Life in Peru

In this great future – part 2

A while ago I wrote about difficult times in the recent history of Peru, borrowing words from Bob Marley “in this great future, you can’t forget your past…”

The same is true for Belgium, where we are currently spending the holidays with my family. Life wasn’t always easy here either. Take a look at the main square in my town, nice and picturesque in the snow…

Main square in Oostakker, Belgium

Main square in Oostakker, Belgium

There’s a cute gazebo in the middle of the main square, where we were being all touristy…

The gazebo in the main square in Oostakker

The gazebo in the main square in Oostakker

Patricia on the gazebo

Patricia on the gazebo

But take a closer look… the gazebo is built on top of a World War 2 era bombshelter, the red door is the original entrance. When we were kids we’d go inside and play, although it often had standing water inside. It’s not the only bombshelter in town, there are several more scattered around.

Entrance to WW2 era bombshelter

Entrance to WW2 era bombshelter

In Peru there are so many young people that a middle-age white guy like myself is positively ancient, not many people are around with any recollection of World War 2, but in Europe there are still many people who remember WW2. My grandmother used to tell us about how they slept in a home-made shelter they dug in the backyard, my grandfather was in the the Belgian army at the beginning of the war. My other grandparents had a farm and would secretly help people with food when the rations weren’t sufficient.

“in this great future, you can’t forget your past…”

December 20, 2009 Posted by | Life in Peru | , , , , , | Leave a comment

In this great future…

you can’t forget your past.

I may fuss about some things in Peru, but at the end of the day I’m very optimistic about the future. What keeps surprising me is how the young population (median age is 26) appears indifferent at times to the recent history of Peru.

Take the post office here in Cuzco, for example. Looks ok from the outside…

Cuzco post office

Cuzco post office

Now inside: “…built by the revolutionary government of the armed forces of Peru. June 1973.”

Gobierno revolucionario de la fuerza armada

Gobierno revolucionario de la fuerza armada

The military government of Velasco Alvarado was later overthrown in another military coup, and in the 1980s followed by the disastrous first term of Alan Garcia, hyperinflation and the terrorism of Sendero Luminoso.

History intrigues me, a lot can be learned from it, but we often don’t. Just in way of one current example, here in Peru those who are considering to allow ex-militants of Sendero Luminoso back into politics should consider the simple wisdom of the late great Bob Marley:

“in this great future, you can’t forget your past…”

They weren’t idle words for Bob Marley… songwriter’s credit (and royalties) for the song “No woman no cry” is given to Vincent Ford, a man who ran a soup kitchen in the ghetto where Marley grew up. It is believed Marley wrote the song to console Mr. Ford’s widow at his death.

Here’s to hoping Peru won’t forget it’s past and the future will be bright.

November 25, 2009 Posted by | History and culture, Life in Peru | , , , , , | 3 Comments


91 years ago, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 the Great War ended.

WW1 was supposed to be the war that ended all wars, but of course it only set the stage for WW2, which in turn marked the beginning of the so-called “Cold War” that shaped much of Latin America’s bloody history.

When I was a kid a handful of WW1 veterans in my hometown were still around to hold a memorial every Nov 11. They are long gone… but here’s to hoping young men and women will never again be sent to war by delusional egomaniacs.

November 10, 2009 Posted by | Life in Peru | , , , | Leave a comment

Halloween in Cusco

A few pictures of Halloween at the Plaza de Armas in Cusco, Peru:

Now I have to admit, I used to not like Halloween, thought it was a good day to lock the doors, turn the lights off and let the dogs out. But that was long ago, now Halloween is one of my favorite holidays.

I don’t think Halloween is as big an event in Peru as in the US. In regular neighborhoods, you don’t see many kids dressed up, and in typical Peruvian fashion (better later than earlier) most kids are buying masks in the afternoon on Oct 31 – not like in the States where Wal-Mart is full of Halloween costumes for the entire month of October.

We went to the Plaza de Armas last night to check out the crowd and hand out candy. Peruvian kids don’t really go “trick-or-treating” like in the US, they just sort of walk up to you with a little plastic pumpkin and say “Halloween”. Patricia had warned me that we’d be mobbed as soon as kids noticed we had candy, and sure enough, we practically got run over by happy little ones, and sometimes their moms as well. One kid tried to come back a few times, and when Patricia noticed he said “that wasn’t me, that was my twin”. One day I’ll do a post on little white lies in Peru, they’re out of control at times and usually so obvious it’s plain funny.

Anyway, got of on a tangent… For those of you who get into folk legends, some Belgian scholars believe the origin of Halloween has to do with a Dutch folk song, Lied van Heer Halewijn

“Heer Halewyn zong een liedekyn,
Al wie dat hoorde wou by hem zyn.

En dat vernam een koningskind,
Die was zoo schoon en zoo bemind.

Zy ging al voor haer vader staen:
“Och vader, mag ik naer Halewyn gaen?”

“Och neen gy, dochter, neen gy niet!
Die derwaert gaen en keeren niet


Find the complete lyrics here. But if you’re looking at me to sing the song, you’ll need to wait until I’m seriously inebriated :)

November 1, 2009 Posted by | Life in Peru | , , , , , | 1 Comment



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