Whether we knew it or not, us ISA students picked the right time to visit Cusco! June– it’s the most festive time of the year for local Cusqueneans. Streets are seemingly always closed for some sort of dance, religious procession or special celebration unique to Cusco. Our teachers have been trying to explain to us the significance of these celebrations and we’ve soaked in some of this information.
We’ve also been lucky to be here in Cusco, or more generally Peru, because we’ve gotten to watch the Peru Men’s National Soccer Team play two World Cup qualifying games on television amongst locals. Each time we gathered at the Plaza de Armas and picked out a bar to watch the game.
The first match up featured Peru against Ecuador. There was a buzz about the city. Peruvian flags were waving from the windows of cars while megaphones blasted the names of some of the places to watch the game. After walking in-and-out of two bars because they were so packed, we settled for the back room of a side-alley restaurant bar. We watched Peru win 1-0 just amongst ourselves. That night we learned that if we wanted to get serious about watching a fútbol game in Peru, we’d have to get to our game watch spot at least 30 minutes before the kickoff.
Four days later, Peru faced Colombia and there was even more hype around the game. Local news stations, radio stations, and newspapers thought that Peru’s strong performance against Ecuador would help them rally to defeat the even stronger Colombia. I even had that notion in my mind: the night before the game I had a dream Peru would beat Colombia by two goals.
Listening to the suggestion of one of our professors, we headed out to Temple to watch the game. It was just the scene us ISA students were looking for. Locals filled the bar waving their flags and honking their pump horns––hoping that a Peru win would bring their country one step closer to a World Cup appearance, which hasn’t occurred since 1982. We joined in on the cheers of “Vamos Perú” and our reactions to the game’s happenings mimicked those of the locals.
My dream turned out to be wrong as it was Peru who lost to Colombia by two. After the game, I was overcome with anger. This was a weird experience for me. I had watched Peru lose plenty of times throughout the years because my father, who was born in Peru, always watches their games at home. I never gave a second thought to their loses, but this time I did. I thought about how many Peruvians filled bars all over Peru. I thought about how many Peruvian families watched the game from their homes. I thought about how many Peruvians all over the world cheered on their home-country, my father included.
Being here in Peru has opened my eyes. The Peruvian people– my people, whom I’ve ignored far too long– are thirsty for their country– our country– to have a shot at glory on the world’s biggest stage. It’s not only about soccer; it’s about putting our country’s name in people’s mouths; it’s about pride. I was angry because I knew that after losing the match to Colombia, Peru’s chances of making the World Cup were made much slimmer.
For the first time in my life, I care if the Peru Men’s National Soccer Team makes the World Cup. I want the team to quench the thirst of us Peruvians. I want the team to make being Peruvian something to be extremely prideful of because of our present successes, not just the glory of the Inca Empire of the past. There’s something special about being here: I don’t know what it is, but I finally feel the “Incan” blood flowing through my veins.