My Afro-Peruvian Godchild
It was during my first trip to the District of El Carmen in Chincha, Perú, the hub of black Peruvian culture, when one evening, while sitting alone working on my laptop, a toddler wandered in from next door; a common practice in this community. I gave her a piece of candy that I brought from the U.S. As she struggled to open the wrapper, I felt a very strong connection; it was as though she was a long-lost loved one from a past life. Later that evening, she returned and I asked her name. She sweetly told me Daniela. I picked her up, hugged her, and gave her another piece of candy.
to chow down on some grilled chicken.
Those feelings of closeness to Daniela stuck with me for four years before I saw her again. In the meantime, I used to call on occasions just to say hello and to hear her voice. Each time she would ask, ¿Cuándo viene (when are you coming)? One time she asked if she could be my daughter. Her mother happened to be standing right there. Obviously embarrassed, she had Daniela say cuídate (take care) before hanging up the phone. I don't know where her real father is, but I felt really good inside to learn that Daniela felt this way about me. From that point on, I started addressing her as mija (my daughter) or mi niña (my little girl).
When I finally returned to Chincha, Perú members of the Ballumbrosio family who hosted my stay, sat me down to chat when suddenly, I hopped up out of my chair saying that I wanted to see my daughter. Everyone knew I was referring to Daniela for I have no children of my own. I went next door, and was greeted by Daniela and her family with hugs, and I showered Daniela with gifts that I brought from the U.S.
Daniela, second from the left is performing an Afro-Peruvian dance on a popular TV show Corazón Perú.
Later that evening, I met Daniela's mother Karina for the first time in person. She asked me if I had any children. No just Daniela, was my response as Daniela gave me a very pleased look. Karina was so surprised and touched as Daniela and I gave each other a nice, big hug after I read her a story out of one of the many story books I brought from the U.S.
During my second trip to Perú, I took full advantage of the time for Daniela and I to bond. I took her to church, walked her to school, and even took her, her friends, and family out to playgrounds, the beach, and had dinner at local restaurants; all on me. We also played games together. The day before I left Perú, Daniela and her Afro-Peruvian dance class rode a chartered bus to Lima, the nation's capital for their performance in a popular TV show Corazón Perú ( Peruvian Heart).
Even between my trips to Perú, I call Daniela and her family to say hello and wire money like I did for Father's Day. Daniela is not my natural daughter but she is so special.
Fathers Day, June 19, 2010