Aside from keeping busy with our day to day programs and activities, LLI volunteers are kept thoroughly entertained by a variety of Huaycán offerings. Pastimes include savoring a slice of tres leches at the local
bakery, exploring the wonders of the market that puts Costco to shame, frequenting the stalls of our main street, playing soccer or volleyball with our local friends, and getting into a heated match of Foosball. This past July we had a few extra excitements that made it a particularly spicy month!
Early June, the Women’s Program Manager, Leslie, and I had surreptitiously stumbled upon a nearby volleyball court on which two teams were playing an intense, high-caliber volleyball match. Their angled kills, effortless jump-serves, and suspenseful rallies caught our eyes. But, in all honesty, what hooked us was the team of cross-dressed young men occupying one side of the court. They donned skinny jeans and short shorts, midriff-baring shirts and lacy cover-ups, Ugg boots, ballet flats, and sequined Converses; they boasted half-shaven heads, short bobs, and crown-topping ponytails. Leslie and I could not believe our eyes. These players would soar in the air to go for a kill and come down hard on the ball, then flip their hair and saunter back to their positions as though spiking the ball were effortless. We remained awestruck for a good hour and vowed to return.
Volleyball watching during weekends quickly became an LLI common pastime, despite, to our chagrin, the players no longer bore their showy attire, but instead donned their more practical shorts and jerseys. At this point, it was their game that kept us going back.
Fast forward to mid-July, the volleyball crew invited one of LLI’s very own to join. Will, one of our English teachers, at 6’2’’ caught their eyes. I’m sure his dirty-blond hair and blue eyes helped. Since that fateful night,
Will has been back practically every week to play, and we fellow volunteers go to cheer him on. Keep your eyes peeled for Will’s firsthand account in an upcoming post.
The other highlight of the month was Huaycan’s anniversary, or Quince de Julio. Huaycán was abuzz with anticipation as city workers swept the streets, planted new tress (Huaycán could always use more green), and
repainted the bus stands and curbs (I’ve inadvertently left my mark here by accidentally stepping on a freshly painted curb—whoops!). Two nights before, the local carnival expanded into the park and gambling games lined the streets. A large food tent was pitched and traditional Peruvian dishes, including cuy, or guinea pig, was a five-minute walk away. Night-time marches, concerts, and parades were common sights. The big day consisted of a full-day parade featuring students from schools all over Huaycán. The parade was an embodiment of the pride and optimism of this young town.
Just 29 years ago, Huaycán was born out of a need for more housing space after a mass migration of serranos, or people of the sierras (Andes), had come to Lima to better opportunities and education. Still a young town finding its bearings, Huaycán was targeted by Peru’s rising Communist Party, the Shining Path, as an easily penetrable gateway into Lima. Huaycán would act as their base where they could indoctrinate their ideas, grow in power and number, and eventually spread into the rest of Lima. Turmoil and unrest continued into the 90s, until Peru’s president of the time, Alberto Fujimori, was able to squash their efforts. 29 years later, Huaycán’s citizens are optimistic about the town’s growth, as their main street, Quince de Julio (named after their anniversary) recently welcomed a branch of the well-known retail chain Topitop. Popular national game-show, Combate, made a special appearance in Huaycán, as did the currently beloved Cumbia
group, Corazon Serrano. New roads are being paved to allow easier access to the higher zones. And larger, more modern busses are being introduced to Huaycán’s public transportation system. As Huaycán’s future brightens each year, its citizens and leaders proudly and fitfully celebrated their progress and future aspirations on their special day of 15 de Julio. Viva Huaycán!
July did not disappoint, and as I write this entry while reminiscing on all the loco happenings, I can’t help but grin and pitch another thanks to Huaycán, Perú and LLI for how much they have given me.
Program Development Coordinator