How I Overcame My Reggaeton Addiction in Lima, Perú

We all start out with the best intentions. They say the best way to learn a language is to listen, so one morning you decide to give music in Spanish a try. It’s innocent at first— some Juanes, a little Selena. But sooner or later the unavoidable genre comes for us all, rearing the faces of Becky G, Ozuma, and Daddy Yankee. By the time I realized exactly how sexist and gross reggaeton is, it was already too late.

With an abundance of reggaeton-pumping restaurants and dance halls around Lima, quitting cold turkey seemed impossible. But I’m here to tell you that there is life after reggaeton. Perú has centuries of proud music and dance traditions that are very much alive today. Beating my reggaeton dependency has been a journey, and of the many stops along the way, here are some of my favorites.

La Marinera

Students celebrate Cultural Thursdays at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú with traditional dances.

The most popular traditional dance in Perú, la marinera, could put any night club out of business with its unparalleled romance. I first watched a broadcast on the television during the closing ceremony of the Panamerican Games 2019, where the sports talk was briefly interrupted by a beautiful love story. Handkerchief-wielding lovers of all ages keep this dance tradition alive, although I’m told the best place to see it is in the northern coastal city of Trujillo during their annual Marinera Contest.

Danza de las Tijeras (Dance of the Scissors)

You know how your parents always told you not to run with scissors? Imagine really artistic and rhythmically gifted children rebelling against that with everything they have, and you’re probably close to the Danza de las Tijeras from the southern Andes region. The dancers kick and jump to the relentless music while brandishing an over-sized pair of scissors in one hand, and presumably their moms watch through their fingers. I’ve only seen this dance on small bus station televisions, but it’s one of the coolest and most physically intense dances I’ve seen yet!

Waca waca

Bull-masked dancers lead the waca waca dance during a Cultural Thursday exhibition.

No, not the Shakira song. The waca waca dance is from Puno in the south of Perú, on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Each dance tells the story of a bullfight gone awry, where a comically over-confident matador is struck down within seconds of entering the ring. The bull is eventually defeated by a hip-swinging milkmaid wearing many layers of skirts that protect her from the bull’s horns. It’s worth seeking out this dance on the basis of watching the matador’s dramatic stage-death alone, but my favorite part is considering the dance’s proud inventors and their daring mockery of conquistador culture.

I could keep going. Cachua, Tondero, Vals Criollo, and Danza de las Diablas are only a handful of the many other Peruvian dances I’ve come to love and appreciate. Such rich and beautiful dance traditions emerge from every corner of Perú, and I’ve found I don’t miss reggaeton, not even a little.

Beth Hoots is a student at University of Idaho and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying abroad with ISA in Lima, Peru.

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