Conversation at El Parquetito
(—concerning presidential election for 2011)
From the table at the outside restaurant (and bar), of El Parquetito, in Miraflores, Lima, looks at Kennedy Park. Cars, busses and trucks circle this main avenue—like a rotunda, loop around the park day and night, with its floating exhaust, and colorless buildings, with colorful awnings; across this somewhat city plateau area, the Andes surround the city like a horseshoe, the Pacific Ocean is a short distance to the west. This side of the mountains at El Parquetito, the park with its shade and many trees and rays of sun hitting the large umbrellas holding tall and stationary over the wooden tables, the cobblestone street that the tables are on, are uneven dark gray, brown and black, there, sit three people having a conversation, concerning the forth coming Presidential elections here in Peru, for 2011, and why Peru at this point and time (being: December, of 2010) is still all screwed up with no understructure, and everlasting corruption.
Sergeant Ricardo Heredia—forty and not a day older—getting that potbelly so popular with his age, of the police force in Miraflores, is present, as is the owner of a pizza restaurant, across the park, from El Parquetito. Moises Zarate in is twenty-eighth year of life, balled headed, strong like a bull, taller than the average Peruvian. And the landlady of several properties, Maria Canales, fifty if not more, short black hair, cute, holding her weight down—all are present at the squared table.
“What should we drink,” Ricardo asks. He had taken off his hat and put it on the next table alongside of him; he still had his police uniform on.
“It’s pretty hot,” said Moises, “I’ll have a beer.”
“Let’s all have a beer,” commented Maria, to Hernan, a plump and smiley waiter in his forties, who had been at the restaurant going on some twenty-years, if not more.
“Okay,” agreed Moises.
“Dos cervezas!” Said Maria, holding up one of the three filled chilled, glasses of Cristal Beer
as you look about, you can see several people getting their shoes shinned, by the Miraflores shoeshine men with blue uniforms on, taxies stopping here and there, letting people out, and some stopping being waved down by folks wanting a ride. There are a few people at a table several feet from Ricardo’s, they are talking about work in Peru, in particular, Lima, and one shrugs his shoulders, as if the other one doesn’t know what he’s talking about, he orders a Cristal beer also, another one, he has two by his elbow—empty. He doesn’t look drunk, but he’s acting that way.
Hernan now brings three felt pads over to the table, the cloth is getting wet. A prostitute is walking up and down the sidewalk across from their table, across the street that is, the girl is looking off towards the mountains, the white clouds, the sun, the gray to dark street, then back to them, to see if Ricardo and Moises are checking her out. Ricardo thinks she looks like a wild pelican, with all her colors and thin-boned body.
“You ever see a pelican?” asks Ricardo to Moises.
“I’ve never seen one,” said Moises, not sure why he asked that. But Maria knows why, says nothing, just smiles.
“No, you wouldn’t have,” comments Maria, to start the conversation up again. They are old friends (from different backgrounds), and they kind of met by accident in the park, and all decided to have a beer at El Parquetito’s.
Maria looks at a sign on a building, “Someone painted something on it,” she says, pointing up at the tall building. “What does it say?”
“Keiko for President!” says Moises. “Should we try her, we’ve tried every other combination, why not a woman now?”
“Well if we don’t want corruption, we should try Mercedes!” says Maria.
“She’s cute, I’ll vote for her,” says Ricardo. “Or perhaps the old mayor of Lima, Castañeda, He’s already got twenty percent of the vote! Although every mayor, or almost every mayor I know, owns discos or bars, all acquiring them after they become mayors, it’s one way to become rich in five years, or dead. Some mayors go too far.”
“How about Toledo, he was pretty good when he was president before,” says Maria.
“I don’t know,” comments Moises, “He might be good, but he drank all our money up, and traveled the world over the last six months of his presidency—how short our Peruvian memories are, and his wife took all those mummies, you know what I mean!”
“It’s all right,” said Ricardo, “they are all thieves anyhow, that justifies us for being thieves, and don’t we like a little corruption?”
“Yes,” said Maria, “with a little corruption, not like Fujimori, who stole our country blind, put his daughter into the best schools in America, flew off to Japan—lived like a king for five or seven years, and was dumb enough to come back to Peru. He should have waited like Garcia did—for ten years, who stole our country blind, flew off to Paris, waited for the law to declare him untouchable, and came back and became president again.”
“So you like the taste of corruption, as long as it’s Democratic, for the people by the people?” says Ricardo. “I make 900 soles a month, where does my corruption come in handy?”
“That’s the way with everything in Peru, you police make 900 soles a month and another 900 for bribes daily, and you can’t live on that, then what can you live on,” said Moises. “If we didn’t want corruption, just unbuckle your chains, and that’s it. You see we all chain ourselves to the process. Peru is too far removed from innocence, we like some corruption, we like to know it’s there when we need it. If you cut it out, you cut your own throat, that’s why mayors, who are honest, never get reelected.”
“Who started this conversation?” asked Maria.
“You started it,” said Moises, “when you asked what the sign read!”
“By gosh, you’re right, I did. I was being amused by it. I was having a fine time, now it’s becoming work.”
“Well let’s try and have a fine time about it,” said Ricardo; “how about Ollanta for president?”
“I don’t want a dictator, only a perfectly simple form of corruption,” said Maria.
“You mean enough corruption at the municipality to buy rights you don’t deserve, to be able to build without permits, to build five and six stories high in areas only allowing three and four stories. You want enough corruption to make your life easier,” said Ricardo, “as I do. And how do you think Moises got his license to serve liquor at his pizza café, and has whores working for him, he pays us. And I pay you to live in one of those apartments of yours in San Juan de Miraflores, that you probable invaded the land some twenty or thirty years ago—or your parents did fifty years ago, and you inherited it from them, like they do in Huancayo, and the Satipo Jungle still to this very day, and stole it from some old man, ready to die, and now it belongs to you officially.”
“I guess so,” said Maria. She looked across into the park. “It’s a lovely park,” she said.
“Should we have another drink,” said Moises.
“All right,” said Ricardo, “but who’s paying the bill?”
The warm wind blew an awfully stink from a chicken restaurant nearby, “Wish the government would check these chicken places out, they sell chicken half diseased,” said Maria. “Let’s all pay our own bills,” she added, in a whisper.
The girl that was referred to as the Pelican looked at the table legs of the table the three were sitting at.
“I know you two will not mind if I check her out,” said Moises, “she seems to be looking for work,” he stood up and approached her, she did not say anything at first: then, “I’ll go with you and I’ll stay with you all time you want… (and that was all Maria could hear)” and they walked away from the restaurant as if it was perfectly natural.
“Well,” said Maria, to Ricardo “what will you do afterward? It’s been a most interesting afternoon. Perhaps give some more tickets out so you can earn more money from corruption?” and she laughed.
“We’ll both do just like we did before, what makes you think otherwise, it’s the only thing that’s made us happy.”
“Then you think, we’ll be okay, and happy?” she asked.
“I know we will. You don’t have to worry. I’ve known lots of people that have lived one corrupt day, all their lives, and died happy.”
“Well,” the woman said, “I think that’s the best thing to do, even if you really don’t want to. We have to keep things like they are. So we don’t have to worry.”
“You won’t worry about how you do it, it’s perfectly simple for you now,” said Ricardo. And then they departed, each going the opposite way across the park.
Note: written December 26, 2010; No: 644