a bit and for some dim sum, so Diego and I headed to Chinatown, even though it was quite wet and drizzly out.

We went shopping for some large soup bowls in the shops near the old Central Market and headed to a Chinese restaurant and tea room that I knew about on Calle Capon.

It was Diego's first exposure to dim sum, and he said he liked it, although he is not  a big fan of chifa food beyond the classic fried rice and won ton soup lunch combo.  However we were both very impressed with a beef and wheat noodle soup that we ordered to help combat the chill of a very gray and drizzly day.

The flavour was deep and rich, and warmed by a generous addition of star anise, and the meat itself was super tender, even the parts with nerves and tendons.

I've been trying to find out more about it or something similar, but with the old-style (pre-Pinyin) transliteration into Spanish that is used here it is turning out to be somewhat of a lost cause.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

La Arenilla

A relatively new, and somewhat unknown or overlooked, attraction of La Punta -the tip of the peninsula at the north end of the bay of Lima- is La Arenilla.

A few years back, after one-too-many instances of inundation and wave damage to the streets and homes of La Punta, the authorities dumped a number of boulders offshore from the southern side of the peninsula, to create a breakwater.  An unforeseen result was the accumulation of sediment behind the breakwater, forming a lagoon and a coastal wetland.

Soon enough, the new wetland became a haven for seabirds and even began attracting migratory waterbirds who use it as a stopover point along their flyways.

With encouragement from environmentalists and local birders, and with corporate sponsoship, the wetland at La Arenilla has been designated an ecological reserve, and have even provided signs to help visitors identify some of the birds they might see.

It was actually a very pleasant place to visit, to sit on one of the benches and listen to the sea and to the calls of the gulls and other birds out on the sands.  This aspect of La Punta was new to me, as it did not exist when I was a kid, and I don't think it was there the last time I visited La Punta -or at least it hadn't yet gained much notice.   

Now, it its an evident source of local pride -the park next to it is kept immaculate, and it was mentioned to us a as a must-see at the restaurant we ate at.  In fact it has become an almost obligatory stop for birders in Lima, along with San Isidro's El Olivar park and the wetlands of Villa El Salvador.

Callao and La Punta

Last week (I've been a bit remiss about posting updates, I know) Toya and Orlando took me to Callao, Lima's port district.

Officially, Callao is a province, independent of other jurisdictions, and whose existence has been built into successive national Constitutions for years. In practice, it does depend quite a bit on the metropolitan government of greater Lima (although arguments do arise, as is the case now over reform of the city's transportation system).

Until the middle of the last century Callao was a separate city from Lima, although it has served as the capital's port for hundreds of years.  Long ago, however, its fortunes faded and it acquired a reputation as one of the city's most dangerous neighborhoods -which it does, I think deservedly, retain to a degree.

Today, Callao's former glory can still be glimpsed in its crumbling early Republican architecture

All of it, presided over by the Real Felipe fortress, erected to defend the city from pirates and English privateers.  Its construction was begun under Viceroy José Antonio Manso de VelascoViceroy in 1746 and completed in 1774 during the administration of Viceroy Manuel de Amat y Junent.

At the far end of the peninsula that comprises Callao, and the northern end of the bay of Lima, lies La Punta, which -as its name implies- is a point of land extending into the pacific.  On its northern side lies the deepwater anchorages that serve the port, and on the southern side, the bay which is overlooked by the city of Lima.

At La Punta's very end, there is a beach which is still used by artisanal fishermen -many of Italian descent-  who supplement their income by giving boat tours when the weather is good.

Off the coast, lie a set of islands, comprised mainly by the large isles of El Fronton and San Lorenzo.  The latter harbors the last of Lima's sea lion population,  a myriad seabirds, and even Magellanic penguins on its far side.  It has also been found to contain Pre-Columbian ruins and traces left by pirates and English privateers - including gravesites.  

El Fronton (at left), San Lorenzo (at center), and the Naval Academy at La Punta (at right)
Unfortunately, the powers that be have dreams of building a causeway between La Punta and the island and turning it into a deepwater port for larger ships or building an airport on it, either of which would devastate the ecology and archaelogy of the island.

El Fronton, for its part, was infamous as an island prison over which lurid tales were spun.  In the 1980s it was used  to house prisoners from the Shining Path.  The prisoners rebelled on June 18, 1986, and by the next day, courtesy of the Navy, most had been killed and the prison reduced to rubble.  The Navy demolished the cell block even with wounded prisoners inside, precipitating a scandal and crisis for the government of President Alan Garcia.

(From L to R) Orlando, myself, Mr Peñaflor

Of course, being surrounded on three sides by ocean, La Punta is known as a prime locale for quality seafood meals.   And, of course, we took advantage of that, at La Caleta, a restaurant run by Mr. Rodolfo Peñaflor its friendly and talkative owner.

A bowl of parihuela, a Callao classic

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Few Photos From Along Ayacucho's Main Plaza

The Plaza

Ayacucho's main plaza

Equestrian statue of Gen. Antonio Jose de Sucre, one of Bolivar's lieutenants, who led the Independentist forces to victory over the last remnant of the Spanish colonial army at the Battle of Ayacucho.

