To every city we attach a face, to every place a personality. Camagüey strikes me as a sober lady with a long ancestry, Frankfurt is punk hair and skinny ties, Prague is the blue eyes and crooked smile of that young man who — just for a second — crossed my path. For its part, Lima’s face is indescribable but covered in dust. The dust of Lima swirls and settles everywhere. It flies over the cliffs that drop abruptly into a sea which, for Caribbeans, feels too cold, too choppy. Tiny particles of earth and sand that stick to your body, to food, to life. Dust on the native fruits, on the recently served ceviche. Dust in your “pisco sour” cocktail that leaves your tongue wanting more and not wanting any. A layer of gold, unreal, that coats the windshields and the newspaper sellers who defy the red lights to unload their merchandise before dark. The dust which we all become after the final day, but which in Lima carries us forward in life.
Lima seemed to me a girl with copper skin. Reserved, with something of that mysterious silence of those who come from the mountains. And with healing hands. Because in Lima I recovered my voice, and that is not a metaphor. I arrived after more than fifty days of intense travel, hoarse and feverish. I left recovered, coddled by my friends, with my energy restored having witnessed a city that has outgrown itself. I submerged my feet in the Pacific for the first time, I climbed the hills of the village of El Salvador to see people gaining ground against the aridity of the soil and poverty. I saw the historic center with its churches, its tourist attractions, its religious processions. Because Lima is a host of cities, some whimsically superimposed on others. It’s like a young woman whose body has outgrown her clothes and they no longer fit. Thus, the traffic bottlenecks and the many cranes raising buildings on all sides. This city has a face put together in a hurry, an eye here, a mouth there, a forehead taken from everywhere; it is mestiza, chola, German, Swiss, Chilean, Spanish… and very much Lima.