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Unformatted text preview: A Serrano Family in Lima Richard W. Patch Massive migration from the highlands in the 1940s and 1950s changed the cultural and social landscape of Lima. These migrants created shantytowns ( barriadas), but some of them also found housing in the poorer areas of the city, like La Victoria, El Porvenir, and other traditional working-class districts. Life was much harder than the newly arrived migrants had expected. Jobs were not easy to find, linguistic and cultural assimilation proved to be difficult, and racial discrimination kept them on the margins of mainstream society. With few exceptions, Lima was not the city of opportunities that they had dreamed of. Anthropologist Richard Patch conducted extensive fieldwork among migrant families in the 1960s, trying to understand their strategies of survival and the obstacles they faced in Lima. La Parada, a conglomerate of wholesale retail shops, informal restaurants, and precarious housing units, was the location for some of Patch’s research. The following portrait of the Punarejo family, based on interviews with its members, takes us into the daily struggles of Lima’s migrant population. Don Valentín Punarejo was a serrano and a man of parts in Puno, a department and town in southern Peru on the altiplano (twelve thousand feet above sea level) bordering on Lake Titicaca. He was forty-six years old, married to Doña Lorenza Rodríguez de Punarejo, and the father of two daughters, Susana, eleven years old, and Consuelo, two. He owned land, a house with the customary crosses on the rooftree, and a herd of twenty cattle. His was a worldly life in that high outpost of desolation. With twenty-five thousand soles (nearly a thousand dollars) of capital, he would buy cattle from his neighbors and acquaintances in Puno, giving them only a first payment down and paying the rest after he had sold the cattle. He would drive the cattle to Lima in fifteen or sixteen days and sell them there at the slaughterhouse of the Terminal.1 In the Terminal, Don Valentín would buy clothes for himself and his family, absorb something of the wonders of Lima, and then return to Puno via a two-and-a-half-day bus trip. On return, he was a center of attraction in Puno, completing payment 185 This content downloaded from 169.236.236.7 on Mon, 18 Jan 2021 00:34:52 UTC All use subject to 186  Richard W. Patch Children inside a callejón, 1970s. Archivo fotográfico tafos/pucp. Código: ga 09-3. Photograph by Daniel Pajuelo. Used by permission of Archivo tafos. for the cattle, distributing small items he had been commissioned to buy in Lima, and dedicating himself to his wheat fields as the rains closed in, turning the roads to mud and making the rivers unfordable. For the family’s provision there were sheep, hogs, chickens, ducks, and guinea pigs. Since Don Valentín belonged as much to the Spanish-speaking town of Puno as to the society of neighbors around his land, he was able to play something of the gran señor. Sometimes he would put on a suit and boots, and in bad weather he would wear a raincoat and a rainhat—all marks of the “White Man.” Often he would invite his neighbors in to eat and to drink the distillations he had brought from the Terminal, telling them all the while of his travels and the splendors of Lima. Perhaps he convinced himself of the city’s advantages; at any rate he decided that since he spent so much time in Lima it would be better to move his family there. In El Porvenir, a section of Lima near the Terminal, he rented a house with four rooms and a closetlike kitchen for four hundred soles (less than sixteen dollars) a month, and returning to Puno, he put him- This content downloaded from 169.236.236.7 on Mon, 18 Jan 2021 00:34:52 UTC All use subject to A Serrano Family in Lima 187 Street vendors in the Gamarra garment district, now one of the most economically dynamic areas of Lima. Colección Lima Antigua, Archivo Vladimir Velásquez. Unknown photographer. Courtesy of Vladimir Velásquez. self and his family aboard the train for the coast. Doña Lorenza and the children—having lived all their lives at twelve thousand feet—became ill during the trip, and even more so when they reached sea level. It was a reverse soroche, the illness produced by altitudinal change. (Usually the victims of soroche are coast-dwellers traveling into the sierra). It took a week for Doña Lorenza to recover after arriving at the house in El Porvenir. Don Valentín had not foreseen the problems of residence in Lima. The language of the family was Aymara, and his wife spoke practically no Spanish. The elder daughter, Susana, spoke Spanish, learned in the school of Puno which she had attended through the third grade. Thus, at first the father and daughter had to do the marketing, and when the mother did go out of the house she was frightened by the automobiles, trucks, and buses, and would lose herself in the unfamiliar streets. Don Valentín, going in search of her, would usually find her in a police station where she had been taken for safe-keeping. After a month, affairs began to go more smoothly. Susana could go alone to buy a few things at a Chinese store nearby, and her mother learned her way about the Terminal, where she would go every two or three days to buy food. Fortunately, she found stalls operated by persons from Puno with whom she could speak Aymara. With the family somewhat settled, Don Valentín went back to Puno to This content downloaded from 169.236.236.7 on Mon, 18 Jan 2021 00:34:52 UTC All use subject to 188  Richard W. Patch buy cattle. There he discovered that his old friends and associates would no longer accept just part-payment for their animals. They wanted the full amount because they felt that, having moved away from Puno, he could now decide at any time that he would not return. Forced to raise more money, Don Valentín gave a five-year mortgage on his house and land to a member of the town council for five thousand soles (less than two hundred dollars). Driving twenty-five head of cattle, he returned to Lima and sold them at the Terminal. The children