Let’s get political, let me hear your building talk

Political paints of Peru

Each country has it’s quirks, it’s eccentricities that tell you that you are somewhere different besides the usual capitalist stuff like the brand of yoghurt you are now buying, or the name of the phone provider. My imagination has been captured for very different reasons in each of the countries I have visited, for example in Colombia it was the insanely kind people, and in Mexico everything was so formative and exciting from the words people used to the food, the ever changing landscapes, and the soul that seeped into every aspect of Mexican life. With Peru there is no doubt that it’s main draw for me has been the mountains. I have transformed as a cyclist, ditching around half of my stuff and experiencing the quiet beauty of remote dirt roads through the sierra.

The routes I was taking were so involved that I am yet to write about some of the things that made Peru unique. After such a long time in a country the quirks are something that become so familiar, and it is only on leaving I am now able to reflect on what Peru meant to me besides the sierra. Peru was llamas and alpacas; it’s scary dogs, and it’s docile  ones; their love for an incredibly sexist gladiator style T.V programme called Combate; the fact that they called runny fried eggs ‘English eggs’ and that avocado is called Palta, and that we were now gringos again. The coca leaf (from the cocaine plant) is an important part of Andean culture, most work men chew this for energy and coca tea is to Peruvians what Earl Grey is to the English. Then there was the day to day subtleties such as the weak handshakes, putting your face down to your soup, and how it was apparently NOT rude to stare. If you listen carefully you will also hear people putting –pe at the end of sentences, this is something hard to explain but once you hear it you recognise it everywhere.

invited for a delish cheese soup

Looking rather ghostly leaning into my soup

Then there is the sublime phenomenon, when gathered, cyclists will wax lyrical about their record sublime intake in one day, how quickly they can get through a 22 bar box, and the merits of the white chocolate or almond version; this humble and not particularly delicious chocolate bar has powered our pedals over the toughest of Andean peaks. Totally sick of sublimes Nathan and I have however converted to the triangula chocolate bar in recent months, a sublime is for rookies.

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Peruvian chocolate, if you boycotted Nestle in Peru you would starve

I also became a collector. In Peru political parties paint their slogans and party logo on the side of buildings and I started taking a few photos here and there, then by the time I was in central Peru the pictures became more intriguing and frequent and I could not ride past an image without snapping it. I was like a school boy collecting football stickers. The images are usually iconic aspects of Peruvian life such as the hat, the pototo, the llama, the coca leaf.

I have so many questions about this… Do the people who live in the buildings get paid to have their walls painted? Or are they just happy to have their adobe mud houses brightened up? Is being a political art painter a real profession? Why are the use of images so popular, I wonder if it is due to literacy levels in the countryside? How did all of this start?

On a more serious note I found that the paintings were most prolific in Central Peru around the regions of Huancavelica, Huamanga and Apurimac. These places were most affected during the conflicts between the government and the Maoist Shining Path party, around 80,000 people were killed between 1980 and 2000. The Shining Path’s first act of violence was to burn ballot boxes and renounce the current political system, I therefore wondered if this was the reason these people were now currently embracing party politics?

I felt a bit confused about my feelings towards all of this political hype, we have on several occasions been asked to pose with local politicians, unsure of what these people stand for or how they will use our image. One day however we arrived in a small village on a rainy day, the village was free from paintings and it seemed so drab and depressing, we missed the paint. So here you go, another side of Peru….

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MORE, water and life. Taken on my first day in Peru, Amazona Region

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Vote for Coco, Cajamarca Region

we are Peru - political slogan

We are Peru, Cajamarca Region

the spade party

Vote Spade, Cajamarca Region

the hoe party

Vote Hoe, Cajamarca Region

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Often painted on derelict buildings, Ancash Region

Loved this type face, Ancash Region

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Vote C, and sound your horn, Ancash Region

