Tuesday, October 23, 2007

This Blogging Life: Recuerdos, Reencuentros, Raíces And Reflections On A Whirlwind Trip To Peru

This is somewhat of a stream of consciousness post: if you're solely interested in Peruvian food, you may want to skip it.

(Longtime readers know I appear and disappear from this blog. Thank you for your patience and indulgence.)

As I wrote a while back, I was fortunate enought to spend the entire month of June in Peru.

But, then I had the opportunity to go back in September for a whirlwind two weeks, full of Recuerdos, Reencuentros, Raíces: Memories, Re-encounters, Roots.

It was time to visit my ancestral village once again, Orcotuna, the birthplace of my maternal father, located deep in the Mantaro River Valley, in the Andean highlands of central Peru.

During most of the year, the village is 80% abandoned, but during those few hectic days in early September, many of us who have roots there converge upon it, as we have for hundreds of years, to pay homage to the village patroness, the Virgin of Cocharcas.

Legend has it this image of the Virgin Mary was brought over the mountains by the Spanish, and by the time it reached Orcotuna, a village so small you miss it in a blink of an eye on the route between Lima and Huancayo in the Central Andes, it had amassed mystical and miraculous powers among the local populace.

In Orcotuna (which means, 'the place where the cacti grow'), there was a grotto where this Virgin appeared.

My understanding of Andean cosmology leads me to believe that in this region of Peru, populated by the Wankas (who were never fully conquered by the Incas), this site was probably already sacred long before the Spanish arrived.

Can anyone say synchretism?

And there I was again, after eight years absence. I wrote about my last trip to Orcotuna here.

And eight years ago, I arrived there after twenty-odd years.

The sounds, the faces, the landscape, were familiar...yet, foreign.

In reflection, one of the most difficult lessons of this latest trip to Peru was understanding that no matter how much of my heart was in Peru, I am not Peruvian.

I am a forastero, an auslander, an outsider, here, there, and everywhere...

I yearn for that connection to my Andean roots, and my Peruvian heritage.

That hot, sunny September afternoon I danced the requisite chonguinada and the timeless huaynos; I prayed to the Virgen of Cocharcas; I broke bread and cuy with long-lost relatives.

But at the end of the day, as I headed to my hotel, I knew eventually I had to come home, and home is this North American polyglot megalopolis I best understand, so far from Orcotuna.

And here I am again, dear reader.

So...as they say: off my pity pot and let the good times roll!

Welcome back to Peru Food!


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TAGS: Peru, Peruvian, food, cooking, cuisine, cocina, comida, gastronomía, peruana