Reflections Upon My Time In Perú: Family, Stories, and Dancing

Mami Luisa and Grandpa Josue 
The last couple of months have been wild, which is why I have neglected to write. I was visiting family and making art in South America, afterwards I was completing my Integrated Movement Studies courses, which ended January 18, 2014. It seems like a million years ago since I started the program with IMS. It seems like a thousand years ago since I sat at the table with my grandmother talking about boys she used to date before grandpa. It seems like a million years ago since I waded in the waters of Isla Itaparica talking and praying over the well being of the ocean during the up coming World Cup event. Some people are very nervous about what the intake of all the tourists will do to the ecosystem. But I want to focus this post on my time in Perú with my family. Now that I'm back in my little home office, I have to make time to write and remember. Memories tend to slip out of my mind quicker these days.

On December 3rd, 2013 I left for Perú to research and interview my grandmother for my Pieces of Her and my Integrated Movement Studies project. I filmed her doing chores, I wrote down her stories, but mostly observed her while she was with family. I think I never really appreciated how much she does for us, despite what the world throws at her. Mami Luisa is a very special woman. No matter what happens, she's always kicking butt and keeping a smile on her face. It was exciting to get up and go to do this work. Three days into my trip, however, sad news knocked on the door.

On December 6th, 2013 my family lost a wonderful woman; my auntie Micaela Broy. She was a dear auntie of mine who helped raise me in so many ways. I loved her dearly, and it broke my heart to be away during her passing, but I was surrounded by her brothers and sister (uncles and aunt) during this life changing experience.

The news was a blow to them, and part of me was sad that I could not be in Los Angeles with the family, but another part of me was glad to be in Perú with my aunts and uncles. We cradled our sorrow with stories and anecdotes, and remembered tia Mica's spirit and strength. We laughed, we cried, we thought about that time when she … fill in the blank … and it was so wonderful, and she was so tough, but so loving, and so on we went at night talking about her. Gradually each of us taking steps one foot in front of the other -- with new ideas and reflections about our presence in this world, with new views on life. The meaning behind our identities, our voices, and the impact we make when we speak, refuse, reject, or love. We talked about not taking life for granted, and we talked about our time to come, when we too would be called home.

My aunt Maria, Micaela holding her eldest daughter, Luisa,
my grandmother Carlota, my granpapi Alejandrino holding my cousin
Neto I think. My father at the bottom of the frame, looking adorable.
I hold a space in my heart for my tia Micaela. She is both a guardian angel and a strong presence that cleans out the cobwebs in the corners of my mind - Don't forget this part!  I can hear her scream. You've been neglecting this, and this is golden! Do this one, this one! I feel those hidden parts of myself emerge and resurface through dreams and messages. She speaks to me and says, Focus on the road! And I go onward with her in my heart, her and the many women in my life who have imprinted strength within me. Something I sometimes I take for granted. For my tia Micaela, the only thing that mattered in this entire magnificent world was God and family. Thinking of her really puts things into perspective. I, like many, can get caught up in the gyre of success and wanting of money and romance and success and desire and me me me. Often forgetting that I belong to a people, to a community, to a culture, to roots that go deeper than I can ever imagine. I was able to pay my respects to her last week with my younger cousins, Channael, Cheyana and my little sister Jackie. We talked stories, shared moments of grief, I played in my miniature guitar a rock and roll tune I hope she might be able to recognize. We touched the turf and left her some gifts. It wasn't until the security guard lit up the headlights did we realize the sun had set, and it was time to go.
Me and little Logan

I spent the rest of my days in Perú getting to meet new family members - like my baby cousin Logan, my new uncle Jean Carlos, and the other significant people in my cousins and aunties' lives. Time flies! I kept thinking to myself. Little Yey Ming is getting taller, my aunts are getting comfortable in their roles as mothers, my uncle Santos - God bless his young spirit - is even showing traces of life across his eyes. My beautiful grandmother is shrinking, my grandfathers' hair thinning, and even I am exhausted by a certain time at night, when before hours didn't matter. I live in this new stage in life where these realities are not easy to ignore. All of our spirits are the same -- thriving and transversing through us - interacting during meals or over coffee while we joke at the dining room table, but our bodies sink a little deeper and gravity flirts much with our flesh. Here too, on my mother's side of the family, my uncle Chino is not present. In my grandmother's house we also remembered uncle Arturo, a.k.a. "Chino,"who passed away August 2013. Death visited both my dad and my mom's side of the family. In each home, and imprint of what once was. The people who lived here, what they said, and the marks they left behind for us to discover, vibrantly shinning through the white curtains in our living rooms. The messages and the riddles. Everything culminated into an overwhelming thought that reminding me of what home really means. At times it felt like falling down a well and passing by endless treasures hidden between the cracks of two bricks. Secrets shining brightly in the unknown darkness. I wonder where they go? I said to myself one night, after not being able to cry anymore. These treasures are important, though some are more recognizable than others. 

