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Lima Journal, Part II

Statue of Francisco Pizarro

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I’ve been jotting some notes about Peru’s capital — for Part I, go here. And I think I’ll just wade back in . . .

. . . like you wade into Lima’s traffic (when you’re a pedestrian, trying to cross the street). The traffic here is very heavy. But not the heaviest I’ve seen. The heaviest, I believe, was in Bombay. Followed by Cairo. Bombay is the all-time champeen.

While in India, I jotted the following line: “Memo to self: Don’t romanticize the Third World.” I think of it again, while in Lima.

Peru has made great strides, thanks to liberalizing policies that began in the early 1990s. Poverty has been struck blows. Yet it persists, obviously. Children are in the streets, selling trinkets of varying kinds. I don’t see any outright beg. They are all selling something, some small item. In India, the children outright beg.

Unmuffled motorbikes: They are part of the soundtrack of a great deal of the world.

One sight you increasingly see — including in the United States — is a policeman on a Segway. So it is here.

I smile at Parque Franklin D. Roosevelt. Seldom have I been anywhere in the world without an FDR Park.

I smile at Calle Tomás Edison.

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Here is a question I don’t know the answer to: In Latin America, broadly speaking, the European conquerors and settlers and their heirs mixed — mixed with the indigenous, or “Indian,” population. Latin America is full of “mestizos.” In the United States, there was some of that. (Think of our Cherokee senator, Elizabeth Warren! Everyone claims to have “Indian blood,” especially if they want to get into college.) But relatively little.

Why?

I see the name “Túpac Amaru” — and it doesn’t refer to a late rapper but to a late (very late) Incan king.

In Lima, there are many things named after the conquerors, the conquistadors. In Cuzco, I’m told, not so much. In Lima, the conquistadors are hailed: They are the founding fathers. In Cuzco, an “Indian” place, they are more like destroyers.

(Sort of like Christopher Columbus at Brown University.)

A great Peruvian delicacy, I’m given to understand, is the guinea pig: cooked — roasted, I imagine — whole. Head, feet, and all.

I see a painting of the Last Supper in Lima. The food being served is a guinea pig (or several). Behind Judas is a figure of the devil.

My guide says that there is a Last Supper in Cuzco, too. This one has a devil behind Judas as well — and that devil is Pizarro, the founder of (Spanish) Peru.

Lima contains some wonderful incongruities — such as German-, Swiss-, and Austrian-style homes, built by settlers (immigrants?) who came from those places. There are also English Tudor houses.

I meet a young man from the Amazonian jungle, whose name is Patrick — his given name, I understand, not an adopted English (or Irish) one.

There is something all visitors to Lima enjoy seeing, and that includes me: On a monument to José de San Martín, there is the figure of a woman, and on her head is a llama. She was supposed to have a flame — a crown of flames. But the sculptor misunderstood. “Llama,” in Spanish, means both “flame” and the animal.



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