Week Three: Painting, dancing and drumming



Aidan watches carefully as Camilo Ballumbrosio demonstrates a rhythm on the cajón peruano.

This week we took a break from traditional lectures as we further explored the arts in Perú. From painting ceramics, to dancing to the Marinera Norteña, to playing the cajón, we had a chance to participate in this rich aspect of Peru’s cultural heritage.


Our week began with a visit to the offices of Manos Amigas, a fair trade organization that distributes products created by Peruvian artisans to foreign markets. Their largest customer is Ten Thousand Villages, and many of their products can be found in the Ten Thousand Villages store in Goshen. Manos Amigas operates according to 10 principles set out by the World Fair Trade Organization. These principles include (among other things) payment of a fair price, good working conditions, capacity building, no child labor, and respect for the environment.

After touring their warehouse, we visited the studio of one of their artisans, Leonidas Orellana, who produces ceramics. Leonidas fled his home in the Andean highlands after his life was threatened during the violence in the 80s. He brought his trade with him to Lima and started making ceramics in a humble workshop inside his one-room house. He has since built a thriving business with help from Manos Amigas. In fact, he has been so successful that he will soon be phased out of the Manos Amigas program and be able to distribute his art independently. After a demonstration from Leonidas, students spent some time working with clay, and had an opportunity to do some painting in his rooftop studio. The students were quite dedicated to painting their toritos de Pucará (bulls of Pucara). The arrival of lunch, served by Leonidas’ family, finally convinced them to put on the finishing touches.


On Tuesday, we had an Art and Literature walking tour, starting on the malecón at the Parque del Faro (Lighthouse Park), and ending in downtown Miraflores at Parque Kennedy. Along the way, we heard speeches from our Artists, Activists and Authors series. Students spoke on writers Mario Vargas Llosa and Julio Ramón Ribeyro, poet and journalist Antonio Cisneros, and visual artist Nani Cárdenas. Upon reaching their destination, students were rewarded for surviving the heat with some ice cream from the Choco Museo.


On Wednesday morning, we had a full-body educational experience – a dance workshop on La Marinera Norteña. The Marinera Norteña is considered the national dance of Perú. It involves a partner, fast footwork, a handkerchief and lots of figure 8s! The workshop was led by Marcio Vera, a Peruvian Marinera champion. As you will see in the gallery photos, the students worked on this complicated and dramatic dance with flair, good humor, and some serious sweating.

Thursday and Friday

On Thursday, we traveled to the region of Chincha, to visit the town of El Carmen. El Carmen is home to the Ballumbrosio family – a family at the heart of Afro-Peruvian music and culture. We were warmly hosted by the Ballumbrosios, who provided us with food, lodging, drumming lessons, and insight into the history of African descendants in Perú. Accompanying us on the bus from Lima, was Camilo Ballumbrosio, one of the 15 children who make up this iconic family. On the way, Camilo talked about the legacy of Afro-Peruvian music which his father, the late Amador Ballumbrosio, was dedicated to sharing and preserving. He also talked about the history of the slavery in Perú, and how the area around El Carmen was populated by escaped slaves, and later, freed slaves.

Our first stop was a tour of Hacienda San Jose, located about 15 minutes outside of El Carmen. This opulent hacienda was a functioning slave plantation run by the Jesuit order beginning in 1688, and later gifted by the King of Spain to a single family which ran the plantation for several generations. At one point, over 1000 slaves worked on the plantation growing sugar cane and cotton, a crop which is still grown in the fields around El Carmen. During our tour of the grounds, we learned that this beautiful hacienda was the site of horrific treatment of slaves for almost 200 years.

After arriving in El Carmen, we were treated to lunch in the Ballumbrosio family’s home. We had a chance to eat one of the signature dishes of Afro-Peruvian cuisine — sopa seca con carapulcra, a stew of potatoes, peanuts and pork served over spiced noodles. Following lunch, Camilo led us in a workshop on the cajón — one of the main instruments in Afro-Peruvian music. The cajón is a box-like percussion instrument that is played while seated on the box. We made a circle of cajones out in the street, and attempted to learn some of the basic rhythms of Afro-Peruvian music. These rhythms were very challenging, but we had a great time creating music together. Camilo also gave us a brief demonstation of Zapateo. With some elements similar to tap dancing, Zapateo has a complex pattern of footwork which uses the feet to create percussion.

After eating supper that evening, we were able to see all these pieces of music, dance and Afro-Peruvian culture come together in a house concert by the Ballumbrosio family and friends. We got to see Zapateo, along with several other forms of traditional dancing that the Ballumbrosios have worked hard to preserve for their community over the last 50 years.  At the end of the show, we were led outside to a bonfire that had been built in the street and we were invited to try some of the dance moves ourselves. We were not quite as proficient as the dancers in the show, but our enthusiasm made up for our lack of skill.

The next day, Camilo took us for a walk through El Carmen. He led us up to a hill on the outskirts of town to see the cemetery where his ancestors are buried. Afterward, those who wanted to sweat just a little bit more had a soccer match with some local children. Finally, we got chance to tour the Centro Cultural Amador Ballumbrosio, a cultural center started by the Ballumbrosios in their father’s memory to promote the cultural life of the community of El Carmen. It is still under construction, but several parts of it, including a library for local children, will be up and running next month.

After a lunch of escabeche, a dish of marinated fish covered with peppers and onions and served with sweet potatoes and rice, we boarded the bus for our return to Lima. On the way home, we couldn’t resist stopping at the one of the myriad ice cream stands lining the road. It was two ice cream stops in one week, but it was a VERY hot week.  And it was a sweet ending to a wonderful trip.