Most of the plaza was built in the late 1500s and 1600s and all the buildings are in the Spanish style of the time.  There is one detail, however, that passes unnoticed even by people who've grown up in Ayacucho:

Portion of a wall  in Portal Independencia, along the north side of the plaza, showing that at least one Inca mason was used in erecting the original building along the plaza.  Note the close, mortarless fit between stones, and that the face of the each stone bulges out, and recedes toward the joining edges.



The Cathedral 

Ayacucho cathedral, erected in the 1600s and consecrated in 1671.  To it's right is the Zamora y Castilla mansion, which once belonged to Bishop Cristobal de Castilla y Zamora, who donated it to the newly-created University of Huamanga in 1677.

Central nave and the Baroque main altar of the Cathedral.

 Baroque wooden pulpit.

Detail of one of the chapels along the side naves of the cathedral.  In this case, the depiction is of the Holy Trinity.

The main altar.

Litter bearing the image of Our Lady of Mt Carmel, ready to be borne in procession in the upcoming Fiesta de la Virgen del Carmen (July 16th).

The University House


Patio of the Zamora y Castilla mansion.   According to some authorities, that fig tree is 500 years old and is the first one to have been brought to Peru.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Few Pictures of the Old Family Home in Ayacucho

The view down the street, on Av. Garcilazo de la VegaThe peach-colored building used to be a police station, and during the Shining Path attack on the city jail in March 1982 guerrilla snipers took over the rooftops on the near side of the street in order to prevent the officers from sallying in support of their comrades at the jail, five blocks down the street.

The view out back.  The large building used to be the Cavero family's cinema.  Every afternoon on my summer visits to Ayacucho was marked by the sound of the cinema's generator going on for the day's showings.  Today it is an evangelical church, but they have kept the projector on display in what used to be the lobby.

The main part of the house, likely built in the 1700s, viewed from the entrance to the courtyard. My great aunt Esther had a parrot, named Pepinillo Landaeta (or Pepe, for short), who lived on the ledge on that nearest column.

A partial view of the house's courtyard and balcony.  The door at the end of the balcony used to be my great aunt Esther's room, and to its right, behind that shuttered window, was the parlor.

Ayacucho Museum to the Memory of Those Killed and Disappeared During the War Years

The main reason I traveled to Ayacucho last week was to attend a two-evening colloquium on "Class, Gender and the Building of Peace in Peru (1961-2014)".  It's main purpose was to examine the role of women in social movements, guerrilla groups, and in building peace and reconciliation, beginning with the  guerrillas of the 1960s,  but centering on the internal war waged  between the Peruvian state and the guerrillas of the Shining Path and Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement in the 1980s and 1990s.

Given the political climate in the country at the moment, all doors were closed to the holding such an event in Lima.  However, in Ayacucho, which had been at the center of the violence and which suffered the greatest number of victims -between those killed, disappeared, tortured, traumatized, and displaced- the doors were opened.  And they were opened by no less than the mothers and relatives of the disappeared organized in the Association of Relatives of the Kidnapped, Detained, and Disappeared of Peru (ANFASEP).

ANFASEP was started in 1983, when Angélica Mendoza de Ascarza -"Mamá Angélica"- after fruitlessly searching for her son Arquímedes, who had been taken one night by the army, joined with other women searching for their own relatives who had also been detained.  Mamá Angélica organized them to help each other draw attention to their cause and try to bring pressure on the authorities to release their relatives -or their corpses- and to bring those responsible to justice.  Now, thirty years later, they're still waiting for justice, and the fate and location of many of the victims, including Mamá Angélica's Arquímedes, are yet to be revealed.

Anyway, after thirty years of facing down authorities, threats, and every obstacle thrown in their path, the mothers of ANFASEP are not afraid of much, and they generously co-sponsored the event and got the Jesuit Order to provide the meeting space.

Not only did Adelina Garcia, ANFASEP's current president, open the event on Wednesday evening, but as part of it, they invited those attending to visit the ANFASEP's Museum of Memory, which was the first museum in Peru dedicated to exploring the war and to the memory of the victims.
ANFASEP's building on Prolongacion La Libertad, Ayacucho.

The museum houses photos, documents, and artwork related to the war's victims and their relatives' search for justice and reparations, and clothing and other items that belonged to the disappeared.

ANFASEP's first banner and the cross with the inscription "Do Not Kill", which they bore in their early mobilizations.

Mrs. Lidia Flores -standing before a photo of her late husband, Felipe Huamán, and the shirt he was wearing when he was taken by the police in July of 1984- talks about about the night he was taken, the day, a month later, when she discovered and  then secretly recovered and reburied his corpse, and her continuing struggle to gain convictions of the policemen who murdered him.

To say that the museum is moving, and harrowing and inspiring at the same time, understates the impact  on one caused by the exhibits and the courage of the women -mainly- who established and run it and ANFASEP.

Artwork depicting the kitchen which ANFASEP ran to feed 200 war orphans in the 1990s.