The Last Supper in Lima – Vegan Chorizo Pizza of Course

And lo they came down from the Andean mountains…to smog afflicted Lima, and didn’t see the sun for three days. For our Last Supper in Lima we thought we’d do something non-traditional, without a single figure of catholic idolatry in sight. So we nipped along to our fave vegan cafe in Magdalena del Mar – the excellent ‘Sinfonia vegana‘ on Jr Junin, 685 (website and FB) – for a couple of vegan pizzas. The ‘Espanola’ with the chorizo, and the ‘Campestre’ with seitan. Followed up with some luscious vegan cake, and washed down with a herbal infusion. Yum!
We’ll shortly be leaving south America in peace and nipping back to our own ‘planet’ for a bit. But there’s still plenty of stories to tell and comments to be made on where we’ve been and what we’ve seen here, so the blogging will continue…here’s a few pieces lined up:
– Is there true memory & justice in post-Pinochet Chile?
– The Valley of the Moon and human erosion (Bolivia)
– Chased down the Devil’s Molar by a storm (Bolivia)
– The Sea
– La Paz – the jewel in Bolivia’s communist crown?
– What truth and justice in Peru after Shining Path and state oppression?
– History and tragedy in Ayacucho (Peru)
– Six weeks in the navel of the world (Peru)
– So who the bloody hell were the Inca? (Peru)
– Will ayahuasca change the world? (Peru)
and maybe a few more…but if you are bored in the meantime check out our posts on Street Art in Bolivia and Chile. Salud!

#potd – Cafe Ayacuchano is great, so what’s so wrong with the mannequin?

Well it’s obviously sexist innit? Yes it is, certainly to our westernised eyes, although one should emphasise it is dressed solely in organic coffee beans, which may make it acceptable to some. But that’s not the real problem – take a look at the female mannequin’s colour, white yes? Not even a bit spanish/latin looking no? And what is the skin colour of the people who grow & produce this coffee – definitely not euro-white, but dark-skinned and indigenous. We’ve yet to see a dark-skinned indigenous looking mannequin in Peru. Indeed if you looked at the ‘public’ image or face of Peru – its politicans, business & church leaders, tv presenters & other celebrities, tv ads, it’s public faces – they are virtually all white, or at best spanish-white. The manequin is racist, just like Peru remains a very racist country. It’s a classist country too, but above all it’s racist. But that’s just a part of the backstory to Cafe Ayacuchano, which is a mighty fine coffee.

Where we found the coffee…
We first came across Cafe Ayacuchano by accident (see video about the coffee!), after visiting a couple of museums some 1-2km north of the Plaza de Armas in the city of Ayacucho. They had a small stand outside a large artesianal market (where you buy indigenous style clothing, souvenirs etc), and both the market & the coffee stand were located inside a part of what was once Ayacucho’s main prison. As was our mannequin coffee advertiser. Rather ironically, on March 3 1981 this prison had been stormed by members of Shining Path, the heavily maoist influenced communists in Peru, as a part of their Armed War against the Peruvian state and capital that commenced in 1980. Around 300 prisoners escaped.

Where’s the coffee from?
Cafe Ayacuchano is produced in an area known as the VRAE (the valleys of the rivers Ene & Apurimac), also known as VRAEM (by adding the river Mantaro to the north) – see basic info in spanish or english. These rivers are found pretty much on the borders of the Ayacucho region & several other regions. Cafe Ayacuchano is grown in the vicinity of the community of San Francisco, in the Anya district, located on the river Apurimac.

It is one of a number of economic initiatives (some with ‘dubious’ foreign aid backing ie USAid), to wrest control of the VRAEM back from Peru’s drug traffickers, who have turned the area into Peru’s largest producer of cocaine – around 70% of the country’s largest (illegal) export, by encouraging local indigenous crop growers to switch from coca leaf to coffee production.

Coffee good, coca (or cocaine) bad?
This is an incredibly complicated issue and region. Not only is the use of the coca leaf part of the traditional way of life for local indigenous people – as a food item, medicinal item, and as part of ‘religious’ ceremonies & festivities – but it is also their main cash crop, with upto 4 harvests per year. Switching to another crop is therefore fraught with financial complications amongst others. (see this good video & article by an investigative journalist on the aljazeera website). The Peruvian Govt of course, with massive backing & pressure from the US & international bodies, has run for numerous years a coca-eradication programme (not very successfully), using large military force. This is also tied up to the Peruvian state’s attempts to finally destroy the last remnants of the Shining Path group, who have for decades now had bases in the area, along with a heavy involvement in the drug trafficking trade. (see series of articles here on the drugs trade and S/Path)

But even this part of the issue is complicated. Whilst Shining Path originally commenced their operations in the Andean highlands of the Ayacucho region in 1980, as their suppport from campesinos decreased in line with S/Path’s authoritarian brutality, so S/Path retreated to the more jungle-like areas of the VRAE/M. And there they once again treated those they claimed to be trying to liberate with the utmost brutality & contempt, killing thousands. Which led to many local communitys & groups within the VRAE/M to launch their own organised armed defense groups to take on S/Path, efforts that remained largely independent of the Peruvian army’s military campaign – not least because the state regarded every indigenous person as a potential S/Path supporter, and also killed thousands of them! (excellent article here from UpsideDownWorld).

