Friday, March 19, 2004



Went into town shopping with my friend Sara today. I always feel a bit like a wannabe movie star in central Chiclayo because of all the attention I get for being non-Peruvian. However, today just about topped it off when a policeman suddenly stopped us in the street and spoke at length with my friend. I was, understandably, rather concerned. “What did he say?” I asked Sara urgently. “He said you are the most beautiful woman he has ever seen” she informed me. It was hard to know what to say, and I stuttered a denial as we walked on. Although flattering, it’s really embarassing. Being white, and blonde, and blue-eyed in Peru somehow manages to be infinately more desirable than the national traits. It’s the rarity value. Peruvians are a very mixed race, but some typical characteristics are dark skin, eyes and hair, a round face, and a short, thick stature. Peruvians are called ‘cholos’, by others and by themselves; it simply means someone who looks Peruvian, or is Peruvian. So, Tito is a ‘cholo’ because he is Peruvian, despite having an entirely different look. He would be hard pressed to define his race – other than South American - having Chinese, Black, European and Inca ancestry. Many people I have met here have similarly mixed ancestry, especially in the city. Oddly, the term ‘cholo’ works as both an endearment and an insult. So when people I don’t know call me ‘gringita’ (dimunitive form – literally ‘little foreigner’) I call them ‘cholita’ (‘little Peruvian’)... which works well as a counter-insult, and surprises the crap out of them!

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