United Nations Climate Change Conference

The United Nations Climate Change Conference took place in Lima, capital city of Peru, between Dec. 1 and 12. This session was also referred in the media as COP 20, shorthand for the 20th annual Conference of the Parties. It would be interesting to add that this was the fourth time that the conference was held in Latin America. The previous ones were in Buenos Aires, Argentina (1998 and 2004), and Cancun, Mexico (2010).

In the three aforementioned Latin American countries the conference delegates were exposed to traditional folk musical genres: tango and milonga in Buenos Aires, ranchera y corrido

in Cancun, and marinera and Creole waltz in Lima. Creole waltz is a local adaptation of the Viennese waltz. Two of the best Creole waltzes glorify, glamorize and romanticize Lima. These are titled “Creole Watercolor,” authored by Manuel “Shorty” Raygada (1904-1971), and “Lima a Bride,” composed by Mario Cavagnaro (1926-1998), both of whose lyrics are enthralling:

“Lima is throwing a party, / the Creole song dresses up for a gala, / the pretty Limeans / show off their peerless beauty and grace. / The strings of the guitar chirp, / the Creole hearts vibrate / to the cheerful sounds of the popular song. / This is my Creole Lima, / cheerful and reveling, / the Thrice Crowned land / where the marinera was born / that with drawer and ringing / in the Rimac neighborhoods / in time past gave colorfulness / Montes and Manrique, / Creolism fathers.” (“Creole Watercolor”)

“Bathed by the waters / of a sea that caresses you, / coquette and dreamy / that is how you are Lima, you. / Romantic and proud, / cheerful and generous, / you are for being beautiful / Peru’s bride. / Peru, Peru, your Limean land / sings to you with this waltz / for your unmatched grace / and nothing more and nothing more. / That a waltz Peru / that hands you a heart / that loves, laughs and sings / and dreams for your inspiration.” (“Lima a Bride”)

As the song “Creole Watercolor” suggests, Lima is also known as the Thrice Crowned Villa. Its original Spanish name was the City of the Kings. Alternative names for her are the Pearl of the Pacific, the Queen of the South Seas, and the Garden City.

But not all Peruvians jumped on the Creole bandwagon, though. The idealized vision of Lima portrayed in these waltzes was challenged by Sebastian Salazar (1924-1965), one the greatest  Peruvian writers, in his most famous book, the height of his intellectual work, “Lima the Horrible,” whose publication’s 50th anniversary was celebrated, fittingly, in 2014. In its chapter “Creolism as falsification” Salazar doesn’t mince words. He suggests that the Creolism reflects actually anti-indigenous “traditions and customs.” He goes on to say that Creolism “is pure Pharisaism, the subterfuge that permits and even justifies the general inharmoniousness” and “smuggles the fantasy of the Colonial Arcadia,” an imaginary place offering peace and  simplicity.

There seems to be no shortage of misconceptions about Lima. An article published in “The New York Times” on Nov. 30 by reporter Coral Davenport says: “For the next two weeks, thousands of diplomats from around the globe will gather in the desert metropolis of Lima, Peru, for a U.N. summit meeting to draft an agreement intended to stop the global rise of planet-warming greenhouse gases.”

Lima Metropolitan Area has a population of 8.4 million. It would be then more accurate to label it as a megalopolis rather than as a mere metropolis. Secondly, you have to wonder how eight plus million people can survive in a desert, a place characterized by lack of water. The fact is that Lima was founded in a valley, the one of the Rimac river, as one the waltzes suggests.

About the author: Miguel Balbuena is a writer in the academic, scientific, journalistic and literary fields (in the fiction and non-fiction genres).

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