Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Happy Beerthday Arequipa

The weekend was filled up with the celebrations of the 464th anniversary of Arequipa. A parade on Friday evening proved to be just a taster for the main event on Sunday, when the centre of town closed down for the massive, four hour in length "corso" or parade, featuring endless floats, marching bands, traditional dancers, beauty queens and other cultural displays from Arequipa, other departments of Peru, and other countries. If you didn't get there early (which I didn't) you didn't see much, having to crane your neck over the five or six rows of people along all the streets. Balcony restaurants along the plaza charged 25 soles minimum consumption as a condition of entrance.

On Saturday night we went out to La Fia, a big amphitheatre on a rise south of the city, to watch the music there. We drank handles of Arequipeña and wore foam-rubber hats in the form of a handle of Arequipeña, while the bands Los No Sé Quién Y Los No Sé Cuándo (Limeños) and Las Moscas Sexy (Argentinian) shouted "¡Viva Arequipa!" and incited the crowd to sing the Arequipan national anthem (yes, there is an Arequipan national anthem) on a stage crowned by a huge red and yellow Arequipeña sign. Looking towards the three-storey high Arequipeña bottle to the right of the stage, I couldn't help thinking of Duff beer from The Simpsons. If ever there was a case of a beer brand owning a town, here it is.

As I might have mentioned before, Arequipeña is rather insipid and has the habit of foaming out the top of the bottle after you take your first sip. Meanwhile, the hoppy, crisp Cusqueña is nowhere to be found in the Ciudad Blanca, except in its syrupy sweet dark form. More free-market neoliberalism, please!