Peru postcard

Political protests, as familiar to the Peruvian landscape as jungle or high peaks or rolling grassy plains. Usually peaceful but with tense conviction, mobile debates with a different conception of the process, a reaction, so often perfectly intelligible, to the perceived failure of the process.

Leaving Andahuaylas, darker images. Three people warn me off the street, concerned kindness and the details invoked serious enough to give pause, though I prefer to be unrecklessly up close during charged events in the places I visit. I watch as a crowd shambles slowly down the street in my direction, I can smell the burning tires, hear the rhythmic call and response chants. Along the way the throng is pulling apart stone structures fragile enough to be spread by hand over the road to make it impassable. Observers around me seem wary, not going inside to shutter the windows, but very cautious. The gas station attendant, it’s been hastily closed, explains that it’s people from the hills, misguided and ignorant country people is how he characterizes them, who think the government does too little for their interests and too much in the name of money. This scaffolding could properly fit a hundred nations in this world, for me evidence more of the reality of the complaint than the futility of the allegation. The anger here has shaded into disruption and destruction, it will be days before trucks or busses or commerce can come this way. My new friends plead with me to wait, I am confident a confusing lone gringo would likely be let by. In the end I decline to incur an irresponsible debt to the caring people in town should they have to pull me from a fray, I know they would take a risk to do so.

An hour passes, someone gets a text saying that the main body has moved down more toward the center of the city. I hear “please be careful” twenty times. The destruction is not wonton or indiscriminate. Walls but not homes dismantled to put the stones in the middle of the road, large trees felled across, culverts dug up to create open ditches that even bigger trucks can’t negotiate. There are a few smoldering chasis and blackened Dunlop piles, but these are exceptional. For 10k, at least, the road is clotted by debris. I weave vigilantly, reflective but allowing myself at least the superficial gladness in the absence of traffic.