Sunday, November 28, 2004


Puerto Eten

On Friday we had another bright, relaxing and altogether lovely day at Puerto Eten. I have, in fact, been meaning to write about Puerto for some time, as it is one of those rather rare places that gives me those thrilling 'South American Moments'... those much sought-after feelings which are not readily available in central Chiclayo. It's not that Puerto Eten is so thrilling in itself. It's quite the opposite - and indeed, therein lies that great South American vibe. You can't catch that vibe yourself, you must simply let it grab you. Crumbling colonial residences with shady balconies, optimistically bright but peeling paints, old men playing cards in the park, sunny corners where fishermen sit repairing their nets... it's that sort of place. Puerto used to be a very prosperous port, with wide bustling avenues and it's very own train service. The trains ran from the 1800's until the mid-eighties, when their cost could no longer be supported in years of massive devaluing of the Nuevo Sol. The trains now sit, rusting in the sea air, in an open-air and unofficial museum. Interesting to look at, but rather a shame... the trains are British made, and apparently Britain wants to buy them back, but Eten is saying no (even though there's no local funds to build a museum that does them justice). These days, Puerto is a bit of a ghost town, there's no industry except for fishing and most of the population have moved elsewhere. However, families in Chiclayo have sent their children to spend their lengthy three-month summer vacation next to the ocean for generations, and it livens up considerably in the summer months when houses are rented out. It is still early in the season, but myself, Tito, Monika, Linda, Marco and Wanpi are raring to go (even the mini-tornados the gusty wind causes on the beach haven't put us off)... Especially when we can have excellent, really fresh cebiche, pan-fried fish, or absolutely loaded arroz con mariscos for our lunch at the oldest restaurant in town, Heraclio. The place has buckets of atmosphere with it's lofty ceilings, bright white tablecloths and ancient, humid floorboards. Just across the road from Heralio's, Marco's family has a charming little place which they are restoring - it used to house the town's open-air movie theatre in the back garden in better days, but now the whole place needs a lot of work. There's a courtyard with a grassy area round the back, and no end of fascinating nooks and crannies. They have got several rooms looking really cozy and stylish, and, more importantly, structurally sound. Most places in Puerto Eten are made with a stick-and-adobe construction, which get literally blasted away by the winds coming in across the Pacific, the stronger ones are stone/pebble reinforced. Tito and I would really love to fix a place up in the future; it would be a perfect place to write, and I even heard a rumour that Puerto is where Hemingway wrote 'The Old man and the Sea'. The thought of it tickles me no end, typing away in my adobe palace, running out for a dip in the bracing waves now and then, buying hot fresh bread for tea from the wonderful local bakery. (Wistful, dreamy exhalation of breath, faraway look in eyes, smile plays on lips...).

If you did ever do that you'd be living out one of my fantasies as well as your own. It would be fantastic to have somewhere like that to write - although I'd probably spend more time gazing dreamily out of the window pretending to write than actually writing.
Hello Vanesita. When I was a child we passed an unforgettable vacation in Puerto Eten; it was a Summer month in a house we rented, close to the "Caimanes" football club. The train used wide way, and was the largest train red in Lambayeque department. Your writing impressed me; for many, the port has a decaying atmosphere. Your details are from someone that arrived to love the place. Puerto Eten was certainly a prosperous place; before the highway and the airport, it was the best and fast way to travel along the coast and abroad. The trains stopped running by 1968 or 1969; they couldn't compete with cheaper transport by paved roads. Where are you now? Are you Latina or Hispanic? Let me know if possible at:
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