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Lima Street Performers

The Young Man with the Star on his Chest

PERU | Thursday, 15 May 2014 | Views [200] | Scholarship Entry

The taxi lurched to a stop and our driver blared the horn. All around, the same sounds multiplied and echoed off the walls of the city that my father and I had been exploring through the memories of his childhood. This was Lima, the capital city of Peru. This city, like the hundreds of others that scatter across the vast expanse of South America, is one of contrasts, and my father, a self-proclaimed socialist, continued to point out these differences out to me as our taxi passed by large mansions that stood beside a beggar's dwelling.

With another lurch the taxi came to a stop at a red light and I had to stop myself from flying forward - there were no seat belts. The driver lazily lit up a cigarette and picked up his Sudoku puzzle that had been lying on the dashboard, while I looked on from the backseat. As I glanced out the window, I saw a flash of colour, and a slender youth materialized on the crosswalk before us. Two more men ran out on either side to join him, swirling fire torches in the air, while the last man sat on the sidewalk beating out a drumroll on a pair of bongos. Yet I was most absorbed by the young man before us, who turned and flipped through the air to the pulse of the drums with such an intensity that the rest of the street seemed to come to a standstill. Our taxi driver, however, continued to work on his Sudoku puzzle. In a matter of seconds the performance had finished, and as his fellow entertainers sped back to the sidewalk, it was the young man who rushed over to all of the nearby cars in order to collect some change. My father had noticed me watching the performance of the Limeños, and rolled down his window in order to give the young man a few soles for his talent. As the young man ran over to our cab, he looked at me and smiled, and I stared back hesitatingly. His skin glistened with the sweat of his tricks, and I noticed a small black star tattooed on his chest, beside the left strap of his tanktop. Once the taxi pulled away, my father spoke to me on the injustices of unemployment and on the ways poor people had to earn their money while living on the streets, yet I barely listened. I was thinking about the young man with the star on his chest, and on how, with his performance, the city of Lima had suddenly become alive.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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