of the Terminal had begun to shout insults at Doña Lorenza and Susana, calling them serranas and cholas. Serrana is a colorless word, referring only to origins in the sierra, but chola is an emotion-charged word, carrying the meaning of a low background in the sierra.2 It is as near a racial insult as appears in the interviews in the Terminal, where great care is used to make racial allusions matter-of-fact and without grounds for injured feelings. Don Valentín took the only possible course in telling his family to ignore the taunts. Living in their own house rather than in a collective dwelling, the family was able to insulate itself more than most of the sierra people of the Terminal. Doña Lorenza suffered in the new surroundings—from the “heat” of Lima, which is certainly warmer than the high-altitude chill of Puno, from separation from her family and friends and the animals she had cared for in her old home, and even from the frustration of radio programs in a language which she could not understand. Susana, on the contrary, enjoyed her new life. She no longer had to carry water in buckets from the well, she did not have to search for stove wood, and she did not have to take the sheep out to pasture. The house in El Porvenir had a kerosene stove, electric lights, and running water. Other needs could be satisfied by going a short distance to the Terminal or to the Chinese store on the corner. She enjoyed going to the Coliseo Nacional (a large tent where the management provided sierra residents in Lima with hours-long performances of sierra music and dances), to the movies, and to the street carnivals. She was even more enthusiastic about her enrollment in school, where she was placed in the fourth grade. Once again Don Valentín traveled to Puno to buy the cattle which supported his family. But drought had come to southern Peru, many cattle had already been sold or slaughtered, and he was unable to buy the livestock he sought. In his search he was forced much farther afield, to Huancavelica and to Cerro de Pasco, and there he found prices higher because of the large number of cattle buyers already combing these parts of the sierra. He returned from Huancavelica to the Terminal with only fourteen head of cattle on which he could expect to make little profit. This content downloaded from 169.236.236.7 on Mon, 18 Jan 2021 00:34:52 UTC All use subject to A Serrano Family in Lima 189 Arriving home, he found that his wife was pregnant—yet working harder than before because Susana was in school and of little help to her. Susana, in turn, recounted that her first days in school had been hard—her schoolmates had called her serrana and accused her of “smelling of llamas” (an animal seen by coastal Peruvians only in zoos). She continued, however, to take her father’s advice to ignore the insults, and indeed her schoolmates soon tired of the game. (The criollo interviewer commented that “criolla girls in the schools are not so bad with serranas as criollo boys are with serranos. The girls only put on airs and do not accept the serranas into their group of friends. The criollo boys, on the other hand, continually abuse the serranos, insulting them and hitting them.”) Eight months after having moved his family from Puno to Lima the father faced up to impending economic disaster. He was spending all of his income on immediate family needs; his wife was about to have another child; and summer rains made the roads to Puno impossible for driving cattle. In the hope of holding on to some of his capital, Don Valentín asked several of the men from Puno whom he knew in the Terminal how he might best invest his hard-earned soles. One of them was eager to return to Puno after having spent a hard and unprofitable time in the Terminal, where he had a licensed retail stall stocked with small food staples. This man spoke to Don Valentín with all the eloquence he could summon, painting his little business in brilliant colors (“que le pintó pajaritos”). Don Valentín had ten thousand soles (nearly four hundred dollars), and he paid this for the transfer, the license, and the stock. The seller, well pleased, left immediately for Puno, while the unfortunate buyer soon found that the stall had practically no business—yet required his presence from six o’clock in the morning until four in the afternoon. Susana had to bring his lunch to him there. Don Valentín also found that the buyers of his wares in the Terminal were mainly women who preferred to buy from women. Doña Lorenza, however, had entered the maternity clinic to give birth to a son, and afterward she was hospitalized. During this time Don Valentín attempted to sell his recently acquired stall, but he was offered only half the price he had paid for it. At last he opened the stall for only moments each day, closing it afterward and cursing the paisano who had sold it to him and used the money to leave the Terminal forever. His wife’s hospitalization and convalescence took the rest of the family’s money. Once again Don Valentín went to Puno, this time to try to recover the house and land which he had mortgaged for five years to the member of the town council. His former friend, now living in Don Valentín’s house, pointed to the fields which had been newly planted and refused to return the This content downloaded from 169.236.236.7 on Mon, 18 Jan 2021 00:34:52 UTC All use subject to 190  Richard W. Patch house and land, offering instead to purchase them outright. Don Valentín, desperate for money, accepted an additional 5,000 soles and the promise of 7,000 soles more in a year (a total purchase price of 17,000 soles [$634] for the homestead, trees, gardens, and small fields). He was soon to feel that by this act he had sealed his fate. In Lima, Susana was on vacation from school, helping both her mother in the house and her father at the market stall. Don Valentín decided that he could no longer afford the rent for the house and moved the family into a single room on the Avenida Humboldt in the Terminal itself. The following year Doña Lorenza bore yet another son in this room—making a total of six members of the family—and the two