Peru: Fujimori Eddition

Hola todos, I am sorry that I have been away from the blog so long. I am sure that you have all been on the edge of your seats, checking religiously in search of my latest post. Well, search no longer my friends for I have returned to regale you with new tails of South American adventure. I have been quite busy recently and so, I will be making a few posts in rapid succession in order get you all up to date on my activities. In this edition, I will cover the adventures of my host mother and I at a Fujimori rally.

Now, if you are like most people who do not live in Peru, odds are that you have no idea who Fujimori is, but, not to worry, for I will shortly clear all that up. Fujimori was the 90th president of Peru, and was in charge of the country from 1990 until 2000. At the time that he took office Peru was suffering from a vicious internal conflict between the Marxist Shining Path rebels and government forces. From what I have heard from locals, this was a very dark time in Peru's history. The worst of the violence occurred in the jungle and sierra regions of the country though by no means contained there. My host mother's house was severely damaged during one of the numerous bombings that occurred in Lima during that time, and had to move out. Everyone lived in constant fear of the bombings and shootings plagued the country.

The Fujimori administration found this situation to be intolerable and so, once in office, took drastic measures to take control of the country. This involved curbing the personal liberties of the citizenry (sort of like a Peruvian George W. Bush), using extra-legal methods (murder, kidnapping, torture etc..) to combat the terrorists (again, much like  Bush), and, unfortunately during the fighting many innocent civilians were maimed and killed (Dubya). However, during his period in power he was able to crush the terrorists, unite the country, and once again bring peace to the land (in this key aspect he and Bush differ somewhat, well, that and Fujimori is Asian).

(Bush) (Fujimori)

The methods that he used to achieve this victory, however, made him a somewhat polemic figure within Peruvian society. He was accused by his people of human rights violations, as well as mishandling public monies. He fled to Japan, was impeached, and stayed there for five years in self imposed exile. Upon returning to South America in 2005, he was arrested in Chile and in 2007 extradited back to Peru to face charges. He is currently serving a 25 year sentence for kidnapping, causing bodily harm, murder, and embezzlement. About half of Peru loves Fujimori for putting an end to their internal conflicts and restoring order to the nation. The other half thinks of him as a villain and a dictator.

My host mother here is a huge fan of Fujimori and is continuously arguing with my host father here who is not. Recently, Fujimori has suffered some sort of medical problem which required surgery. His supporters were distraught and so, decided to have a mass and rally in his support in a church at the Plaza de Armas in Lima (A large plaza with a monument in front of the presidential palace, somewhat like the National Mall). My host mother, believing that the institution that I attend here would give me a skewed conception of who Fujimori is because she believes that it is run by rich, leftist ninnies (referred to as calviaries here), decided to bring me along.

We arrived at the Plaza de Armas one and a half hour early, however, it was still full of people eagerly awaiting to enter the small cathedral where the service would be held. There were news people there interviewing various congress people who were attending the event, as well as mounted and riot police in order to maintain order. After much pushing and shoving my host mother and I were able to make it into the cathedral, where we were crammed like sardines into a standing only sections at the back of the church for plebeians such as ourselves ( important people got to sit in the sanctuary, as well as a few to old or feeble to stand for extended periods of time). We then proceed to spend the next hour and a half shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Fujimori supports, exchanging pleasantries and stories about how great of a leader Fujimori was. Being an American, I was not particularly interested in Fujimori, however, I found it an excellent opportunity to learn more about the current socio-cultural situation in Peru, as well as get to see one of the most famous cathedrals in Lima.

(an excellent foto of the supporters and the Cathedral during the rally)

One by one the VIPs began to arrive, a veritable who's who of Peruvian right-wing high society. When the family of Fujimori arrived, especially his daughter who is a famous congresswoman and ran for president in the last election herself, the entire crowd erupted into loud cheers. Then, the mass began. People outside who could not make it into the cathedral watched from the plaza on large projector screens that had been set up for that purpose. They chanted, waived flags, and held up signs of their beloved Fujimori. Inside of the church the mass was quite lovely, though I had trouble understanding it due to the fact that large parts were performed in Quetchua, a local indigenous dialect. We all received Fujimori cards and stickers, and then listened to speeches given by his family. After that, the mass was over.

We then excited the cathedral into the Plaza and joined in the chanting of slogans and waving of candelas which were being liberally distributed to the people. My host mother, being full of Fujimori zeal quickly became a leader of chants amongst the thousands of people present. Needless to say, I was quite impressed. We then began a march through downtown Lima. Along the way, in addition to causing enormous traffic problems, we were greeted by various people going about their own business in shops, walking, or hanging out of the windows of buildings to yell at us. Some shouted support, while others, (ingrates) shouted defamations. Needless to say the detractors were not well received and quickly shouted down if a flurry of Spanish curses. The Peruvian media was there to cover the event and my host mother and I were filmed, her, leading a chanting mob and me, standing next to her, trying my best to copy her and looking somewhat annoyed by all the ruckus. After the march we took a taxi back home where my host mother promptly began to argue with my host father over the heroism of Fujimori, and I, went to bed.

I shall leave you with translations of some of my favorite chants that I learned that night.

1. Fujimori, Freedom!

2. With you Asian, Forwards!

3. Thank you Asian for the peace!

4. Valiant Asian, your people are here! (my personal favorite)

Until Next Time,

Christopher Moore

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