For the love of a good parade....
If there's one thing which unites Peruvians - rich, poor and miserable, indian, mestizo and European - it's the love of spectacle, in particular of a decent parade. Central Arequipa sees an average of about two processions a week; if there's no protest organised, there's usually the feast day of some saint, or the anniversary of a college.
Yesterday in the morning it was the turn of a range of protesters, including the university workers' union, pensioners and civil construction workers. All across Peru, yesterday was a big day of strikes and protests, ranging from Ministry of Health doctors and midwives striking for more pay (sound familiar??) to people protesting against environmental contamination from mining operations. La Republica came up with the snappy headline "Paro, Luego Existo" (I Strike, Therefore I Am").
In Arequipa it was all pretty tranquil. "It's a protest, as opposed to a strike" Tessy explained to me. "Which means we don't have to close the doors when they go past". There were still the usual effigies of Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo and a few shouts of "death to Chilenos!" (Chile slightly trumps the government as the cause of everyone's misfortune).
Later in the afternoon, a smiling crowd of people marched down Santa Cantalina with streams of blue and white balloons and banners proclaiming support for, ah, the Virgin Mary. They sang, and called out "arriba Maria!" and, I think I heard this right, "arriba the Pope!". "You give us hope, Maria!" said one of the banners (I was tempted to ask "how?").
Why are they parading? I asked the girls in the office. "What - don't you know who Maria is?" said Noemi. "She's the Mother of God". Yes, but why today? They couldn't tell me...sorry, lapsed Catholic, can anyone out there tell me what is special about 25 November??
...and off to have an adventure
I have quite a bit to write about, but won't be able to for the next while, as I am off on a five-day trek in the wilderness. We're starting from Cabanaconde, near the rim of the Colca Canyon, and will be trekking to Andagua, in the Valley of the Volcanoes, where there are apparently over 300 volcanoes of all shapes and sizes. On the way passing through remote wilderness up to 5200 metres. I'm going with a French guy, who speaks only a little Spanish and a little English (I've already had to practice my French with him), and guide organised by Lizbeth's father, who is apparently some kind of shaman. Should be quite an experience - will write about it when I get back.
Anyone who is interested in reading the stories I've submitted to various newspapers etc, click here. As always, I'd be happy to get any comments, which you can make by clicking on "comments" at the end of this post.
You may have noticed that I've changed the name of this page from "Bidsta Blog" to "South America Bidsta Blog", to now "South America Bidsta". This is an attempt to get Google's robots to notice that the page is about South America, and place relevant ads accordingly. I get paid about 30c every time someone "clicks through" to one of the ads on my page. I am strictly prohibited from artificially generating clicks myself, or encouraging others to do so, but should note that, if anyone sees an interesting ad on my page (especially if they do pick up on the content and put more South America-related ads there), feel free to click on it!