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Vote Pencil, Lima Region

Yuracmayo

simple sign in Yuracmayo, Lima Region

Vote Clodo and his corn, Huancavelica Region

Clodo

I even witnessed a Clodo rally in Huancavelica

No, it is not Vote Poo, it’s Vote for the little Pototo Party, Huancavelica Region

vote water

Vote for Father Sam and the water drop, Huancavelica Region

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Freddy, one of the water drop guys, Ayacucho Region

vote bread

Vote Rugby ball, er, I mean bread, Huancavelica Region

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Vote for Pedro and his Llamas, Huamanga Region

rain heading in leaving Jalcamarca

Every place possible is painted, even the top of mountains

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Vote pick, Huamanga Region

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Vote Frank and his sequin hat, Huamanga Region

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Vote floppy hand, Huamanga Region

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The smiling tree was prolific, spotted in Huancavelica, Huamanga and Apurimac

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Vote tractor, Huamanga Region

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Vote Coca leaf, Huamanga Region

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Vote Tuna (the fruit of the nopal cactus), Apurimac Region. We actually spent the night on the floor of the mayors house who was part of the tuna party

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Vote Rainbow, Apurimac Region

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Vote for Michael and his cock, Apurimac Region

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Triple whammy! Vote chick, pot and house, Arequipa Region

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Vote FA house, along side some sexual graffiti, Arequipa Region

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Vote Rocoto chili, Arequipa Region

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Yay! Vote people, Arequipa Region

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Juan is the governor of Andagua, Arequipa Region. We had a nice chat with him. Retaking the road works the sign says.

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Vote fish, Arequipa Region

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House Party with Vidal the teacher! Puno Region

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Take 4! Orange, wheat, coca leaf and more rainbow! Puno Region.

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Vote Peruvian flute, Puno Region

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Vote for Sandal, Puno Region

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Painting in action, Puno Region

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Took me a while to work this one out. It’s the quinoa plant, Puno Region.

I tried by best to collect them all, but dont think I did as well as another cyclist Anna, and her 3 volume offering –  part 1 part 2 part 3.

I would like to thank Nathan for taking some of these photos for me, and with this post I close the Peru chapter of this journey.

10 thoughts on “Let’s get political, let me hear your building talk

  1. jojo

    My Cheche,

    Again, very nice blogpost 😀

    2 things, the word “PE” come from the word “pues” meaning “so” or something close to it

    And the guy having the flags “clodo” looks really funny cauz in french it means “homeless”

    I wish you the best in Bolivia – I think of you

    Jo

    1. Cherry Post author

      thanks for that JoJo! I wish I started taking more of these photos when we were still together at the beginning of Peru. x

  2. Dad

    Weechezypiebear, love your pics, we should do that over here, I’ll vote for the spud party, look after yourself,speak soon. By be

  3. Harriet

    Soooooo Nathan came round to triangulos did he………

    The thing about the politically graffiti that interested me was its link with illiteracy. The symbols must have been invented to help people unable to read the names of politicians. Was there more graffitt in more illiterate areas?

    I miss chicha morada! The homemade one. Once someone filled all our water bottles with the stuff- hmmmmmm.

    1. Cherry Post author

      Well Harriet there was more graffiti I think in the ‘Great Divide’ Central Barrier, which I have heard people say is meant to be one of the poorest regions in Peru, so that would figure.

      Yes, Nathan mentioned how he didn’t understand at the time why you guys were on the triangulas in the Huaywash, but now we get it.

      Totally went off the Chicha all together after too much powdered stuff.

  4. Leah Tongolele

    I cant believe you didnt include Pepe Hitler or Pablito Gato! Also your dad calling you Weechezypiebear is enough to make me take a flight to your motherland to meet him. Jeez, can you imagine being on an airline again?? Dynamite post, loves.

  5. Ruth

    Hi, Cherry
    I was told that the same easy-to-read (and politically reductive) symbols appear on the ballot paper and that voting is compulsory in Peru. Also, and I suppose it should be obvious, that the parties-candidates pay the houseowner to paint the slogans. Valuable weatherproofing.
    BTW How could you abandon Sublimes for those flimsy candy twigs? I think all those dry oats must have got to your palate.
    rx.

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