Sangre De Toro

Alibi’s Ilene Style Reports From Her Volunteer Mission In South America

Ilene Style
4 min read
Sangre de Toro
Our mild-mannered sales rep drinks fresh bull’s blood.
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The beach is not where I originally thought I would be on Easter.

When I first came to Peru and heard everyone talking about the upcoming Semana Santa (Holy Week), I assumed it would be very religious because 90 percent of the population here is Catholic. When I asked around in hopes of finding a church to attend on Easter Sunday, I found out that during the holiday, most Limenos don’t go to church. Instead, they head for the beach. Businesses close on Holy Thursday and Good Friday, and everyone (including volunteers) have a four-day weekend akin to our Labor Day—a celebration of the last official weekend of the summer.

I was invited to the beach with my new best friend Guillermo, a Peruvian whom I met through none other than the
Alibi’s own Joseph Baca. Joseph and Guillermo went to high school together in Lima, and when Joseph found out I was coming here, he asked Guillermo to take care of me, a task in which Guillermo has outdone himself so far. He is determined to show me the "other side" of Lima, the upscale side that I don’t see in the area where I volunteer daily.

Armed with our Inka Kolas (the much beloved national soda of Peru) and our bathing suits, we drove about an hour south of Lima, passing beaches the entire way. (The whole coast of Peru is a beach, just like California.) We stopped to pick up Guillermo’s friend at whose beach house we would be staying for the weekend, and then proceeded to go to eight beaches in the next two days, hopping from house party to house party until very late at night. (No one goes to sleep here before 2 a.m.)

At one of the beach parties, I met Marisol and Celine Aguirre, two famous Peruvian actresses who were celebrating their birthday (they are twins). In between fiestas, I took my first dip ever in the Pacific Ocean.

On the third day, Saturday, we went to a bullfight festival, the Festival Taurino Las Palmas 2010, at the beach of Las Palmas. While bullfighting is not a sport that I normally associate with Peru, (or with the beach for that matter ), apparently the country is one of the top bullfighting hotspots in the world, right up there with Spain and Mexico. The day started with the "running of the bulls"—probably the closest to Pamplona that I will ever get. The bulls in this festival are called "toritos," as they are a bit smaller than full-size bulls.

After the running of the bulls (no, I didn’t run with them—maybe next time), we attended an outdoor luncheon for more than 2,000 people on the lawn outside of the Plaza de Toros, the bullring. We dined on paella and vino and watched a Flamenco dance performance on the nearby stage. Despues de almuerzo, off to the bullfight!

We had front-row seats in the bull ring, thanks to Guillermo’s company being a sponsor of the event. I’m not sure if that was a good thing or not. Bullfighting is difficult to watch, especially up that close. The wails that come from deep inside the bull as it dies are horrific. Although it is a barbaric sport, most of the time I couldn’t take my eyes off the action. I skipped one of the six fights to watch them butcher a bull in back of the bull ring.

Then I did something I still can’t believe I did. In a clearly crazy “when in Rome” moment, I drank the fresh (and still warm) sangre de toro, bull’s blood. No, I’m not kidding. When I returned to my seat, the crowd sitting around me was astounded that a "gringa" had done that and offered me a Pisco chaser from a deerhide flask. Afternoon cocktails will never be the same for me.
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