Stories from the Amazon

  • Colorful decorations
    A city worker adds decorations to a Christmas tree in Lima, Peru. The decorations feature artwork by Peruvians.

    A Piece of Nebraska Far From Home

    I'm writing a special column for the holidays. We will return to exploring the Amazon next week.

    The long ride south from northern Peru was in the early stages of 15 hours to Lima. The internal pull to keep moving was strong, so I trusted and leaped.

    The video screen in front of my seat played short clips between movies.

    On the screen, I watched a bus drive across a landscape that looked like Nebraska. The next image was a highway sign, "Peru Nebraska, population 569."

    Was I so tired that I was imagining things? A video about Nebraska on a bus in the country of Peru, South America?

    The subtitle read: "Every Peruvian has the right to enjoy what a wonderful thing a Peruvian is."

    Apparently, they decided that even meant those who live in Peru, Neb.

    With humor and great creativity, the video showed the cultures of Peru the country meeting Peru in Nebraska.

    At this point, I almost jumped out of my seat.

    "This is my home state, where I live."

    No one around me understood English.

    "Me casa here." That was as close I could say in Spanish "I'm from Nebraska."

    The over-exaggerated cautiousness of the community of Peru had me laughing out loud. It struck a familiar cord of being a Nebraskan.

    The video continued.

    "Peru, Nebraska has one problem. They are Peruvian, but they don't know what it means to be a Peruvian.

    "You are from Peru!

    "You have the right to eat yummy food!

    "You have the right to drive your car from the Amazon to the Pacific Ocean!

    "You have the right to surf good waves!"

    In one scene, a Peruvian poured a cup of water over the pit oven that contained a feast of foods. As he poured, he said "for the Pachamama" that means mother earth in the indigenous Quechua language.

    Well said. We all live on the same earth.

    They shared, they exchanged, they all laughed.

    I laughed out loud sitting in my seat. And, I thought to myself, "Maybe the community of Peru, Neb., now has a sense of why I love to travel so."

    I was told that all the Peruvians in the video are very famous in their country. They have rock star status - chefs, musicians and artists. It is impressive to think a group of such people would gather to promote their country in the small town of Peru, Neb.

    In the end they all hugged, two worlds and worlds apart. They realized differences were to be celebrated and we all wish to live good lives, a basic right of Peruvian and Nebraskan.

    Andean condor soars over southern Peru
    A nativity scene in a cathedral in Arequipa, Peru, is currently missing the baby Jesus. The baby will be placed in the manger on Christmas Eve.

    It evoked a moment of melancholy for me as the Christmas holiday approaches. It had me wonder how Peruvians celebrate Christmas. So I started asking.

    "We gather together as a family on Christmas Eve," explained Maritza Toledo, the receptionist at the hostel in Lima.

    "We have turkey and special bread with raisins baked inside, various salads and we play Christmas music. We all gather together and wait for the clock to strike midnight on the 24th, and then the feast begins."

    On Christmas day, most people visit friends and other family members. Gifts may or may not be exchanged, depending on financial situations. If there isn't enough money to buy gifts, they just enjoy the gift of each other's company.

    I heard the same story during my conversations with people from Ecuador, Columbia and Brazil. The stress of Christmas is missing here. Everyone seems to just be looking forward to being together for Christmas.

    One recent afternoon, I walked around in the city of Arequipa in southern Peru. I needed to have some sewing repairs on my photo vest. As I waited, I visited with a barber next to the tailor's shop.

    I introduced myself and explained I was from Nebraska. The barber asked, "Are you from Peru, Neb.?"

    "No," I said, "but I am proud they are a part of my state."

    Wishing all of you a holiday season you can be proud of, one that warms your hearts and brings you joy.

    Decorative Christmas tree in Arequipa, Peru
    Christmas is present even in Arequipa, Peru, where palm trees and a Christmas tree show up in the same location.

    Fremont Tribune

Copyright © Dean Jacobs 2019. All Rights Reserved.