Bullfighting Buddhists or Backwards Bumpkins in Peru
Story and photos by Kirsten Koza

In a land where the Catholic conquistadors conquered and subjugated the native Incas, a small band of Peruvian neo-Nazis have found a way to blame all their troubles on the Jews.

Peru crowd of neo-Nazis

The weirdness started when I ordered the wrong soup in Nazca, Peru. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, except that every two or three years I fly all the way from Toronto to Lima and then rent a 4x4 at the airport to drive to Nazca for a bowl of parihuela at La Encantada. I always tell people that I’m going to Peru for other reasons, for example, this time, the reason was to mountain bike down a 19,872-foot ultra volcano with my friend Beth. But the fact is, I go for the seafood soup, a Peruvian bouillabaisse, loaded with lobsters, prawns, mussels, squid, clams and white fish, in a broth of wine, cilantro, South American peppers, spices and garlic. It is a renowned aphrodisiac. That’s what a local fireman, seated at the bar, told me the first time I orgasmed over a bowl a decade ago. The only thing I was horny for, was the soup.

cycling in Peru

But on this occasion, with my friend Beth, when the waiter delivered three bowls (I’ll tell you about the third person in a second) of chupe de camarones, instead of parihuela, I almost died. It was entirely my fault. Parihuela wasn’t on the new menu, you had to order it from the old menu, and I’d neglected to ask for the old menu so I could point to it for clarity. I don’t even like chupe de camarones because of things like evaporated milk bobbing with shrimp, cubes of bland cheese, bits of eggs, and there’s no booze in the broth. I’d travelled over 4,000 miles and had ordered the wrong soup. The excuse I’ve concocted is, I was off my game due to the side effects from the altitude meds I’d started taking in preparation for mountain biking Chachani, the ultra volcano.

The long list of side effects includes: dizziness, fatigue, light-headedness, headache and nausea, which are also the side effects of altitude sickness. In my case, the side effects were further exaggerated since the meds don’t mix with pisco shots or any other alcohol. I was additionally discombobulated because a French “junk dealer” from our hotel had joined us for dinner. It wasn’t just because the wealthy Frenchman, who was driving his Mercedes-Benz G-Class around the world, was devastatingly sexy in a Javier Bardem sort of way (incidentally, the side effects of altitude meds also cause tingling in the extremities) but also because Beth and I were still trying to determine if the “junk” he dealt was used furniture or heroin.

The soup oddities continued the next day but with a 70-year-old Peruvian guide this time. I told Leo about my soup disaster, and he said he knew where to get an even better bowl of this soup. I didn’t believe it, but Leo was known as Leo de Nasca.

A Peruvian at the next courtyard table was hunched over his bowl of parihuela sucking seashells while his wife watched him. She was served nothing. My soup finally arrived. Oh, no! It was the wrong soup. It was chupe de camarones, again. “This isn’t the soup!” I wailed. “That man is eating the soup that I want.”

“While his wife gets nothing,” Beth added.

“That is a man’s soup,” Leo responded as he peeled shrimp from my rejected terrine of evaporated milk. There was something familiar about the “man’s soup” line. The fireman might have mentioned that I was eating man’s soup when he said it was an aphrodisiac. But I’d never had problems ordering it on previous trips. The man beside me was eating like a swine at a trough. His wife, watching every bite, was the one who needed an aphrodisiac.

Andean Anti-Semetics?

Weirdness followed us south along the arid coast and then high into the Andes where it peaked in a bullfighting ring.

“Nazis!” I gasped. Instinctively I tucked my necklace inside my shirt. The pendant, the Hebrew symbol for life, suddenly felt like a neon sign flashing “Jewish.” With my other hand I pointed diagonally across the bullring to where a Nazi marching band was taking their seats. There was a swastika decorating the bass drum held by an indigenous Peruvian. Indigenous Peruvian Nazis? Beth and Leo followed my gaze. We were in the off-the-beaten-path Andean village of Huambo. We were high in the Colca Canyon, which is two-times deeper than the Grand Canyon, but we were still at an elevation of about 10,900 feet above sea level.

“Perhaps they’re not Nazis, but it’s religious, like Buddhism?” Beth countered.

“No, not here!” I snapped. I shouldn’t have snapped. But I was feeing defensive.

I could still feel my grandfather Koza’s silky hand take mine in my parent’s living room. Zaide’s skin was paper-thin and his hand shook with Parkinson’s. I’d just graduated from university when he first told me about his daring escape from religious persecution with his brother. He’d sobbed when he recounted his first memory of the Cossacks riding into the shtetl (the village) where his family lived, near the border of Belarus and the Ukraine. He was five. “The Czar had given the Cossacks a Jew hunting licence,” he’d said, “and it was no better with the Bolsheviks.” His grandmother had hidden him in an outdoor potato cellar. He peeked through the wooden trap door. Right in front of him a Cossack on horseback decapitated the town watchmaker with a sword. On another hate-inspired raid his grandmothers were murdered, one of them with a hand grenade. The cycle continued for years. Then, when Hitler came to power, my Zaide said he and his brother became terrified that things were going to get worse for Jews. The boys fled and managed to gain passage on a ship to Canada, never to see their family again.

I zoomed in on the swastika with my 75-300 mm camera lens. Buddhists wouldn’t be at a bullfight unless they were freeing the bulls, like the monks who freed lobsters on Prince Edward Island. But Beth had a point because the swastika was backwards, with left facing hooks like a Buddhist swastika instead of the right facing hooks of Nazi swastika. But that was preposterous. Buddhists at a bullfight? A bullfight was against their very precepts. And although this was a “no bulls are killed bullfight,” it wasn’t without cruelty. We’d watched a local slice into the ear of a bull the previous day and drink the distressed animal’s blood.

Continue to Page 2

Read this article online at: Bullfighting Buddhists or Backwards Bumpkins in Peru

Copyright (C) Perceptive Travel 2017. All rights reserved.

Also in this issue:

Books from the Author:

Wake Up and Smell the Shit

Buy Wake Up and Smell the Shit at your local bookstore, or get it online here:
Amazon US

Lost in Moscow: A Brat in the USSR

Buy Lost in Moscow: A Brat in the USSR at your local bookstore, or get it online here:
Amazon US

Sign Up