This visit to Lima, Peru was only my second time to the southern hemisphere, after visiting Santiago, Chile last December. However, I am committed to regularly visiting South America in the future as I get serious with my Spanish-learning and extending my research into Latin America and the Caribbean. My research will look at gender and the tattoo industry, in which there are significant differences between nations. My other research project will look at cannabis consumption and gender in various countries with different laws and policies. Finally, I am also interested in researching digital nomad women, as I start to get a bit involved with that community.
In Santiago, Chile, everyone had tattoos, both men and women sported extensive artwork and tattoo shops were prevalent. But in Peru, there were only a handful of tattoo shops found on the map, and I only saw about five during the whole time I was here. I noticed that tattoos are fairly rare, but the ones I did see were small, black ink, and simplistic, script or small designs. While walking through old town, I heard two or three people calling out, “tatuajes.” I took the flyer from one guy and he led me to his shop, in the back of a small shopping center oriented towards cell phone sales. He said there were five artists working in their shop, and their portfolios reflected the small black ink designs I had seen around town. Apparently the popularity of tattooing hit between four and ten years ago, and the skill level remained in early stages of simplicity. My extensive, colorful artwork branded me as a gringo, along with my other cultural markers. Artwork that one would see in the U.S. was just not seen in Lima, except on other American or Europeans. But interesting enough so that I would love to return and interview tattoo artists and collectors to find out about this growing commercial development.
The reason I chose Lima, was that I was attending the Latin American Studies Association, because of my research interests. It was my first time attending the conference, and I enjoyed the opportunity to attend sessions in both Spanish and English.
On my first night of arrival, I landed around 11pm and took a taxi to my reserved hotel. But once I got there, they didn’t have my reservation, and gave me the only room they had left–the worst room in this low-budget hotel. Luckily, I was too tired to get depressed and wonder on the even of my eight-month excursion, “what have I gotten myself into?” It reminded me of a place I would end up as a teenage runaway. Therefore, the next day was spent getting into a better hotel, but in the downtown area of Jesus Maria, the real-gritty city feel, before I moved into my bourgie airbnb accommodations next week in the wealthy neighborhood of San Isidro. From this central location, I could check out the Parque de la Reserva, Old Town, and Chinatown. I was happy to learn that Peru has the largest community of Chinese people in South America, and Lima alone has 6,000 “Chifa” restaurants, a fusion of Chinese and Peruvian food. I ate plenty of this food, as my Chinese-themed hotel had a Chifa restaurant in it, as well as the barrio Chifa restaurants on every block. I enjoyed eating in the small, local restaurants, so much like walking into someone’s home, with kitchens just like those of a personal dwelling.
Moving to San Isidro was like moving back to the U.S. The neighborhood was full of upscale clothing stores and restaurants that were a shock to the budget after eating for $3 meal. Sterile. Pretentious. And white. I hadn’t seen many white people for my entire week in Jesus Maria, thinking that must be the racial composition of Peru. Nope, there is just strong segregation, with white Peruvians and foreigners staying in their turf. The nicely manicured park next to the apartment had police patrols that were constantly passing by, a reminder of the security and police state present in South American cities. I walk around the touristy neighborhood next door, Miraflores. Also the seafront touristy neighborhood of Barranco, with great street art murals. I did manage to get a good amount of work done, balanced with the sightseeing, but know I have only scratched the surface in a country I hope to explore more in the future. Next stop, Buenos Aires, Argentina… To see an overview of all the places I have visited, check out the world travel agenda.