Two weeks and some change. That’s it. I had only two weeks and a few days to travel Peru, north, and south, nonstop. Now that I look back at my pictures, I’ve realized how rewarding the trip was, even though by the end of it I was so exhausted I began considering my return home. I had only a list of the touristic destinations I planned on visiting but otherwise little knowledge of the culture (I find it much less disappointing and surprising to have zero stereotypes and expectations about a country and its people).
Like all the other countries I have visited, Peru differed greatly. From its arid landscape in the West coast to its tremendously breathtaking mountains and lush jungle in the East, inevitably became an astonishing destination. Its population is mainly indigenous or mestizos, a mixture of Spaniard and indigenous, with some Afro culture in the West.
As many may already know (thank you novelas that overshadow the much more abundant history of Colombia), the Colombian drug war has been anything but “cool.” The violence is often embellished in the latest trending Netflix series, stuffed with rad tactics, and incredibly action-packed scenes. But in reality, the war has truly been a divisive tragedy that affects every single civilian in the country. The situation has led politicians to satiate their gluttony with money birthed from the narcotics, intermingling in their pockets with the money of the people and the cartel. Complicating the corruption, the FARC, for some time, protected farmers who grew coca, in exchange for a large portion of their income. These same farmers would later be displaced from their homes, ambulating into traffic packed cities, whose job market could not match the ever-growing migrant’s population. In fact, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, “a shocking 5,840,590 people were registered as being internally displaced in Colombia” in 2014.
But in 2016, two extremely important events occurred in Colombia:
After 52 years of the insistent civil war many had been born into, the FARC neared ending talks to sign a peace treaty with the Colombian government to lay down their weapons. The peace treaty became official in 2017.
Both decisions have been met with traditionalist opposition: Peace treaty? Those criminals should be sent to jail to pay for their crimes! Marijuana? Now you’ll have a bunch of addicts meandering the streets.
Whatever the opinions of others may be, I have an anecdote to share about post-civil war, post-legalization, from the little town of Toribío.
Only a relatively short but seemingly extended journey from Puerto Escondido lies a quiet beach town stitched together by one main road. Often described as being bohemian and laid back, Mazunte thrives on the curiosity of tourists and its fame for being a Pueblo Magico. Its waves are ravenous and immediately hemmed to its long dusty road which offers no shade or solace from the blinding sun. In this road, is where I found Cesar, a gentleman whose persistent energy keeps him bouncing on his toes and moving to and fro. Despite our foul attitude fueled by the exhausting sun and aching hunger, Cesar maintained a very friendly demeanor with my parents and me, offering freshly caught fish at prices that could be bargained and a genuinely kind smile. It is after our picky ordering that Cesar, for reasons attributed to the friendliness prevalent in Latin America, sat down with us to chat. One shortened conversation led to a deeper discussion, one that Cesar spilled even more by the minute. Here, I share his story, his brave retelling of an incredibly difficult journey pending an ending.
Original interview in Spanish, but I have translated the interview into English too.
I received my first bikini wax when I was 16, when I was young, naive, and easily corrupted. My teenage-hood wasn’t one that caused my parents headaches or involved nightly escapades to drink beer acquired from bums outside the local 7/11. I was relatively calm, confused, and enthralled by things most teenagers paid no mind to (holler in classic rock, magical realism literature, and British TV shows). But I did get my first bikini wax when I was 16.
I can’t remember the exact reasons why, but it probably had to do with the media molding me into looking a very unreachable idyllic way, one that I still fight with today (I’m winning the battle I promise!).