Arequipa, AKA La Ciudad Blanca (The White City), is the proudest small city in the world.
In Early Latin America: A History of Colonial Spanish America and Brazil, James Lockhart writes:
Not very far beneath the surface of Iberian reality lay the city-state, the basic entity of Mediterranean civilization immemorial. Nationality was still fluid, distant, and easily undermined by dynastic change and conflict. Everywhere they went, the early modern Iberians gave more importance to provinciality and less to nationality than one might expect. Anyone from the home province was a friend, anyone from elsewhere was an outsider. Again and again political alliances and antagonisms in the New World were based on provincial origins. The province, the city, and the neighborhood were crucial reference points in helping individuals to define themselves in relation to others. Nothing but family had as strong a hold on the emotions of Iberians or was as essential to their sense of identity as regionalism, the love of what was later called the patria chica (home province or town).
Here we see that regional loyalty being stronger than national pride is a throwback to feudal Spain and the Iberian peninsula. You see that regionalism, or provincialism, throughout Latin America. The strongest provincialism in Colombia would be the paisas of Medellin and Antioquia. But I haven’t seen anything like Arequipa pride. The paisas got nothing on the Southern Peru highlanders. Arequipeños used to have their own passport!
From this Arequipa pride webpage, “No hay regionalismo, arequipeño es nacionalismo.” It’s not regionalist, it’s nationalist. They aren’t literal separatists like in French Canada, but being officially separate from Lima is a common talking point.
Where does the pride originate?
A historic political protest in Arequipa led to the fall of 1950s Peruvian dictator Manuel Odría. The event was brilliantly depicted in Mario Vargas Llosa’s Conversation in the Cathedral. Speaking of Peru’s top literary figure, Mario Vargas Llosa was born in Arequipa. So the locals claim him as their own even though he left for Lima at a young age. Also from Arequipa is Sendero Luminoso leader, Abimael Guzman, who is serving a life prison sentence.
Aside from Arequipa being the temporary capital of Peru and inspiring the pivotal event in the downfall of the Odría dictatorship, Arequipan political pride lies in protests, mining, and the governmental power of Lima. Over 26% of the Peruvian population (8 million) live in Lima. Arequipa is the second city at one million. There aren’t any medium-sized cities to keep Lima in check. So Arequipeños take pride in the power of their protests, their ability to shut down the entire south of Peru to get their way in Lima. The south is rich in mining, but most of the money goes to Lima. In 2001 Arequipan protesters removed cobblestones from the city center streets so trucks couldn’t go in or out.
Another reason for Arequipeño pride is the food. You don’t find typical Peruvian food dominating the menus of traditional restaurants in Arequipa . You’ll find Arequipan food, which is amazing in its own right.
Peleas de Toro
Many Latin American countries feature corrida de toros - bullfights where humans stab and kill the bulls. Arequipa has peleas de toro - where the bulls fight each other. Here’s a look at Arequipa bullfights – bull vs. bull:
And an actual fight:
The Arequipa style of bullfighting was recently added to the logo of the local beer, Arequipeña, for which the slogan is “Hecho con orgullo” – Made with pride. The label always featured the highest peak of Arequipa, El Misti (which I climbed in 2008).
Peru has some old-school traditions. When partying with a group, you don’t get your own glass of beer. There’s one glass for everyone (maybe two or more depending on the size of the group). The glass is passed around for everyone to drink from. The next person to receive the glass holds the big bottle of beer. When the person before him finishes his beer, he receives the glass, serves himself, and passes the bottle to the next person. Women don’t hold the bottle. Instead, the bottle jumps to the next male, who serves her.
This article was inspired by Arequipa Day, August 15. Peruvian Independence Day, July 28, is a tranquil affair in Arequipa. Arequipa Day, on the other hand, is a chaotic romp of celebration throughout the city.
Here’s the first of a comprehensive, 29-part YouTube playlist on the 2011 corso:
Here’s a shorter clip:
These pictures illustrate how many people hang AQP flags on Arequipa Day.
Carnaval Arequipeño is the preferred anthem among the “serranos.”
Upper-estrato Arequipeños prefer El Regreso as their AQP anthem. Less horns, more strings.
This video also has the more urban signature images from Arequipa, mostly the Cathedral.
Next is the official hymn – very old school.
Himno de Arequipa