I have been in Peru nearly a month. So far I know these things to be true.
---this photo is not out of focus.
Lima appears skyless to me most days...as if the grey, which locals refer to as the color of a donkey´s stomach, is more complex than just clouds. I am told that the humidity of the climate clashing with the cold ocean water creates the impenetrable cover.
The effect is somewhere between a Garcia Marquez dream state and Orwell's 1984.
In an attempt to lighten the mood Peruvians drink their national soda, Inca Kola, the color of sunshine. Inca Kola is not just the sabor de Peru, but the strange bright yellow concoction, which tastes a lot like drinking a stick of Juicy Fruit gum, encapsulates local pride.
In fact Inca Kola is so powerful that it was outselling Coca Cola here. Nothing like spinning globalization on its head. Of course Coke proceeded to buy Inca Kola, but what else is new. Look for it at your local bodega.
Peruvian journalism (the reason I am here) is alive and well, but few locals seem to care. There is a distrust here that pervades a lot of things, especially the press. Small press stands sell upwards of 15 different newspapers, most of them tabloids or "Chichas." Chichas grew under the former president Fujimori who wanted to dilute public information with distractions from the real news, the result, scantilly clad señoritas on page 1. A number of news outlets were shut down or handcuffed during his reign. Many others took substantial bribes from Fujimori's intelligence chief, Vlademir Montesinos. Although I am told bribes have always existed, just not as egregious.
Mistrust is a part of life here.
An often heard goodbye is ¨Cuidate¨meaning take care, or be careful...although here it is said with a hint of worry, as if something bad is going to happen. I am beginning to understand that this is what happens when a country truly knows terrorism.
I am routinely warned about going anywhere by myself. Upon hearing of my plan to go to a local soccer match between the two Lima powers, my doorman hatched an elaborate plan to get me into the stadium and back home without getting the crap beaten out of me. Needless to say I encountered few problems and was happy to see how the other 90% of Lima lives.
You can kind of see me a few rows over from the flares. My team has just scored.
I think the most surprising thing about Peru is that its paralysis is subtle. The outward face is one of upward mobility and pride, but inside is a ball of emotion. I sat in on a local radio program today where the host interviewed a local psychologist. He anaylzed the Peruvian psyche and tried to get at the cloud of insecurity and percieved inferiority that keeps what seems to be a country that has everything down.
I am beginning to believe that the ominous sky here in Lima is a reflection of a much deeper issue, something that lies inside those who walk these streets.