Surfing Máncora and the "Real People"

We have just returned from a few days on the northern coast of Perú where we layed in the sun, relaxed, and ate delicious foods. And of course, I thought of many things…

We arrived in a odd state of confusion early Sunday morning, wandering about, and eventually taking a motokar a few blocks to the hostel we planned to stay at, Kimba´s Bungalows. In a small sandy strip, paces from the beach were three hostels of similar standings with palm trees to greet you and, for at least two of them, a shimmering blue pool. After a small panic as to which room to choose (dorm or double; Kimba´s or La Posada; 50 or 60 or 70 soles a night ???), we chose Kimba´s and the only option at 70 soles for double room with breakfast included. A delightful room with clean sheets, a double bed or bunkbeds to choose from, and a bambo and stone partially-outdoor bathroom, candles, a fan, shelves, a porch with chairs and a hammock…. OOO! However we realized quickly that we did not need a pool, for we are at the ocean, and we do not need all that luxury, for we are at the ocean all day and only sleep here. We also did not like spending nearly a quarter of what we spend a month in piura on rent for one night in Máncora.

The next place gave us a great view, simple accomodations, hot water shower, and bugs in our sheets… we switched rooms where we found only bugs in the bathroom and on the walls but not the bed. Unfortunately we had already payed for two nights to get a deal price of 45 soles a night.

The fourth and final night found a room for 55 soles, 40 feet from the beach, a comfy bed, only one or two bugs by the window and a nice fan. Hoorah!

We also made some friends here… At a resturaunt one night we met Karine, a girl living in Máncora who had arrived from Canada a few months earlier and was working as a waitress to fund herself. She was interested in Natali´s studies and how to apply to colleges in Peru. We had a lovely talk about sustainable development (look to any philosophical sounding posts for more info…) and ran into her multiple times on the beach in the following days. Her friend who was also living in Máncora for the very affordable $40 a month with her boyfriend outside the “bubble” city, started my next thought about tourism and development. Karine mentioned to me that this Máncora was not the real Máncora, but rather the safety tourist bubble, which she found similar to Miraflores in Lima. Rather, she said, the poor shanty villages on the outskirts where she vollunteered at a children´s center held the real people, the real Máncora. Where we were was accomodated to the traveler, the tourist, and perhaps the Western world…

I noticed a similar sight twice over the last week as I noticed the MASSIVE shanty town that lies only a few Kilometers south of the Miraflores section of Piura, where we live, on the way to the nearby market town of Catacao. No electricity, perhaps no running water, little cubes of bambo or reeds, stretched as far as you could see amid a plain of dust and garabage. I wonder how these people fit into the Piura I see everyday…

Again on the way to Máncora, the northern outskirts of town are home to little broken down cement homes adjacent to dry brushland and the occasional farm plot. Here, taxis are rarely seen, and rather burros are the prefered means of transporation (occasioanlly a rusty bike).

It seems that cities rather than rural settings, are the homes of the rich, quite different than the New England from where I came, where the rural “villages” of Litchfield and Greenwich and Washington, Connecticut have per capital incomes higher than nearly any other town in the entire United States.

Where are the “real” people? I am, with my now healed stomach, and tiny kitchenless apartment living amonst the minority; the rich? Are these “real” Peruvians? An ever present, as I am told by my counterpart, struggle between the indigenous populations and the city-dwelling spanish decendents, takes on new meaning now. What is a Peruvian? What is an American? A United Statian? Are these names no more than the generalized label used by the mysterious powers that Are; used by the “developed” to create order where dynamicity is the rule? Aren´t we all humans? How then do you deciede who is Peruvian, or an American? Just as it is difficult and infact, likely impossible, to make a sound argument for what it means to be White or Black. For what am I?; Italian? English? German? Native American? Jewish? All of the above? Maybe just what I am the most of… the most of what? Perhaps Italian or English then, one from my mother, one from my father? But were my grandparents and their parents and their parents always italian?; always English? Inevitabllly we will trace this back to a time when Italy was not called by such a name… Am I Roman perhaps? Maybe those ancestors lived in present day Greece? Maybe they trace back rather to Germanic Tribes or Vikings?; Perhaps they came from the East, perhaps an ancient village in what we now know as China or Thailand?

My point is that these are all merely names, static labels placed on dynamic bodies. Whether these people are from the Andes or the European continent, they at some point had relatives from a similar location and time and place, with similar lifestyles and needs. How can we exist in this world with our brothers and sisters and their loved ones living in bambu shacks on the outskirts of the vast cities, industrialized culture has created, as if they were lepers from days past, or quarantined diseased victims?

As I alter the natural color of my powerful pale skin, pay to play in the free ocean as I surf, and eat fresh caught tuna steaks encrusted in almonds with a fresh clean salad and a honey glaze, and complain about bugs in my sheets, the “real” people, or rather the majority of my long distance relatives are sick with food poisoning from their water, eating bread for the 20th day in a row, and wondering how they will manage when the oil companies, so prevalent in the Northern peruvian deserts, wish to drill under their home for the oil I need.

Is my traveling, my participation in tourism, driving this agrivated and uncaring division between the world´s people?

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