An American in Peru

 

“Hey Blondie” photo credit: by Ivan Mlinaric

If I wrote “Peruvian men are a bunch of scum-buckets,”  that would be stereotyping.  So I will phrase it this way:  I have encountered a lot of Peruvian men who are complete, disrespectful slime-balls.  I briefly touched this topic in the previous blog, and I would like to delve a little deeper.  I hope to do this without offending any Peruvian men who may not be slime-balls or scum-buckets.  I also don’t want to sound negative as the majority of my actual interactions with Peruvians have been good.  I just feel the need to point this out because it’s not something I’ve experienced much of in the States.

I live in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Lima and do not venture far from my apartment on my own for reasons of safety.  Even so, on a typical walk of less than one mile to the grocery store, I get honked at approximately 30 times.  I hear the word “rubia,” directed at me at least 10 times, the word “bonita” at least five times, and the word “puta” at least two times.  While in the States, I feel sexy when I catch a guy checking me out from across the bar; here they are far less discrete.  They stare and smile creepily, slow their cars down and drive alongside me, yell things, sometimes reach their arms out of bus or car windows towards me.  Sometimes they make smoochy kissy noises.  Gross.  My favorite, so far, was a guy on a motorcycle who swerved to get my attention and when he had it, pointed to his crotch and smiled at me.  I wanted to give him a sarcastic thumbs up, but held back and kept walking with my head facing forward.

That’s what you do.  Ignore them and just keep walking.  Sunglasses help, but still it’s harder than it sounds to keep a straight face and steady pace without reacting.  I want to punch them in the face.  The guys are small here and I think I could take some of them.  I want to walk up to them and scream “I’m not a sex object, I’m an occupational therapist!  I have a masters degree!” but I don’t think that would help.  I keep walking and hope that their negligent driving skills get them in a well-deserved accident.

This doesn’t just happen to me because I’m blonde, although I’m sure it doesn’t help. I see it happening to Peruvian women too.  And it’s not because I’m wearing sexy outfits.  Despite the warm weather, I’ve taken to wearing sweat pants and baggy tee shirts for my runs, rather than the more comfortable shorts and sweat-wicking tank.  It makes no difference.  Looking to your local police for help is not necessarily your best bet either.  They are slightly more polite about it, but stare you up and down as much as the next guy.  I even have one police “friend” who I see almost every day now.  He says hi to me, then sometimes follows me on his bike for at least one to two blocks until I switch directions and make it clear I know he’s there.

Cristina, a friend of mine from Argentina and reader of this blog, suggested that I take these as compliments rather than get offended.  In some cases, I can accept being called “beautiful blonde.”   They’re just stating a truth, right?  Charlie tells me it’s cultural but I have such a hard time accepting this.  He says that when he lived in Argentina, he experienced women yelling flirtatious things at him.  For some reason, I feel like a woman yelling “guapo” towards an 18-year-old Charlie didn’t bother him that much.  I could be wrong…he has a point though.  This is a feature of Peru that I’m going to have to put up with.  I don’t understand it, and don’t like it, but if I don’t get over it pretty darn soon, Brandy will quickly tire of my vent sessions that occur after every one of her walks.

Jerks.

Posted by Danielle L. Krautmann, 20 Jan 2010