younger children were often ill. Economic catastrophe became imminent. Although she made no complaint, Doña Lorenza was quite aware of the situation, and she decided to prepare and serve meals for the people of the Terminal. Don Valentín was opposed at first, but she convinced him, and he bought a small cart, a primus stove, and other small necessities for the business. Thus, the mother became the main source of the family’s income. By this time, Consuelo was four years old and taking care of her baby brothers, and Susana had finished grade school and entered an “academy for accounting.” Don Valentín was proud of his eldest daughter, believing that Susana would become an accountant and the pride of the family. She was thirteen years old. (The criollo interviewer conceded that she had become acriollada—that is, nearly indistinguishable from the coastal-born criollas.) Thus more years passed—­Susana sometimes helping in the stall, her father sometimes hiring himself out as a peon in construction work. Jobs were few. With Susana helping in the stall, Don Valentín bought a hawker’s cart for himself and began to sell potatoes in the market of La Victoria (a section of Lima). This venture came rapidly to an end, however, because he was only an itinerant street seller (ambulante) with no license, and the police had begun a campaign against such vendors. He returned with his cart to the Terminal, where he tried to sell fruit. By this time Susana was eighteen years old and very criolla (“ya era bien criolla”). A coastal-born criollo was courting her. The second daughter, Consuelo, was ten, in the fourth grade, and intelligent. The young brothers, however, were “a pair of demons” who stayed in the family’s room only to sleep. “They paid no attention to their mother, who had aged greatly. The father took little interest in correcting them, saying they had been born on the coast and were destined to have no respect for their family.” Susana married her criollo suitor. The bridegroom, Ángel Castañeda, was the watchman for a walled enclosure stacked high with thousands of empty This content downloaded from 169.236.236.7 on Mon, 18 Jan 2021 00:34:52 UTC All use subject to A Serrano Family in Lima 191 wooden boxes. There he made his living repairing the boxes used for transporting fruit and vegetables, and for his watchman’s duties he had free use of two rooms in the enclosure. Water had to be fetched from a spigot in the street, and as the spigot served the majority of persons in the Terminal who were without running water, and since it was turned off in the afternoons, two metal drums were filled each morning and kept in the rooms. Light was provided by kerosene lamps and candles. Here her bridegroom brought Susana and all her family to live. Susana and Ángel remained for eight months in these surroundings, but life there was difficult for them, being two among eight people in the two small rooms. The two young boys, for instance, would rob Ángel of money whenever they had a chance, although Ángel said nothing to his mother-inlaw, who had again become ill. Finally, Ángel turned over his watchman’s job to Don Valentín and, with three thousand soles which he had saved, made a down payment on Don Valentín’s market stall. He made some further monthly payments of five hundred soles each. Then the two young people went to live in La Victoria. Susana continues to work in the stall at the Terminal, which she has stocked and where she is popular with many buyers. Consuelo studies in the afternoon and spends the rest of the time helping her mother. The two young sons, Felipe and Alfredo, shine shoes and sell newspapers, using the money for their own needs. They publicly make fun of their father and mother, calling them serranos and trying to disassociate themselves as much as possible from the family. They spend their time as “fruit birds,” 3 reading the comic books which are rented out in the Terminal and looking at television. (Several entrepreneurs of the Terminal have bought television sets and easily pay for them by putting them in rooms which are filled with people in the evening, each paying from fifty centavos to one sol to watch the programs.) Occasionally the father must retrieve the boys from the police station, where they have been held because they are minors and there are too many such aspiring hoodlums in the Terminal for the police to handle. Don Valentín is now fifty-eight years old and looks much older. He has not perfected his Spanish; Aymara obviously remains his first tongue. He has reverted to sierra-style clothing, except for his shirts and a hat, which are like those used by the criollos. He no longer wears boots or even shoes, having gone back to the cheap sandals made from truck tires. His teeth are green from chewing coca and his main pleasure is to drink with a friend. His clothes are no longer kept clean. He makes no attempt to attract customers to his fruit cart, saying, “If they want to buy they will, if they don’t This content downloaded from 169.236.236.7 on Mon, 18 Jan 2021 00:34:52 UTC All use subject to 192  Richard W. Patch they won’t.” If a comment is made in his vicinity which he does not quite hear, he interprets it as a criticism of his drunkenness. His friend is an old man who spends his days carrying sacks of produce on his back. Every time he passes Don Valentín’s fruit cart he asks, “Brother, shall we go have a little one?” (“Compadre, vamos a echarnos unita?”) Don Valentín invariably accepts and goes off, leaving his cart in the care of the vendor beside him. Notes 1. “El Terminal” and “La Parada” were colloquial ways of referring to the large marketplace built in the 1940s in La Victoria district. The terms refer to the fact that it was the last stop for trucks coming from the interior with produce to be sold in Lima. 2. Actually, serrana does carry a racial connotation in the Peruvian context. It is almost synonymous with “Indian.” 3. In Spanish, pájaros fruteros or petty thieves. This content downloaded from 169.236.236.7 on Mon, 18 Jan 2021 00:34:52 UTC All use subject to ...
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