Yesterday I spent the day hanging out with a new buddy named Brian from Texas. Brian lives in Palermo Hollywood and his Peruvian roommate Antonio invited us to a salsa party at his friends’ house for later in the day. To kill some time in the afternoon we walked to the neighborhood of Chacarita, which is to the west of Palermo. I’d never really been there before, but there’s not much of a reason to go there unless you know someone. The Chacarita Cemetery is huge and a lesser-known tourist attraction, especially underneath the level of the Recoleta Cemetery, so we were going to check it out.
By the wall of the cemetery we noticed a large crowd gathered watching a game. On a volleyball court there were two guys per team playing, but not in the traditional way. Not using any hands, these guys were only using their legs, chests and heads to hit the ball over. I’d never seen anything like it, and their skill was impressive. It almost seemed like they were working together as one team, simply trying to keep the volley going, and just when it looked like the ball had gotten to far away they were able to pull it back it and keep it going.
The crowd was all men in their 20s to 40s, and everyone was drinking either mate or beer. Instead of using a volleyball they had a soccer ball, and though the game is different, it reminded me of the intense games of Ecuavolley that groups of men would play and watch in Ecuador. I had to wonder about how they got to the point where soccer and volleyball were no longer interesting, and the light bulb went off to combine the two. I could have stayed watching for a while but we went to see the cemetery, though it was already closed.
Later on we got to the Peruvian salsa party in the neighborhood of Paternal, which is kind of out there off the main loop. Immediately we were welcomed in like members of the family, given food and drinks. It was mostly Peruvians from Lima, but an interesting mix with small children running around and some serious dancing going on in the attic-turned into dance studio with blasting music. I’ve realized that if I learned how to dance salsa in Ecuador after a year of practice, the year without practice in Argentina has almost undone the lessons. It took me a couple of songs to get back into a rhythm, but even then I still couldn’t keep up with the Peruvians.
In the end, a few hours of blasting salsa and cumbia was enough for us, but we were invited back anytime for private lessons, so maybe one day we’ll take them up on it. After two years in Latin America, the unquestioning hospitality of latinos is still amazing to me. Immediately you are a friend, invited into the house, offered food and drinks, and hugged. It’s a warm feeling which everyone should get to experience.