A wave of polar air laid siege to Buenos Aires, Argentina these days. Porteños stayed tight in their homes and only went out when they were obliged. Nevertheless, on the 28th of July, the Independence Day of Peru, the sun came out and the city filled with warmth.
One of Buenos Aires’ main thoroughfares, the Avenue of May is historically the street of Spaniards in Argentina. In tourist guides it is declared “similar to the Great Way (the Gran Via) of Madrid “. Its buildings have a similar architecture. During the days of the Spanish Civil War, it was the scene of disputes between on or another band from its very Spanish bars. This Gran Vía of Buenos Aires opens on (or is born in according to some, in the Plaza de Mayo, the main square of Buenos Aires. As a result it has been a permanent witness of political protests, victories, vigils, suffering, and joy (depending on which side one is on).
On this 28th of July, the picturesque avenue was colored red and white, two of the seven colors of the rainbow of scents, flavors, and musics.
Cilantro with its particular perfume mixed with those of rocotos (Peruvian hot peppers), ceviches, picarones, and the smoke from anticuchos (skewers) grilling in the street.
The Mamacha (Dear Mother—the Virgin) Carmen was raised on a litter by the members of her confraternity.
The colorful wrappings of the “Turrones de Doña Pepa”, a popular treat, conjugated with the bright colors of costumes of small cholitas that were for sale. A cuy humano (a human guinea pig) ran among the multitude of people in the street.
You could hear songs like “I am in love with my country” (“Estoy enamorado de mi país”) on the main stage while only three blocks away the “Little Love” (Cariñito) played, At the same time daring performers recreated dances from Peru’s jungle. In their minimal costumes they stood up to the Buenos Aires winter. And, a consul, without all the protocol implied by his position, climbed up on the stage to play the Peruvian box, or cajón, a wooden drum, with a group playing Creole music (música criolla).
It was wonderful to relive the Inti Raymi, which I had seen just a month before in Cuzco. Several of its personage and dancers performed by parading down the street. However the most moving was when the two national anthems of Peru and Argentina were fused, following the dream of the General San Martín, who brought independence to both countries.
I could close my eyes while hearing the typical expressions of Peru (“ahorita”, “claro que sí”, “hoy día”) and the “I” said “ió” instead of “zho”, and imagine I was in my beloved Cuzco. On opening my eyes I could see the red and white flag flying high near the Casa Rosada (the Government Palace), the Cathedral and the Cabildo as background. It seemed a marvelous scene out of Fellini. Buenos Aires became Peru for a few hours and I was part of the dream.
That is how it was, a 28 of July as historical paradox. Peruvian culture invaded (in the best meaning of the term) a traditional Argentine avenue over which Spain had taken charge.
Note: I was lucky to be there when Buenos Aires celebrated Peru last year. But this year really exploded with people. I am sure the task of organization and getting the word out that was done by entities such as PERUBA y AGAPE Argentina made many Peruvians return home for a few hours as well as made many people from Buenos Aires who did not know Peru become acquainted with it and enjoy a taste of Peru.