We have many colors

Posted in Travel at 13:00 by RjZ

Walking past stall after stall in the mercados of Peru, your eyes wander from amazing woven blankets to detailed carved gourdes to myriads of ceramic sculptures and pre-Columbian replicas.

“We have many colors,” Cusco, Peru
Colorful woven blankets were stacked
floor to ceiling in nearly every market
stall in Peru.

Enthusiastic stall owners watch your focus and point out each of their wares in turn. “Baby Alpaca…very soft…” “Huy un Compromiso” (Good price today). Catch a glimpse of the woven blankets stacked giant in piles from floor to ceiling and they say “You like blankets? We have many colors.” Um, yeah, I guess I can see that. Still, Peruvians seemed to me a very polite people and even outside of the markets, several we’re willing to strike up a conversation.

“Obama or Bush?” he asked. I thought it was an odd choice from a drunk man riding on a collectivo through the Peruvian Andes. “Given that choice, Obama,” I said. It’s unlikely he got the nuance but that doesn’t explain his quizzical response: “But he’s black…”

I think this raises an unusual question. Was he surprised I would prefer Obama to Bush because U.S. Americans have a stereotype as being somewhat racist? Or is he the racist, finding it difficult to conceive of why someone would select a black president? “We have many colors,” applies to blankets, but less so to people: there aren’t many black people in the Andes, so it wouldn’t surprise me if some Peruvians sometimes felt this way. After all, deep feelings often come to the surface of drunk people. I just don’t have enough experience to even guess? Anyone reading have an idea?

1 Comment »

  1. aaron said,

    September 28, 2008 at 9:36

    With prime ministers
    in the recent past
    with names such as
    Efrain Goldenberg Schreiber
    and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski
    (half Polish/half French)
    and president of 10 years
    Alberto Fujimori
    (who as his last name might suggest
    is full-blooded Japanese)
    I wouldn’t think Peruvians
    would be overly racist.
    (unless they put him in charge
    because all Asian people
    are such hard-workers)

    But then again
    it’s not like some drunk dude
    has any more say
    in who runs his country
    then I do.

    I’m not sure how similar
    Peru is to Thailand,
    but I have noticed that there
    is a class association
    with darker skin to manual labor
    (working in the fields gets you a tan).

    This could also be reinforced
    by genetic differences between
    Chinese vs. ethnic Thais
    or even Burmese and Cambodian people
    who provide much of the cheaper labor.

    But darker skin
    is definitely seen as a negative
    which doesn’t just go away
    when they look at someone
    from another country

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