Monthly Archives: July 2012

Holiday in Peru during Fiestas Patrias


It’s my second Fiestas Patrias in Peru. By now I’ve been here long enough to have to remind myself it’s not also my Fourth of July. Not that I have adopted Peru as my home country; but that when living abroad you have to assimilate to a certain extent– that includes getting to know holidays, especially if you’re on vacation.

I’m traveling now. Since last Friday I’ve been to Chachapoyas and Chiclayo. The latter marked an incredible opportunity to see more of the colors that make this country so exceptionally beautiful. What a chance to learn more about its wondrous history too! The main thought lingering, though, is this: if a country is so proud of its Inka ancestry, why eschew that lovely color in your compatriots? My vacation has caused one thought to repeatedly rise to the forefront: why do many Peruvians eschew that tasty cappuccino-colored skin? That brown skin is as beautiful as the local arts & crafts I’m in the process of collecting on holiday. Why wish it away in lieu of white skin?


A building decorated for Fiestas Patrias at the Plaza de Armas in Piura

Ah, well, skin color is just a part of Peru’s cultural vastness. Here, in honor of Fiestas Patrias, is a little more.

“Until Independence, the country was ruled by a series of Spanish-born viceroys appointed by the crown,” according to my lonely planet travel guide of Peru. Apparently those directly from Spain held the top-notch positions, while criollos (Spaniards born within what’s now Peru) were second in command. Mestizos– or half-breeds as Cher would have sung in the 1970s– occupied the next rung down. Indigenous people, or indígenas, were the lowest of these caste-like social classes, treated, speaking of castes, like East Indian untouchables.


Plaza de Armas in Chachapoyas

Consider its possible origins. In 1780 the indigenous Jose Gabriel Condorcanqui who, during heightened tensions because of taxes, charged a Spanish administrator with cruelty and subsequently executed him. This set off a ball of fury throughout much of South America. The indígenas considered Condorcanqui of extreme Inca importance and set off a revolution that quickly came to a halt the following year when the Spanish drew and quartered him on a day in which he had watched helplessly as his followers and family were brutally murdered.

In 1820, Argentine revolutionary José de San Martín arrived in Peru’s port called Pisco (also a fantastic alcohol that’s more than popular here) and waged independence campaigns that would rally the country. The native Peruvians and San Martín would soon be helped by yet another revolutionary– no, not Che Guavera, but Simón Bolívar, a Venezuelan, and Miguel Grau, a Chilean. The threesome would work with Peruvians to send the Spanish running, and on 28 July, 1821 declare the country a new republic.


It is names like San Martín, Bolívar, and Grau that are found on statues in every city and village’s Plaza de Armas. It is through these plazas de Armas, every town’s main plaza, that parades are passing right now. For now, it’s time for me to leave this hostel room and find a parade or other patriotic activity.

What is it like in the country’s capital in the days leading up to Fiestas Patrias?

  • Well, Peruvians are really mild-mannered and don’t express bursts over anything. They do, however, hang flags from their homes and businesses.
  • The energy swells. Other expats warned me to do my grocery shopping well in advance as the supermarkets and other places would shut down. Every one talks about the trip they’re going on or a party someone’s throwing. Therefore it’s not unlike what I’ve seen in the US and even in China (for the 30th anniversary of Shenzhen’s opening). On certain businesses are non-descript, non-colorful, simple text, undecorated signs saying Felices Fiestas Patrias.



  • Prices go up. Last year, taxi fares went up from 10 or 11 soles (about $5 US) to 15 soles. When you make 20 soles per hour, those little pennies add up. This year I’m not seeing those rates burst, though. Phew! That’s a relief when traveling.
  • Last year at this time new president Ollanta Humala officially took office. This year his approval rating is dismal, though I read in a newspaper that other contemporary presidents have endured even lower ratings.

Off to explore!

The Mind of the Writer: Is It Messy?


Part of my entertainment is Western podcasts from all over the English-speaking world. All in the Mind is a psychology and neuroscience show from ABC Radio National in Australia. I’ve listened to for several years, and a recent episode on the mind of the writer caught my attention. In today’s post are a few excerpts that I hope will put the world to right for you– or at least someone who is convinced you’re just plain mad.


