Of Men and Dogs
Day after day in the city of Cuzco people live and maintain to their fullest traditions and customs. Besides the customs of the city, people also have ways and beliefs that are only shared with the people around them. You can see this in Cuzco’s different neighborhoods. Each of them has slightly different customs and traditions.
One custom that you find in the majority of our neighborhoods is that when the center of the household, the grandmother or the mother, get mad and say strong things they compare people with dogs.
Dogs are all around and live lives in parallel to people while they also come into the homes. As a result, they are important and constantly serve to make sense of things. Sometimes people like the reference but a lot of times they do not.
Older women rely on dogs especially to criticize the behavior of their sons and nephews who are passing through adolescence. When the boys reach fourteen or so they start spending lots of time in the streets and seldom can be found at home. They want to be with their friends.
When older people see these changes they will challenge the boys and call attention to their staying away from home. In a strong voice they call them “patiperro” (pata de perro, dog foot) “no te cansas de corretear en la calle” (you never get tired of roaming around in the street). This is the kind of traditional phrase mothers use to call the attention of their boys and challenge them when they are going through physical and mental changes.
The comparison to dogs provokes laughter and is seen as funny although it is also shameful.
When women are compared to dogs it sounds bad. Here though it is the boys that use the word to shame girls. It is a kind of slut-shaming. It is ok, in the boys’ world and a bit funny, a sign of growing up for them to roam like dogs but it is not ok for girls, especially when they are with one boy and then another.
Girls, though, also use the word dog to slut-shame boys who chase after the easy girls, the ones they often call Candies these days. These young women are given this name thanks to a popular song in Peru and the Spanish world last year.
The word was coined by Plan B and the song is called Candy. Now instead of calling loose, attractive girls bitches, female dogs, they call them Candy.
Some girls and especially groups of girls will turn the word around and take pride in their attractiveness by calling themselves Candy or Candies. When they are playing and teasing each other they will also call each other perras, or female dogs.
Young men or older men will also call each other perras, bitches, when teasing each other and showing their machismo by dominating other men. This is part of the constant verbal wrestling where the person who gets mad and cannot turn the phrase loses. It is just a way, now, of demonstrating your friendship through play.
Though the worlds of boys and girls is never exactly the same or equal, the life of the dogs who live in Cuzco’s streets and homes forms a moral parallel for calling people’s attention and shaming them.