Celebrating Peruvian-ness

The night before Peruvian Independence Day Cusco’s streets are filled with tourists, mostly from other parts of the country. These days are celebrated with lots of joy and sound in Cusco. Love for our country flows through the streets. Even foreigners get drawn into the celebration. I suppose euphoria is contagious.

While walking down the streets seeking something to make me feel more Peruvian I went to several bars in the city’s center.

There I found many patriotic motifs. The majority of the tourist businesses display almost always something of Peruvian culture, some picture, weaving, or even a mural.

I found myself at Saqras Bar. It is a place that has lots of Peruvian motifs. Its walls are white and red and some carry drawings of the saqras. There are also pictures of Peruvian intellectuals, such as a photograph of César Vallejo and José María Arguedas, accompanied by quotes from them. These seem sufficient motives for celebrating Peruvian-ness.

For the average Peruvian any motive is good to make his Peruvian spirit come alive.

Music began to sound and a rock band from Cusco took the stage and played our national anthem. As is done in Peru, everyone sang, happy to feel themselves Peruvian.

Just for a moment I asked myself “why do we celebrate an independence.” Our anthem itself taught me this irony. “Free from what”, I asked. Our anthem speaks of the God of Jacob, so what freedom are we talking about. In this country there is no freedom of religious belief, if appears. Of course there is but the anthem’s words impose something else.

Maybe it remits me to something else, or maybe they are sips of my pisco sour. I think while looking at the photo of J.M. Arguedas, the “Tayta Arguedas” as is said with affection,

“What would he think”, I ask myself, when I remember he decided to take his own life precisely because many people were opposed to his ideas of indigenism. At the time they were takes and ideas of exuberant Peruvian-ness. He always defended our cultural legacy from our native forbearers and the rural people who maintain it. That was his motive for breaking with the intellectual of his time. His love for the nation was born from what he had seen and lived in the small towns of the hills of Ayacucho. He defended that love to the point that he fell into a deep depression.

Before melancholia could trap me I thought about it until I saw how diverse Peruvian reality is. Cusco, for example, is a very cosmopolitan place. It is filled with cultural expression. In our streets you regularly see people from all over the world. They share something of their art, something of their music. In this bar, for example, they display phrases from Peruvian writers but do so to the rhythms of Eric Clapton and his song “Cocaine”. I think that is how Cusco is. I guess that is the best motive for feeling Peruvian.

I think again, this time to the rhythm of “Our Secret” (“Nuestro Secreto”), a song from our Creole Music that is there to raise the spirits of Peruvian patriotism for these celebrations.

In Cusco, celebrations happen almost every day and our culture is cosmopolitan. Every day you also hear “Viva el Perú” (“Long Live Peru”) and Viva el Cusco de los Incas (Long Live Cusco of the Incas). In one way or another, for good or for bad, it is a cultural capital. Maybe that is the best motive for feeling Peruvian.

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