LIFe at night


Went to the 35th anniversary show of the ballet folklorico in Arequipa, a nice showcase of traditional dance that depicted history and relationships with Mexico and various regions across Peru.

Two days going to concerts/performances in Arequipa at the muncipal theater, I have learned something: the start time means you can filter in and it will start anytime a half hour later or more.

After the show, I wandered Mercedes street – a pedestrian-only street with clothing shops, a Starbucks and chains and a casino, as well as someone who has my number with a ton of cake and ice-cream shops, and people selling little plastic inflatable frogs on sticks and other animals.

I like how walking around at night is an event in Latin and South America. Families and couples and friends stroll the Plaza de Armas, or Mercedes and because it’s an outing, there’s guys selling inflatable frogs on sticks – and people buy them. Like a fair.

Stores started closing around 9:30 and I saw a group of people huddled around a corner. A guy was doing the NYC trick of spray painting an incredibly vibrant (and day-glo, faces in a champagne glass cheese) piece of art in a hot minute … playing the most rocking song Michael Jackson ever did.

While I was watching, a police guard came up to remind him he was only supposed to do street vending after 10. They had some words; what sticks out to me is that the guard was in a wheelchair.

I’ve seen several civil guards and police in wheelchairs in Arequipa. I dig that. I have never seen that in another city – right on Peru.

I wandered more and there were young guys selling alumnimum bent into spiders and dinos and other creatures; Andean alpaca cheapie gloves, all kinds of stuff.

{<2>}![guy spray paiting in Mercedes Street](/content/images/2014/Jun/plaza2-1.jpg)

In the plaza de armas, I sat down with a giant piece of Salva Negra cake and got my sugar/chocolate fix with chocolate and whipped cream and fresh strawberries, watching three teenagers break out some old-school breakdance moves, sans tunes, by the fountain.

I am getting good at predicting what hanger-outers will do; I saw the kid’s sleeveless vest and said, this guy will break! Voila.

I parked myself there and enjoyed the night LIFE: the break dancers teaching each other moves. I looked at who was around me at that instant. A couple on a date, the guy nuzzling behind her as she walked delicately in her heels. The guy smoking a cigarette after getting off his $1,000 racing bicycle. The woman selling candy and cigarettes too close to people, desperate to make a sale.

Yesterday after work, the Plaza was filled with families and kids feeding the pigeons and running between their flying wings smiling.


We are missing that in the states: a central area for people to just GO and BE. People just show up and that’s the night. Looking at something beautiful and prideful for the city. In this case, the cathedral and the Spanish colonial buildings surrounding the square and the fountain. The center of the city for hundreds of years.

Guys in safari vests and cheap cameras take photos of families for some pesos and print them out instantly; keepsakes for this unique moment of an activity that probably plays out every week or several times a month.

I’m on an austerity budget here at Arequipa, working on my writing in the day and finding free things to do at night.

I never tire of winding up in the plaza and watching life… it’s so different on the outside in foreign places, and yet the same for all of us, everywhere we go.

I wish we woud not have created a culture in the states in which we seal ourselves off and need to go “do” something: What town or city would not be suited to a square, where strolls and sitting on a bench watching the world go by, and living in it – breakdancing maybe – are everyday?

See you tomorrow Plaza de Armas. What will you bring me?

PS I wonder if someone from Arequipa looks out across the fountain and thinks, hey, there’s a tourist, enjoying our plaza. I wonder where she is from)

— in Arequipa, Peru

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