Alcohol in Cusco

I saw a funny drunk the other day. I don’t know what it is about Cusco, or the highlands of Peru in general, but it seems like heavy drinking is more common here than in the coastal parts of Peru or elsewhere. That’s just casual observation, no proven statistics or anything of that nature.

I don’t know what the reason might be, it could be because life here in the high Andes really is tough due to the climate, geography and high elevation, I really don’t know.

Like most people we enjoy drinking socially at times, but unfortunately we also know a few people who are habitual drunks and have let their alcoholism really affect their lives in a bad way. I’m hoping most of the time when I see someone stumbling around drunk out of their mind that it’s not a habitual thing.

At any rate, back to my funny story. Now this is one of these stories that really can’t be told…

You had to be there:

The other day I was getting my hair cut at a local barber. My “casero” (ie. regular or regular customer) works out of his house on Av. Cultura, a busy main street in residential Cusco, not the tourist areas downtown. While I’m waiting to get my hair cut, many people walk in and out of his shop, schoolkids come in to buy candy, etc. Some friends or family walk into his shop, say hello and then go to the back of the house.

Just as it was my turn to get my hair cut, a guy drunk out of his mind came stumbling into the barber shop and mumbled something to my “casero”. My “casero” replied something I couldn’t understand, I think they were speaking Quechua, but it was obvious my barber knew this person. The drunk was a guy maybe in his fifties, well dressed in a suit and shirt but with a scraggly unkept beard.

The drunk disappeared in the back of the house for a few minutes and then returned. He sat down next to a couple of other customers who were waiting in line. A minute or two later, the drunk got up and started talking to the other customers. He was speaking Spanish at that time, but I couldn’t understand a word he said because his speech was so slurred. I think he was pointing out something in the tabloids that are laying around the shop for waiting customers.

Next thing you know, for no obvious reason, this drunk guy puts his hands on the couch (where customers were waiting), feet on the floor and starts doing push-ups. Not just one or two, but maybe 10 or 15. A 50-some year old guy in a suit, drunk as a sailor, doing push-ups in the middle of a barber shop, you just had to be there.

My “casero” and everyone else in the shop just sort of chuckled, and after a little while the drunk said something else to each of the people in the shop, I didn’t understand anything except that he said “50 cents” several times. Then he walked out into the street and disappeared, as quickly as he had shown up he was gone again.

* * *

This crazy scene reminded me of another event, different but similar in its stupidity.

A while back when I was teaching an early class at ICPNA I would get up at 6:00 and walk the dogs before heading into work. These 2 mutts:

Roxi and Manchita, with our baby Brianna

Roxi and Manchita, with our baby Brianna

Our dog Manchita

Our dog Manchita

One morning just after 6:00 I was walking the dogs in the park by our house, and another stumbling drunk shows up. He’s holding a plastic cup in one hand and a bottle of beer in the other. He’s happy as can be and when he sees us, he decides to walk towards us and starts offering me and the dogs some of his “cerveza”.

“Hey, let’s have a drink, let’s all be friends.” – Seriously.

Now it must be said that our dogs are really quite protective. I don’t let anyone other than myself walk both of them at the same time. They’re not aggressive or bad dogs, but they are protective and don’t like being approached by strangers, especially men. I don’t know what it is because we found both as strays, perhaps they were abused or something, but both dogs do not like men they don’t know. The Jack Russell looking one is the oldest and most dominant, and the fat pitbull-looking one has never had an original thought in her life, she just barks and growls when her “big sister” barks and growls.

So this happy drunk came stumbling towards us offering the dogs a drink of cheap beer (I think it was Brahma or something) and the dogs start going nuts, barking and pulling on their leashes. I’m pulling the dogs out of the way as quickly as I can, but this drunk keeps coming at us:

“Hey, let’s all be friends.”

I’m not making this up. By now the pitbull is raising her hair and pulling her lips and the idiot drunk still wants to make friends. I luckily was able to pull the dogs away and make my way out of the park quicker than the drunk could follow us. I don’t think the guy remembers any of this, he was so happy drunk out of his mind, but he’s very lucky he didn’t try the same thing with some 7-year old kid walking his dogs.

Peruvian beers

Peruvian beers

Enjoy the holidays! Drink responsibly 😉