Little cousin Yey Ming and Grandpa Josue
My time in Perú was creatively rich. Mostly because I got to spend time with my grandmother, Luisa. I would sit with her somedays and write down her stories. I took pictures of her meals, and watched her walk from her home to the market in a hurried step. Her anxiety of, I hope they like what I cook today! looming behind her as she slammed the door to go towards the market. 

Being around family inspired me to settle into my bones and be present. When I visit, I have a tendency of over planning, not fulfilling my desires with all of them. This time around I did my best to visit and be with as many of them as I could in a short amount of time. My aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends opened their homes to me and embraced me with love. They cooked meals, passed the wine or chichi, and talked about old and new times. I was incredibly touched and inspired by these experiences. I was reminded on how precious life is, and the little time we have on this planet to appreciate the ones we love with everything we've got. You just never know when the Man upstairs calls you home. So here are few family portraits I want to share with you all. I urge you to take some time this year to sit down with your own family and really take it all in. It's just nice to know that I have so many people who love me, pray for me, or simply think about me. It explains why I feel so protected all the time. May God bless them all in return. I ask: happiness and love for them all.

My Peruvian family.

Tia Paty, Primo Logan, and Mami Luisa

Jean Carlos, Paty, Logan, and grandpa Josue.

Auntie Paty and her baby Logan. 

Majo and her big sister Dayana. Little angels!

My tia Zenaida passing out her cocktails. Killer drink!

Majo will steal your heart. She often reminded me
of my little sister Jackie. 
Cousin Carlita, tia Maria, tia Teresa, and cousin Lily.
Andres' baby shower.

My dearest and most beautiful uncle Felix! 

My cousin Paola, Logan photo bombing and Calle 13. lol!

Little cousin Matthiu pretending to be calm.

Lily doing her thing in the kitchen. No big deal. 

Lily's famous Alfajores!

Renato, my cousin who is 20 days older than me. 

Carlita, she is strength and beauty rolled up in cupcakes.

Tamara looking at my cousin Christian through a window.
Yes I made her do this on purpose, she's not a creeper.

Johan and his beautiful daughter who reminds me
of my cousin Fiorella.

Johan looking through photographs.

Cousin Johan, auntie Teresa, and Tamara.

My beautiful Grandmother Luisa and little cousin Yey.

Paty, Logan, Magda, and Yey Ming. 
My silly and mysterious auntie Magda Alice, mother's side.
A beautiful Moreno lady. 

My uncle Wilbur, who smiles like my dad.
Beautiful Baker Man.

The infamous oven in Panaderia Alejandrino.

Tamara and my dearest and most hilarious auntie Teresa.
She is ONE of a kind.

Cousin Carla and tia Maria, my auntie Mica's younger sister.

Watching my little cousins deliver their farewell to my
auntie Micaela at Forest Lawn from web video in Perú.

El callejon. Many memories with grandma Carlota here. 

My uncle Arturo's resting spot.

Tamara and Jeremy

Andres and Veronica's family: Lalo, Majo, and Dayana.

Andres' baby shower with his love and sisters, Miluska and Veronica.

My farewell December 13, 2013. Grandpa, Yey Ming,
Mami Luisa, Logan, Uncle Santos, and tia Paty.

I love you Perú!

Querida Familia, Gracias por las lecciones, por la comida, y por la música. Que Dios siempre los cuide. Que sean bendecidos siempre por su generosidad y sus brazos abiertos. Por ustedes, Perú siempre se siente como mi casa. Nos veremos pronto. - Rosa Lisbeth Navarrete

Dear Family, Thank you for your lessons, for the food, and for the music. May God keep you under his watch always. May you be blessed time and time again for your generosity and open arms. Because of you, Perú always feels like coming home. I'll be seeing you soon. - Rosa Lisbeth Navarrete