So not only is there local opposition to S/Path, there’s also mass local opposition to the coca-eradication programme, at least in the absence of any real policy that actually takes the well-being of the local peoples as its primary concern. As those with any understanding of post-Spanish invasion history of Peru will know, the well being of the indigenous peoples comes pretty much at the bottom of any list of state concerns.
NB: these two articles – here and here – on the Ashaninka people of this region give an idea of the struggles local people have experienced for centuries.

Back up the Andes – to Ayacucho for some Wari culture and post-civil war enquiry

So enough of this mucking about at sea level and enjoying hot weather on beaches, it’s back up the mountains for a while for us. This time to the Ayacucho region in the south central Andes of Peru, an area steeped in Andean history for the last 2000 years, with a rebellious reputation that has endured. The history of the Wari (or Huari) culture intrigues because of its influence on the later ‘Inca empire’; the Battle of Ayacucho (1824) was a final stage of the war for Peru’s ‘independence’ from Spain; and for the last 20 years of the 20th century Ayacucho was at the centre of a bloody civil war that convulsed Peru and has repercussions to this day. Continue reading

#potd – Huanchaco for sunsets, surf and pre-Inca cultures

#Huanchaco, a coastal town some 10km north-west of the large northern Peru city of #Trujillo, was unknown to us until we arrived there for a week, and a pretty decent place it turned out to be. In fact it was famous for several things – it’s sunsets and surf; the ancient fishing craft ‘caballitos de totora‘ on the beach; the second oldest catholic church in Peru built by the Spanish, as ever sitting on high ground and threatening the town & people below (nice views up there, didn’t go in of course); and its links to pre-Inca cultures in the region going back 2000+ years – Chan Chan the one time capital of the Chimu culture is located between Huanchaco and Trujillo.

We’d been a bit nervous coming up here to north Peru because of the devastating rains, flash floods & mudslides that had struck the region in mid-March. Across Peru over 200 died and hundreds of thousands were displaced. The centre of Trujillo was flooded at least six times, a working class district (or shanty town) El Porvenir was almost washed away, and bridges across rivers on roads heading south were destroyed leaving the north coast cut off from Lima and the south – which wasn’t sorted until late April. We certainly didn’t want to be disaster tourists and nor did we want to get in the way! However research indicated things had improved, but just in case we opted to stay initially outside Trujillo in Huanchaco. Which turned out to be fine, whilst in Trujillo the most obvious hangover from the floods in the central area was the dried mud/dust and some remaining sandbags. Continue reading

Back to Peru for some hummus, roll-ups and ancient fishing boats

In early May we got out of Chile, and came back to Peru to check out some more pre-Inca history up on the north coast near Trujillo & Huanchaco – the Moche & Chimu cultures, and some sea going reed fishing boats, or rafts, called ‘caballitos de totora’ (or ‘de mar’), constructed using ancient craft skills dating back several thousand years and known only to a few. These boats are clearly linked to the Moche & Chimu cultures, and possibly earlier.

However they’ve moved with the times as you can see in the fotos, and now use polystyrene blocks to help float the boats, not something available in these parts two thousand years ago. Although the paddle or oar remains very basic, just a long bamboo pole cut in half lengthways. It looks hard work on the hands…but it seems to do the trick though as they negotiate their way out to sea through decent sized waves, and eventually back in again. The sea here looks and is cold, but the weather isn’t, even now in the autumn – a good 25 degrees minimum most days, and too hot on other days to even sit in the sun for long. Continue reading

#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: Drink Coka Quina not C#c@-C#l@ in Bolivia

Travelling around Peru and then Bolivia (and now Chile) we’ve been gobsmacked by the domination of the soft drinks market & industry by C#c@-C#l@. Their signage & promo material is omnipresent, and their drinks are absolutely everpresent. We hardly ever drink their main brand on principal, so it was a pleasant surprise to come across an alternative – Coka Quina. Unsurprisingly a similar taste, and colour, but not bad. Certainly better than Peru’s C#c@-C#l@ part-owned Inca Kola, which was the colour of piss and not much better tasting!

C#c@-C#l@ dominate the sales of bottled water (con gas – fizzy, and sin gas – still), and also carbonated (gaseosas) drinks to a huge extent. In Peru in 2013 C#c@-C#l@ and it’s subsidiary/partner Corp JR Lindley (CCC-CRL) had a 49.8% share of the soft drinks market; in Bolivia in 2013 C#c@-C#l@ and its subsidiary/partner EMBOL took 58.3% of the market. Interestingly in the same year PepsiCo & it’s partners/subsidiaries took 9.2% & 17.2% respectively. Which is why when combined C#c@-C#l@ & PepsiCo globally control 35.7% and 71.7 % (by value) of the soft-drink and carbonated soft-drink markets respectively in 2014. And in 2013 their combined spend on global advertising was a whopping $7.27 billion! (See this report on Trade & Investment Liberalisation and the Soft Drinks Market in Peru & Bolivia). Continue reading