Every year all of the Fulbright participants of South America’s Andean region come together for a week. During this week we all get to share our experiences and research with one another, as well as enjoy the beauty of the country where the regional seminar is hosted. I wasn’t really aware of this opportunity until I first arrived in Lima, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this year we’d be going to Ecuador. Seeing as I’d never travelled outside of the United States before coming to Peru, I was pretty excited, but I soon forgot about it as soon as I delved into my research.
It wasn’t until the end of March that an email reminded me of this event. I was already pretty excited to travel outside of Peru, but I was even more excited once I found out that instead of going to Ecuador the conference would actually be in Colombia! After arriving from another filming trip in Northern Peru, I packed my bags and got ready to board an early flight out to Bogota.
Only hours before my flight to Bogota I learned of an event hosted by Peru’s Ministerio de Cultura or Ministry of Culture. The event, called En Negro, was an effort by Peru’s Ministry of Culture to celebrate Afro-Peruvian music and dance as part of Peru’s revered folklore. I hadn’t expected to learn of this event so suddenly, and I was amazed to see how Peru, a country that little more than 50 years ago had almost lost all of its Afro-Peruvian music, was now making efforts to celebrate its cultural diversity. I knew I had to wake up the next day for a 5am flight, but I couldn’t resist attending this show. I convinced my roommate to go with me and we jumped into a taxi, somehow managing to beat the Friday traffic just in time for the 8pm show. It was amazing to see Peru’s national dance company dancing lando, festejos, zamacuecas, and the son de los diablos, all dances that accompany Afro-Peruvian music. More amazing than the actual show itself was the event’s turnout. It was great to look around the theater of Peru’s Museo Nacional and see its seats full with people all excited to witness this part of Peruvian culture. I wasn’t able to take pictures within the theater, but I did get a snapshot of the event’s official program:
Attending the program made me realize that although the Afro-Peruvian population may still largely be invisilbilized, efforts to exalt the contributions of the Afro-Peruvian culture are being made. I thought about this as my plane left Lima and headed toward Colombia. I wondered what race relations were like in other countries of the Andean region, and I couldn’t wait to exchange experiences with Fulbright grantees from Ecuador and Colombia.
Things in Colombia were pretty different from Lima. Everything was just a lot…calmer. I had gotten used to the constant chaos and driving of Lima, and it seemed strange to be in a country where pedestrians actually had the right of way again. Differences in architecture and culture were amazing for me to observe, and of course I delighted in some Colombian coffee, even if I normally don’t drink coffee (I mean, come on! I was in Colombia!). Colombia’s Fulbright commission was incredibly welcoming and it was a nice change to converse with people going through similar experiences as my own. After the seminar wrapped up I was excited to finally explore Colombia on my own. A fellow Fulbrighter and I travelled out of Bogota as soon as we got the chance, and somehow we ended up in Villa de Leyva, a small town three hours outside of the city.
As can be seen by the photo above, Villa de Leyva’s sky often sports some of the most amazing looking clouds. The number of tourists are limited, at least when I went, but the number of attractions offered by the town are pretty astonishing. Keri (fellow Fulbrighter) and I decided to take the chance to go on a horseback tour of all the town’s sights, and it was amazing. We enjoyed the natural beauty of Villa de Leyva while our guide answered my endless questions. Below: A picture of Keri and I enjoying one of our horseback tour stops (the guide said we had to wear the hat and chaps – no way out of that one).
Visiting Colombia was a great experience, but I was glad to go back to Lima – strangely enough Lima now felt like home.