Is This the Mind of the Writer? Image Credit


World renowned psychiatrist and doctor of English Renaissance literature Dr. Nancy Andreasen studies the creative brain. What emerges from personality testing and interviews with creatives, she says, is “Creative people tend to be very curious about all kinds of things. They tend to be adventuresome. They tend to be a little bit iconoclastic, which is related to being original, of course. They perceive things in a totally new and different way that other people are simply not able to see…. They’re a little prone to getting in trouble because they’re original and seem rebellious.”

 ”Do creative people actually think differently (from) people who aren’t highly creative?”

“At least sometimes yes,” Andreasen said.

Check out the podcast to learn more about the writers mindset

In fact, she said, in her study of writers at Iowa University’s Writers Workshop , she discovered an “astonishing” 70 to 80% of them had mood disorders such as depression and manic depression.

When I find myself envious of someone’s education or writerly experiences, especially because I wasn’t allowed to attend Ohio University to study writing in undergrad, I remind myself that Da Vinci and Michelangelo both came from somewhat modest upbringings.

How do my fellow creative readers see themselves in relation to this?

Listen to the episode and another one with V.S. Ramachandran, the Marco Polo of neuroscience in creatives.


Jenny Holzer Combines Art & Architecture


Since her start in the 1980s, American artist Jenny Holzer has put a stamp of art in architecture. Her medium is language– cultural, political, sexual, autobiographical. though. Form and content “are at odds with one another in many of Holzer’s works,” as the documentary About Jenny Holzer says. “Architecture, text, and rhythm merge, creating perfect symbiosis.”


Around the world Jenny Holzer has shown art in architecture in a multitude of ways. Image courtesy of Eugene Yoo


“I’m always grateful when I have good architecture to work in or work against. Part of the content is carried by the text… other information has to do with what the particular installation has to do with the building,” Holzer says in the doc about her installation at the New National Museum of Art in Berlin: “After I made many, many trips I finally realized that the roof is really all there is here. The glass walls are simply protection against the elements. The roof and the columns that support it are really the only structural things.”

In short she had the installations removed from the square building made seemingly entirely of glass. She programmed onto the ceiling what she calls “truisms” into LED machines like those you’d find at your local bank’s tellers. From the inside and outside then viewers could enjoy the installation.


Photo courtesy of Sprueth Magers London gallery , where Holzer is showing through 12 August.


“I don’t protect myself when I write because I’m not a professional writer. However, my texts aren’t entirely or in many cases…autobiographical, so on purpose because I want them to be as much as possible generally accessible and somewhat universal. But of course…I show much of myself, and that’s how it should be,” she says.


Some of what she writes seems so universal that people might mistake them for “Anonymous” aphorisms or adages. In truth, she wrote most of the content for some 20 years, then started adding poetry, and has also used redacted military documents (available freely on the public domain). Here are some of her aphorisms/truisms that resonate for me:

“Protect me from what I want”

“It is man’s fate to outsmart himself”

“You are a victim of the rules you live by”
“Knowing yourself lets you understand others.”



Image from


She has projected her truisms into marquees in Times Square or Las Vegas, on parking meters, on plaques above water fountains, in sports arenas— even on park benches in cemeteries. In the mid-1990s she started working with xenon. From there she could project her words onto building facades and cruise boats and museum interiors, sort of like how we might project a family film onto our living room wall.


“She has this formalist way of thinking about space, almost like an architect,” says her friend, poet Henri Cole, whose work Holzer has also used in her installations.



Another note of interest: Holzer had a pavilion of her own, the only solo artist ever to represent her country at the 1990 Venice Biennale. She was the first woman ever to have such an honor.


Follow Holzer in cyberspace, at least until her next show where you can see her art in architecture. A thank you goes out to Holzer’s communications rep Briana Halpin for sending this info on forthcoming exhibitions.

Solo Exhibitions:
Sprüth Magers London, through 28 July
L&M gallery, Los Angeles, 13 Sept. through 27 Oct.

Group Exhibitions:
VAN HAERENTS ART COLLECTION, Brüssel. Sympathy for the Devil, 30. through 30 Nov. 2013
Hayward Gallery, London. 22 January through 28 April 2013

Temporary & Permanent Installations:
GWANGJU BIENNALE, Seoul. 7 Sept. through 11 Nov.
U.S. GOVERNMENT FOOD & DRUG ADMINISTRATION CAMPUS, Silver Spring, MD, completion Fall 2012
EKEBERG SCULPTURE PARK, Oslo. Prospective inauguration date Fall 2013