Hola Peru!

I was fortunate to be able to travel to Peru for two weeks in 2022. It was a wonderful adventure!  While there, I wrote several  blogs that you can find on my Instagram feed, as well as two articles in Outword after the trip covering the huge Pride celebration in Lima and a longer overview of the trip.  I am pasting those below with minor modifications. What an amazing country!

Mucho gusto, Peru!

Highlights from a two-week jaunt to South America

It’s been years since I’ve traveled solo anywhere outside of North America. As a single dyke and former Peace Corps Volunteer, I’ve traipsed all over the world. Coming out of COVID, I knew I wanted to spend my money in a developing country, work on my lame Spanish, and knock something off my bucket list.  Most people think of Machu Picchu when visiting Perú, but the Amazon was calling me instead.

Lima, Peru

Nearly 11 million people live in Lima’s 42 distritos. The city is massive, and the living conditions vary widely.  Like most touristos, I stayed in Miraflores, an upscale area.

My Airbnb apartment was just a few minutes walk from bars, shopping and restaurants. There was even a gay club – ValeTodo Downtown – near the language school I attended. Four hours each morning, I engaged in non-stop grammar and conversation practice. Mi excelente profesora even had a gay cousin and let me know where and when Gay Pride was happening!

In the afternoons I took my growing linguistic confidence into the streets. I took two  excursions with Haku Tours. Besides the delicious stuffed street churros, I enjoyed learning about  the beautiful historic center (including the catacombs, eek). Meeting a community leader and seeing some of the grimmer realities of her Belle Horizontale “shantytown” was also a powerful learning experience.

Lima is an easy city to get out and about. I used bikes, buses and taxis and made my Fitbit very happy. One highlight was snacking at an oceanview crepe stand along the beautiful malecón walkway. The nearby Museo de Arte Contemporáneo had an interesting exhibit of living artists interpreting traditional Peruvian themes, while another day, I hiked up the supercool, 1500-year-old Huaca Pucllana pyramid.

Most unforgettable however, was being caught up in the sea of red-and-white jerseys for the World Cup quarter finals. Sadly, Peru lost by one penalty kick to Australia and like many Limeños that night, I imbibed a blissful Pisco Sour. The country’s national cocktail, it’s a tangy, frothy concoction that goes wonderfully with Peru’s national dish, ceviche.

Iquitos, Peru

After my week of cross-cultural adventures, I left town on Latam Airlines. We soared northeast over the endless, stark Andes to the endless green Amazon.  Everywhere I looked, there were only miles of jungle rainforest. 

And then, appearing from nowhere, was Iquitos.  It’s technically a “metropolis” of nearly half a million people, but there’s no high-rise skyline in this remote jungle outpost. The city lies in the Amazon Basin, fed by the Amazon, Nanay, and Itaya rivers and is only accessible by plane or boat. 

Hot and humid, Iquitos is a slower-paced, tropical town full of honking tuk-tuks and wooden buses. Most visitors stay near the Plaza de Armas, which has a small selection of tasty restaurants, bars and museums in the neighborhood, along with gorgeous views of the river basin.

As I explored the area (taking numerous ice cream breaks in air-conditioned cafes), I marveled at the crumbling but formerly exquisite mansions. As the fascinating Museum of Historic Boats explains, Iquitos’ rise and fall is due to the 20th century rubber trade, which was in turn made possible by the steamboat and labor (with gross mistreatment) of indigenous peoples.   

While in town, I also took a tour of the gritty Belen market area, and enjoyed the festivities of La Fiesta de San Juan. I left Iquitos appreciating the town as a vibrant, unique place, albeit one with many challenges. 

Amazonia, Peru

The main reason tourists go to Iquitos is as a launching point for jungle tours. The Amazon River originates in Peru and the surrounding rainforest is the stunning home of pink dolphins, huge iguanas, piranhas and much more.

As I discovered on my four-day journey,  the lodges are generally no-frills. No climate control, no hot water and solar-electricity for just two hours at night.  We were served excellent, fresh meals of river-caught fish cooked over a wood fire, with fresh jungle juices to drink.

Each day there were multiple outings, some very physically demanding given the heat and humidity.  Our guides had all grown up on the river, spoke very good English, and were experts at spotting shy sloths and ginormous black snails.  

My highlight was visiting La Isla de Monos. The police bring orphaned monkeys taken from wildlife poachers to this sanctuary. The workers raise them for years until they can be safely released as adults.  It was very special to see how bonded the playful monkeys are with the dedicated staff.

By the time my trip had ended, I realized how wonderful it had been to experience such a different and fascinating country. Mucho gusto, Perú – such a pleasure to meet you!

Pride in Peru

Marcha del Orgullo celebrates 20 years

Aside from one colorful clothing ad and the outside of a popular gay club, I had not seen any signs of Pride month during my stay in Lima.  Por supuesto, I knew that queer culture existed in this massive South American capital city of over 13 million.  I’d read that even though same-sex unions and marriages had yet to be legalized, concensual-same sex activity had been okay since 1924.  In fact, the age of consent today is 14, regardless of gender and/or sexual orientation.  Good news for us touristas! 

However, I had no idea that the streets of the Jésus María neighborhood would be packed as far as I could see on June 25.  The Pride Collective of Lima was celebrating its 20th anniversary, and thousands of mostly young people came to march, protest and celebrate for the first time in three years because of the pandemic. Lima was one of 25 cities reportedly holding events for the LGBTIQ+ community, and its celebration was reported to be the largest in many years.  

La Prensa Latina reported that the Pride Collective organized the event with the slogan of celebrating its 20 years “being visible and demanding that the state attend to our various demands, but above all respect our citizenship in a country where our rights are run over all the time.”

Besides political statements, vendors queer and non-queer alike hawked everything from rainbow earrings to cotton candy, la prensa interviewed drag queens and spokespeople, and some amigos in a Pride 2022 limousine stopped for selfies.  The huge crowd marched toward the historic center at Plaza San Martin, where a large stage offered music and entertainment, until the clubs took over with the celebrations.  Peru, estamos contigo!

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All photos are copyright Chris Allan and cannot be used without my written permission. Please contact me for usage rights. Thank you for reading my page “Hola Peru!” To learn more about me and my work, please see my About page.

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