When the Best Choice is Only “Lukewarm”

Today was a big day in our household and not because Fox Sports finally brought in Spanish-speaking commentators from countries other than Mexico for the Copa America games (although that was a big deal, too). The headliner this Sunday was the fact that it was Election Day in Peru which meant even Peruvian nationals living abroad had to, by law, show up and vote. The Peruvian Embassy here in DC organized the whole event for our area and J. Miguel, like a good law-abiding Peruvian, did his duty and cast his ballot, even though he’s not crazy about either candidate, Keiko Fujimori or Pablo Kaczynski. (Kind of like how I feel about Clinton vs. Trump — they both stink, if you ask me.)

But since he had to vote, he decided to put his support behind the lesser of the two evils which to him, is Pablo Kaczynski. And by the way, poor Pablo Kaczynski. In some respects, at age 77, he is facing the same agism Senator McCain battled in the 2008 U.S. elections. According to J. Miguel, Kaczynski has a nickname in Peru that translates into “lukewarm,” meaning, he’s still alive, but barely. (He could turn “cold” at any minute.) And yet, J. Miguel is hoping this “lukewarm” candidate wins the election because at least, in this opinion, the man will be able to make decisions for himself whereas Fujimori, he fears, will simply be a puppet president, controlled by those who used to advise her father. And we all know how that ended for Peru.

When it comes to politics, I have always wondered if there is an advantage to being able to vote in two different elections. If one country elects a terrible leader, one always has the choice to move to the other country, assuming that place has a much better person running the show, right? In J. Miguel’s mind, however, there is no real winner in either the U.S. or Peruvian elections this time around so whichever way he looks at it, he’s screwed and will simply have to accept the outcomes.

So that is what is happening in our home tonight…we are tracking live the election results. And last I checked in, it was a damn tight race. God save Peru!

Living the Dolche Vita

When J. Miguel and I first started dating nearly three years ago, one of the earliest rituals we formed was weekly dinner at my place. I’d cook a homemade meal, he’d bring a bottle of red wine, and we’d spend hours eating, drinking and talking. In fact, we often remained at the dinner table long after the last crumb of food had been consumed, just telling stories, debating and finishing what was left of the wine.

Being the typical American woman that I am, there was one thing missing from these dinners that J. Miguel eventually asked me about: the absence of bread. At the time, I was (and still am) on a low-carb diet, avoiding things I tend to over-indulge in like rice, bread and pasta. This isn’t unusual for many Americans of my demographic circle, but coming from South America, this was a surprise for J. Miguel.

Upon my explanation as to why bread was not part of my weekly homemade dinners, he exclaimed with concern, “But baby, a house is not a home without bread on the table!” Immediately, childhood memories of Midwestern family dinners that included warm baskets of bread filled my mind, and I knew, sadly, that he was kind of right. Continue reading

What is Latin America?

“Is Puerto Rico part of Latin America?” J. Miguel asked me the other day. “How about Florida, Texas and California?” he wanted to know. “They all have large Latino populations.”

Hmmm. Is Puerto Rico part of Latin America? My initial reaction would be to say “yes,” and “no” to Florida, Texas and California.

“But what makes Puerto Rico different from the others?” J. Miguel asked.

“Because it’s not part of the United States,” I said to him. “Isn’t Latin America Spanish-speaking countries outside of the United States and Europe?”

“But Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory,” he reminded me. Continue reading

Argentina vs. Donald Trump

Forget that I spent Tuesday night staffing one of the hottest award dinners in DC this week; forget the fact that I got this close DC’s glitterati which included the likes of General Petraeus, Secretary Bob Gates, the great Vittorio Grigolo and even shook hands with Gov. John Huntsman (all at the same party). Just for a moment, ignore the fact that I even made an offer on a dream condo yesterday (and that the offer has been accepted) and that for the first time in my life I am this close to being a homebuyer in one of the nation’s hottest real estate markets. Never mind all that big news for a few seconds, and think instead about what else happened in the world this past week.

First of all, Ted Cruz dropped out the U.S. presidential elections Tuesday night. Secondly, John Kasich quickly followed suit. That leaves us in a rather uncomfortable position: Donald Trump being one step closer to the White House. Of course, for anyone closely following the race, this should come as no surprise. We, including some of us traditional Republicans, have all been in denial that he could actually make it this far. However, for those realists among us, despite what the Internet and TV would make us believe, his candidacy stopped being funny a long time ago. Continue reading

Comfort Food from Peru

There is something about food, no matter what culture you come from, that evokes such strong emotions in people. I can think of few other things that people will happily spend hours of labor preparing, only for it to be devoured in mere minutes, sometimes without appreciation for the one who cooked the meal. And what is it about cravings? What is it about cold, rainy days like today, that drive people to seek out their favorite comforts, even if they are settling for something less than the best? It may not be like how Mom or Grandma used to make it, but at this particular time, it’s somehow good enough.

Today was one of those days for J. Miguel. He took me to a hole-in-the-wall Latino restaurant in Arlington, Virginia called El Puerto Restaurant, located in the Columbia Pike area and specializing in “authentic” Bolivian and Peruvian cuisine.

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Before I go further, I have an embarrassing confession to make: I’m not a huge fan of Latino cuisine. I like Tex-Mex just fine, but I know it’s far from traditional. I think the few true Latino foods I have come to appreciate can be limited to papusas, salteñas, fried plantains and fried yuca. And trust me, I’ve been adventurous, having even tried anticuchos (cow hearts). There is that one time I had a fabulous Cuban lunch in Miami, but other than that isolated experience, I tend to like the fusion dishes, such as what José Andrés prepares, although those come with a pretty hefty price tag attached to them. Continue reading

Politicians and “Hero Syndrome” in Peru

Apparently there are shanty towns throughout Peru, especially near Lima, where villagers from rural areas, particularly the Andes region, have left their hometowns in search of work in the capital. This migration has created several unregulated communities of makeshift homes, almost all lacking running water or electricity, among other basic needs. Also known as pueblos jóvenes, these communities were essentially created illegally and have existed for years without any government regulation — or support.

This being an election year in Peru, you can imagine the wealth of votes opportunistic politicians see in these pueblos jóvenes. For as J. Miguel told me before, the key to winning an election in Peru is winning over the blue collar voters.  Continue reading

Politics in Peru: A Love-Hate Relationship

So it looks like a contender has finally emerged for Keiko Fujimori: Pedro Pablo Kaczynski who, according to this article, is Oxford educated yet speaks Spanish with an American accent, has a U.S. passport, is married to a woman related to Hollywood actress Jessica Lange, and runs a campaign with the slogan, “Gringo on the Outside, Cholo on the Inside.”

When I asked J. Miguel if this is the candidate he voted for, he told me apathetically that he is not. While J. Miguel remains secretive about who his candidate of choice is, he did tell me in response to the Fujimori-Kaczynski runoff that “it’s the same old people running for president in Peru. They just rotate among each other year after year — no one new ever gets a chance to become a serious contender.” Continue reading