Number of People with Nothing Better to Do

Friday, August 6, 2010

Fiesta del Chicharron (Fried Pork Festival)

Artist from Ica and his most famous drawing.
Hot cumbia dancers (I tried up upload video but didn't work)
Last weekend was the Fiesta del Chicharron in a town called El Ingenio somewhere between where I live and Nazca. A whole festival dedicated to big hunks of delicious fried pork! How great is that?! I was invited by a friend of mine who happened to be the mayor of El Ingenio’s son. He invited me a couple of months ago and I’ve been looking forward to it ever since. I took the bus up to Ingenio, hopped off and caught a collectivo up to the little, out of the way town with no cell phone service. The streets were all torn up because they were being redone. This is going on in a lot of little towns in Peru because all the mayors are up for re-election in a couple of months and they do all their projects just before the elections so people think they actually did something during their tenure.

I met my friend at a lady’s house for lunch. The lady was kind of gringa looking and, according to my friend, her family owned nearly all the land in El Ingenio until the Velasco agrarian reform in the 1960’s when the government took it all. She was also married to a former mayor of Lima. Now the lady, a widow, is kind of a patron of the local art scene and has artists over to her house to paint, drink wine, and hang out. I sat around with a bunch of young artists, ate lunch and listened to them jabber on about esoteric, pedantic bullshit that artists typically talk about when they get together. After lunch, we went up to the fiesta at the stadium.

The Fiesta del Chicharron lived up to it’s name and the expectation. Dozens of vendors had their pots full of huge chunks of fried pork, Homer Simpson’s wet dream. The food was delicious!! I hung out with a buddy who teaches traditional Peruvian dance to kids and a guy who runs a local pottery workshop. They were selling pottery from the workshop painted in the style of the ancient Nazcas. Pretty sweet stuff at a decent price. Chances are that’s what you’re getting for Christmas. Someone broke out the Pisco, a liquor made out of grapes, and we started passing it around and telling dick jokes. Maybe it was the Pisco talkin’ but the jokes were pretty damn funny.

The band kicked in and immediately the people of Ingenio, unlike the timid folks in my town, jumped right in and started dancing and laughing it up. They were super friendly. After a little bit, there were probably about 15 of us in our drinking circle hanging out, giving each other shit and dancing to cumbia cover tunes. The band, Los Hermanos Something-or-Other put on a great show and had a couple of hot dancer girls on stage to boot. I tried to leave several times during the evening to catch the last bus out at 10 but the folks would have none of it. I wound up staying at the fiesta until 1 or 2 in the morning and spent the night on a very thin mattress on the floor of the mayor’s house.

Apparently they have some sort of fiesta in El Ingenio every month, fried pork served at all of them. Can’t wait for the next one!!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

El Brujo de Llipata

The last time I had my fortune told was at a county fair in Nashville. I can’t remember what the cards said but I’d had a dream recently that I wanted interpreted. The dream was that I was an old time homesteader clearing his land. I was pulling out a stump with my mule and, after a monumental struggle, it came out. When the stump finally popped out all these ticks came out of the earth and climbed all over me. His interpretation: The clearing out of the fields is a good sign. You’re making your way to a better future. And the baby chicks are a very good sign, a sign of prosperity. Awkward pause… Um, I said ticks, not chicks. Another awkward pause… Oh. Well, that changes things quite a bit. Watch your back for people that are trying to take advantage of you. Truer words have never been spoken.

Last week my site mate, another volunteer, and I decided to get our fortunes told by a local fortune teller in the nearby town of Llipata. My site mate has been working on a canal project that involves trekking through some pretty treacherous mountains and the locals she’s working with are nervous that the mountains are going to get pissed and kill them. So they’ve been consulting with the second best man in the area who can make appeasements to the mountains. The first best man lives up the quebrada (valley) from me. I'm not sure why they don’t go to him but maybe the second best gives better rates. The pay-off to keep the mountains happy is something like a bag of coca leaves, a box of cigarettes, wine and piglet’s blood. I think the mountains wanted the sacrifice of a young virgin girl but apparently that’s a delito (crime) around here even if it is for a good cause. I’m not sure exactly sure how the brujo (male witch – warlock?) bargained with the mountains to settle for pig’s blood but, hey, I’m not a mountain god expert so what the f*ck do I know. I do know that it brought down the price substantially.

Anyway, we were bored one day and went to get our fortunes told. We went to a little town outside of Llipata for the visit. Of course we called his cell phone ahead of time to make an appointment. The taxi dropped us off and we walked down a dirt road through the chakra (farms) to another little town whose name I can’t remember. The old man lived in a little one bedroom adobe house with a bed, a table and three chairs. He had little scarred-up dog that looked like he’d recently got his ass kicked. This was in the afternoon and the brujo looked pretty sober (which I took to be a good sign but I’m not sure what BAC you have to have to accurately read the cards).

One of the volunteers that’s helping out on the canal project went first. It didn’t go too well for her. After he dealt out the cards, he drew his index finger across his neck. Never a good sign in any language. He basically said you’re shit out of luck in health, love, career, and money. Then it was my turn. The old man shuffled the deck and asked me to cut the deck with my left hand. He then paused looked at the deck as if to call up some sort of spirit to help him read them and then dealt out the cards in rows of ten. I then picked out which card I wanted to be. It was a card with a man that was either spinning a basketball on his middle finger or giving the world the bird. The old man picked the cards up, dealt them out again to see what my fortune was. As he was dealing out the cards, there was a kind of awed hush. Card, card, card. There’s your card right? Si… Card, card, card...

Once all the cards were laid out, he looked at them. This is your card right? Si. Well, here close to your card is money, work, and what looks to be drinks. And love I asked? Oh, that’s way over here with guys on horses in between. Looks like you’re going to have to travel far for love. But the work, money and beers are always going to be close to me? And what about my health? That’s not so good he said. Tienes que cuidarte (you have to take care of yourself). All three of us had different readings but all three of us had to travel for love and got the bad health sign.

I chose not to tell him about the recurring dream I had as a kid where German Shepherds were attacking me. Best let sleeping dogs lie.