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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Lifetime Friendships Through Travel: Part I

An Afro-Peruvian Connection


Lima, Perú

As a traveler, not a tourist, but as a traveler, I prefer to stay away from tourist attractions and be among the everyday people of the places I visit. This, in my opinion, is the best way to experience the real culture; particularly if you want to master the language. In my case, the language is Spanish.

Years ago, I was astonished to learn from an article I read that there are more black Latinos in the Americas than there are black gringos. What surprises me to the point of frustration is that too many Latinos I meet, from New York to California, do not know about the blacks in their own communities who speak Spanish as their first language. What a shame as they, of all people, should know better.

Mariela in Lima
L-R: I (Bill), Mariela, and Alberto
at Starbucks in Lima

This blog is about the friends I made during my travels. Since my focus is on Latin-America, I want to quickly acknowledge my non-Latin American lifetime friends that made from my travel experience: Gilda and the Kai Alpha Christian Fellowship in Manila, The Philippines, Eddie Ang and his family in Singapore, and Phelps and Christina in Hong Kong, China.

I met Mariela, a Lima, Perú law student on Facebook shortly before making my second trip to Perú. I found Facebook to be a wonderful tool in meeting folks in parts of the world where you intend to travel. Unfortunately when I made the trip to Perú, I didn't feel we knew each other well enough to ask her to meet Mariela in person. I “assumed” that she would have preferred more Facebook correspondence first. Another reason I didn't ask to meet her in person was the fact that I was spending most of my time in a town two and one-half hours south of where she lives.


National Afro-Peruvian Museum
National Afro-Peruvian Museum

However, upon my return to the U.S., Mariela and I continued our Facebook correspondence. By the time I made my subsequent trip to Perú the following year, we had the rapport that made me feel comfortable in asking to meet in person, in fact, our meeting was a given. She and I finally met in the beautiful Parque Kennedy (Kennedy Park) and she suggested that we head for Starbucks Café, yes Starbucks! In this section of Lima, there is all the familiar cafes and fast-food joints we are accustomed to in the U.S.; even KFC where the chicken tastes like wood.


Parque Kennedy (Park) in Lima, Perú

Later Alberto, an off-duty Lima police officer joined us. Both he an Mariela are members of Makongo Del Desarrollo, a Peruvian civil rights organization of which I am also an honorary member. I felt honored when they invited me to attend a major event sponsored by Makongo. Alberto was also good enough to take me to the National Afro-Peruvian Museum in another section of town. He and I now are now Facebook friends.