Bullfighting Buddhists or Backwards Bumpkins in Peru — Page 2
Story and photos by Kirsten Koza

The matadors entered the ring and presented themselves to the political dignitaries near the Nazis. I watched the Nazis through my lens. They cheered. Buddhists wouldn’t cheer for matadors. Surely, like me, they’d be cheering for the bulls. The matadors all looked hung-over.

Marching Band

I took a photo of the swastika and nearby crowd. I was probably the only non-Christian in the crowd. Regardless, I’d been wrong before in this very bullring, back in 2007. I’d thought a man in military fatigues with a blackened face was a Sendero Luminoso (communist militant) guerilla. My guide back then said, “No, just the leader of the marching band.”

And on that same trip to Peru, my cycling partners and I had been mistaken for Sendero Luminoso when visiting a rural school near Lake Titicaca. We were making the Canadian flag with the children. When we placed the red maple leaf onto the construction paper the kids whispered, “Sendero Luminoso!” It’s so easy to see the thing that scares you the most.

“I’ve never seen this before in Peru.” Leo said. He too couldn’t stop staring at the Nazi drum. Leo’s area of expertise besides languages was the ancient peoples, religions, and also modern politics of Peru. He must have read about the Nazis of Peru, perhaps he just had never seen them in person. I’d read about them in the Guardian.UK. The article had said the Nazi leader, a Quechua man, an indigenous Peruvian, was a holocaust denier who’d been inspired by reading Mein Kampf as a teen. The Nazi leader of Peru was a small, brown skinned, indigenous man—a little brown Nazi. Hitler and his fellow goose-stepping assholes would have exterminated the Quechua people. It wouldn’t have just been the cultural and religious genocide they got with the Spanish invaders. And yet the Nazis (who call themselves socialists) of Peru blamed Jewish people for everything, to the point of utter insanity. They even blamed Jews for the conquistadors. They went around to Andean villages preaching their crazy hate, fabricated history, and conspiracy theories in the guise of education. There are only around 5,000 Jewish people in all of Peru, and obviously they had nothing to do with the conquistadors. The logical argument to that would be, then why are you all Catholic and not Jewish?

I suggested that Leo go do some sleuthing during the opening ceremonies. I couldn’t. Either the altitude meds, or the altitude, had robbed me of the ability to speak Spanish. Plus, I had four cameras and a tripod and didn’t want to lose my seat where I was being crushed by sunburnt children, traditionally attired ladies and dads in cowboy hats.

Beth left as well, but to go get us some snacks before the bullfighting started. She returned with a deep fried guinea pig. The bullfight began.

fried guinea pig

A matador was carried by a bull on its horns, tossed to the ground and trampled. Yay, bulls! The clown ran towards the bull. The clown was still carrying his super-sized can of beer. He was drunk.

trampled matador

Sometimes I think I might not be a real person. Perhaps I’m a character written by Stephen King, because here I was eating a guinea pig, while watching creepy brown Nazis cheer on a drunk clown, at a bullfight.

A matador threw banderillas at a bull, the barbed darts impaled the animal’s flesh. The locals around me cried “no!”—because the bulls weren’t supposed to be injured. The Nazis cheered. They weren’t Buddhists. They were ignorant bumpkins with their swastika on backwards. Or perhaps the drum was like a flag that has the swastika with hooks facing right when viewed from the one side but hooks facing left when viewed from the other side.

matador spearing bull

There’s an Al Jazeera documentary online about the Nazis in Peru, which shows the horrifying ease at which simple local people swallow hate propaganda. After hearing speakers at a rally accusing Jews of taking all the money, a man says, “My blood is boiling now because I’ve been deceived so long by the Jews.”

I’ve visited a few rural schools in Peru, schools without libraries, basic supplies, or computers and obviously without internet. That’s the real danger of visits from flavor-of-the-day extremists to these communities. Some people have no access to accurate information to counter the hate. And even if that particular group of extremists collapses, the hate and misinformation they spread remains.

Leo rejoined us. A bull that didn’t want to fight tried to climb the wall into the stands. Maybe it would get the Nazis. Sadly, it couldn’t reach them. A drunk spectator fell off the wall into the ring. He was trampled into the dust, but rescued by the drunken clown. I asked Leo what he found out. Leo was now drunk too. He’d forgotten his quest, or had forgotten the information he’d obtained on his quest. Beth and I decided it was time to leave the chaos and continue on to condors, mountain biking, and kayaking Lake Titicaca, without Leo.


On Beth’s and my last night together, before separating ways, her to go to Machu Picchu and me to go to the Amazon, we had one last chance to order parihuela. It wasn’t on the menu, but I’d ordered it perfectly this time. The bowls were placed in front of us with a flourish. I looked in dismay at shrimp and egg floating in evaporated milk. I heard a voice in my head, right from an episode of Seinfeld. “No soup for you!” yelled the Soup Nazi.

Kirsten Koza is an adventurer, humorist, journalist and author— affectionately dubbed “the Canadian lunatic.” She’s the author of Lost in Moscow and edited Travelers’ Tales most recent humor anthology, Wake Up and Smell the Shit. She’s had over seventy stories published in books, newspapers and magazines around the world.

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Related Features:
The Mud Sucker Curse of Transylvania - Kirsten Koza
The Ride of a Lifetime: Mountain Biking Down the World's Most Dangerous Road - Carla Seidl
Luck, Llamas, and a Peruvian Shaman - Sharon Spence Lieb
The Mountain Men Who Don't Exist in Kyrgyzstan - Kirsten Koza

See other South America travel stories from the archives

Read this article online at: http://perceptivetravel.com/issues/1017/kyrgyzstan.html

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Wake Up and Smell the Shit

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Lost in Moscow: A Brat in the USSR

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