Perú 2015: Interviews! Kitty Crusader Badge! Huaca Pucllana!

After an initial meeting with Peruvian comics creators Jesús Cossio and Juan Acevedo, both of whom were so very, very kind as to grant me not only interviews with each of them, but an interview with the two of them together (¡qué alegría, por Dios!), I spent a couple days preparing (i.e. shamelessly geeking out over their comics in my apartment and about town) and then met with them on Saturday to talk. They have both been incredibly generous with their time and their insights, and it was a real pleasure to talk more about their work and just enjoy their company one more time. They really don’t get any nicer than these guys, I’m telling you. And their ability to reflect on their own work as well as that produced in the larger international field, as well, is just amazing. With nearly three hours of interview material, it will be a lot of transcription, but I welcome revisiting these conversations and weaving their thoughts into my project(s?) on social comics in Perú. With everything these two have given me to think about and work on, this project is sure to get much bigger than I originally intended. I can’t wait to get started!

On Sunday morning I went to a follow-up appointment regarding my mysterious tongue problems, and that was… not great. I’m going to just “leave it there,” as Dan Savage would say. Long story short, I needed to blow off some steam after leaving the clinic, so I stopped by Parque Kennedy for some kitty cuddles. I’m so predictable, I know. Within about two minutes of sitting in what seemed to be an auspicious stretch of sidewalk curb, I had a little trio of meowers vying for my attention. Et voilà, j’etais heureuse!

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While I was handing out belly rubs and ear tugs to my new feline friends, a young woman and a man with a camera approached and asked if I would be willing to do a video interview on my stance regarding animal rights. Um, sure? She had overheard me telling an elderly Brazilian man I was talking to that I volunteer for an animal rescue in the states, and she was curious to talk about how that worked and what the differences were concerning animal rights in the U.S. versus Perú. It was an interesting conversation, and I was glad she had stopped to talk to me. When the interview was over, she even gave me this cute little animal rights justice league badge as thanks! It fell off somewhere between the park and the Surquillo market (damn! I was so bummed!), so I’m glad I got a quick kitty crusader selfie before I lost it.

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I then realized that I was starving (I was super stressed out that morning and skipped breakfast, which is SO not like me) so I headed towards the Surquillo market, which was about a mile away. As I started to cross the final intersection that led into the market itself, I saw a man with a cooler and a sign that said: empanadas venezolanas. Shut.the.front.door. I miss Venezuelan food in ways I can’t fully describe, so this was like manna from heaven, for real. He saw my eyes light up from across the street, and started waving and shouting ¡épale, épale, vente pa’ ca, catira! (essentially: hey, hey, get over here, blondie!) Omg. Viva Venezuela, yo. So yeah, I did get my ass over there, and quick! Soon we were talking about Mérida (the town I used to live in and one that he spent a lot of time in, it turns out) and the food and Caracas and all kinds of things… we chatted for about 10 minutes before I realized, omg, I need like five of those empanadas! I did want to try the other grub at the market, though, as I had heard great things about it, so I settled for one. I regret that now. If I was thinking, I would have stuffed like three more in my purse for later. ‘Cause I’m a lady like that. Jesus GAWD those things are amazing.

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[That’s a lame photo, I know, but my main priority was getting this thing in my mouth, asap. And can you blame me? It was goddamn delicious.]

I finally tore myself away and did the market circuit. Organic Andean grains, chocolate, artesanía, fruits and vegetables, herbs… I stopped by and consulted with the herbalist about alternative treatments for my tongue trouble, and she prescribed some dried caléndula (marigold) and flor de trigo (wheat flowers). Natural anti-inflammatories with various other benefits to boot. Sweet. I’m now totally hooked on the flor de trigo tea, and I’ve been making a list of some other herbs I want to bring back for my sweet man to try, too. Wild rose petals, for example? Yes, please.

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I also hit up the “food court,” let’s just call it. Check this shit out:

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Yeah, no joke. I got a causa de cangrejo con langostín. A causa is kind of like a cold, seafood-based Sheppard’s pie, for lack of a better description – it’s a layer of seasoned mashed potatoes on the bottom, with a cold seafood/mayo/avocado mixture in the middle (this one was crabmeat and shrimp), then more potatoes on top. The one I got at El Muelle was much prettier (see photo no. 2), but this one won the taste test hands down.

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And then (this is getting long, I know. It was a big day!) I retraced my steps on the off chance I might find my kitty crusader badge – no such luck – and happened upon the community exercise event right outside of Parque Kennedy. This one was group dance, led by a fabulous instructor who did more dramatic turns and full hair-flips than my friend Ginger. And she’s a machine. You may have seen her dancing on tables on RAGBRAI. Or at the Dublin. I love you, Ginger! Anyway, it was SO much fun. I took a couple videos (including this one, which still makes me laugh, every single time) and then said fuck it and jumped in. Why not, right?

(Shoot, the video is too big to upload. I’ll post it soon, I promise!)

Then it was on to Huaca Pucllana, a walkable archeological site that preserves a space inhabited by one of the many pre-Incan civilizations in ancient Perú. The site itself is incredible. See for yourselves:

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In addition to the various spaces preserved here, including underground tombs, sacrificial altars, and open community spaces, the Huaca Pucllana site also maintains what would have been traditional cultivars and animals raised for food and/or labor. I quickly made fast friends with this guy, and then did some hand-wringing about my decision to eat some cuy while I’m here. They’re so cute! I don’t know if I’ll be able to go through with it in the end, but I feel compelled to give it a try. Sorry, guys!

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The site also has two Peruvian hairless dogs. The name for them escapes me right now, sorry. According to what I’ve been told, it’s tradition to have at least one of these dogs at every museum, for good luck and to serve as healers for the museum’s visitors. It was explained to me that these dogs can solve a number of problems simply through contact. Have a cold? Give this guy a pet! Suffering from asthma or allergies? Here’s a snuggly solution! They’re supposed to resolve romantic issues, as well, though I don’t know if that requires a pet or a hug. Anyway, I was telling my mom about them later over FaceTime, and she said, “I hope you chased one of them down and gave him a good lick!” Damn! Hindsight…

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After all of this, I was exhausted, and headed for home. When I checked my pedometer later that night (I’m a numbers girl, what can I say), I was at 11.25 miles. Wow. All in all, a very full day, and a pretty damn good one, by the end of it.

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