#potd: The Peppercorn Trees of Chile

Since arriving in Chile we’ve been very much taken with the Peppercorn trees of #Chile – we saw them in the Plaza Mayor of San Pedro de Atacama, throughout the beautiful & fertile Elqui Valley and in La Serena. With their slightly bent lower branches providing welcome shade they remind us a little of the weeping willow back home in the UK near to rivers. But what really struck us was their attractive pink’ish flowers, looking rather like grapes, that to our surprise contained a small hard fruit….that smelt of pepper! Er…we thought our traditional ‘black pepper’ grew on vines, as indeed it does! Continue reading


#potd: Stations of the Gross – a Concrete Monstrosity

During Semana Santa (Easter Week) here in #Chile, south America, we’ve largely escaped the worst excesses of the catholic church’s hysteria, but we couldn’t escape this concrete monstrosity towering over #Coquimbo & the surrounding areas in central Chile.

Named the ‘Cross of the 3rd Millenium’, built for the 2000th anniversary of the birth of that mythical figure JC (no not Corbyn!), the colourless ugly grey concrete monstrosity stands an absurd 90m tall, and has been plonked on the highest point of the Coquimbo headland (where the old port town is located). Given the tendency for earthquakes in these parts it may not have been the most sensible place to put it, but the lives of the locals are no doubt of little concern to those who put it up.

station of the crass

Surrounded by a number of huge bells, and by depictions of the 12 so-called ‘Stations of the Cross’, this abomination stands perhaps as a testament to the Catholic church’s history of inquisition and complicity in the genocide of the indigenous peoples on south America. In Chile this includes the Mapuche people amongst others, who’ve been oppressed & hunted down for over 500 years – see news & solidarity (english) and more info (english & spanish). Continue reading

People power sees the band play on in Arequipa

band1A small display of people power occurred in the main plaza of Arequipa (Peru’s second city) today when security tried to shut down a band that had set up in front of the city’s looming catholic cathedral. Members of the band gestured to the watching crowd of 200+ people for support, and got it – cheers, shouts & claps were accompanied by a number of folks moving in to film security with their cameras. Security withdrew, and the band played on. Continue reading

Xmas in Cusco started with a BANG!

santurantikay16Well that caught us by surprise! At 5 minutes to midnight on xmas eve, Cusco exploded with a cacophany of noise. Bangers & chinese crackers echoed in the narrow streets whilst larger fireworks exploded high in the sky providing an array of colours. This was no organised city centre state display, but a self-organised custom that happened across all the districts of Cusco, from the valley floor to the mountainsides overlooking the city, and lasted until at least 20 minutes past midnight. This video (on utube) from 2012 gives you a flavour of what it is like. Continue reading

El dia de la bestia! (yes xmas is coming)

eldiadelbestiaAs a bit of an antidote to xmas here in Cusco, Peru, we nipped out on Thursday night to see the film ‘El Dia De La Bestia‘, which was showing at the local ‘centro social y cultura’ Jabberwocky Project (fb page). This Spanish film from 1995 (info & IMDB) is an hilarious mix of of slapstick comedy, horror, and a liberal splashing of sangre, with some social comment thrown in too. It was shown in Spanish, no subtitles, and to be honest our recent intensive course of Spanish wasn’t much help. Luckily the images were clear enough to keep us entertained.

On our arrival in Peru back in November, we were rather perturbed to find xmas (navidad) was such a clebrated & commercial event here, and ever since the presence of xmas in the shops & urband centres has continued apace. Given the intense enforcement of catholicism on this land over the last 500+ years, it is perhaps not surprising that xmas is such a big deal. Locals tell us that the commercialised aspect of xmas has evolved enormously over the last 10-15 years, drawing in ever greater numbers of people to the feast of consumption. Continue reading

Feast of the goddess of grey hair and wisdom. Sort of!

goddessSo on Sunday 18th December in Cusco, Peru, we celebrated the 48th anniversary Feast of the Goddess of Grey Hair and Wisdom. A female deity so wise that no mortal may gaze upon her face, who is celebrated by only a small dedicated group of devotees.
One is of course ever so slightly taking the piss here, although this writer does remain in awe of this wise grey haired lady!

feast_100yrAs it so happens though, there was a major community celebration in the San Blas neighbourhood of Cusco, where we are staying, that took place in the small Plaza San Blas. The ‘Fiesta de la Adoracion de los Reyes Magos del barrio de San Blas 1916-2016’, like most feasts & festies here does have an overly religious basis. From 3pm for about 90minutes there was indeed an excruciatingly slow theatrical re-enactment of the evenjts prior to the 3 Kings arriving with their gifts for the baby JC (no not Corbyn!). But really the event, which ran from midday to about 9pm, seemed to us to be a welcome excuse for the local community – largely working class & indigenous/mixed – to hang out in the Plaza, cook, eat & drink (surprisingly heavily too!). From what we could see people had a fine old time, with the theatrical re-enactment and some folk dancing a minor distraction – see fotos at bottom of article. Continue reading

Feast! Of the Immaculate Conception. Of course!

The city of Cusco, Peru, in the Andes, is it seems a city of many festivities, celebrations & feasts. Most, but not quite all these days, have their roots in Spanish colonialism & government, and the enforcement of the Catholic faith. So within our first 3 full days in Cusco we witnessed not only a regional celebration in the main square of the creation of the national police service (6th December), but also the Feast day of the Immaculate Conception on 8th December.

cusco_virginOn the Feast of the Immaculate Conception we saw members many of Cusco’s 40+ Catholic churches parade around the streets of their locality, carrying on their shoulders huge statues of the Virgin Mary. It just happened to be pissing down for much of the day, but it didnt seem to dampen their arduour. Leaving aside the absurdity of both the Immaculate Conception – impregnated by…the Holy Spirit? Please! – and the birth of Jesus Christ less than 3 weeks later on Christmas day, one wonders why on earth Cusquenians fell for this story? Continue reading