As an artist, I like having other creative people around; it inspires me and makes me feel like I belong to a community. There are a lot of artists where I live in Barranco, a neighborhood on the western edge of Lima that borders the water. Barranco is very alive culturally. I guess you’d call it bohemian.
Lima has lost a lot of its historical flavor to anonymous modern urbanism, but Barranco—even though it’s getting trendier and trendier—still has lots of character. Its colonial style has been preserved. Streets are lined with beautiful old houses that are painted bright colors and have wooden balconies and patios filled with plants. You walk into one of the houses, and you feel like you’ve instantly been transported miles away from the city.
A lot of galleries dedicated to contemporary Peruvian art are located in the casonas (old mansions that have been remodeled) along Paseo Sáenz Peña or around the corner on Avenida Grau. Strolling from one gallery to another makes a nice little art tour. Once a year, the area holds an Art Week, when the galleries stay open all night and musicians play in the streets.
This is a great neighborhood for live music. There’s one street, The Boulevard— its real name is Sánchez Carrión, but everyone calls it El Bulevar—that is lined with places to hear bands. Everyone in the neighborhood goes there on weekends.
The peñas are places that specialize in folkloric music and dance, and some of them can feel a little cheesy and touristy. But there are plenty of other spots with amazing ambience. They may look divey, their acoustics might be terrible, but they have a great vibe. You’ll see many different kinds of people there, and the bars constantly change up the bands they book. One night you might hear reggae, one night punk. And some nights they’ll do something totally different, like a festival of short films.
Right now, I’m focused on a film project about the native ayahuasca plant, which is used by shamans in the Peruvian Amazon for medicinal purposes and religious rituals.
Barranco also inspires a lot of my work. One of the best aspects of living here is that it is a great area for walking. The tamale seller passes my studio; the knife sharpener stops by. Everyone wants to come to you. Really, I wouldn’t even have to leave my studio, but I find so many ideas while wandering the streets. I made a short film called La Espera [The Wait] that was inspired by my walks: It consisted of footage of people wearing masks, and all the scenes were shot on the streets of the barrio.
I like to stroll along the Bridge of Sighs. They say that if you can hold your breath the first time you cross it, your wish will come true. I’ve never actually done it myself, though. It’s a picturesque place, very beautiful, but for me the bridge doesn’t have the mystical quality of the sea. The sea moves me creatively. It’s right nearby, so I spend a lot of time walking along the Malecón [esplanade]. Those views of the sea fascinate me.
As told to Lisa Abend. Photo by David Nicolas Giraldo. This appeared in the July/August 2012 issue.
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