1 of 2
Procession of La Virgin de la Puerta. Photo by Isabella Humphrey.
2 of 2
Photo by Isabella Humphrey
Peruvians have been part of Catalan society for more than 150 years. Regina Garcia goes beyond stereotypes to take a closer look at the Peruvian community.
The image of the Peruvian immigrant in Barcelona is a typical Andean character. He is seen wearing a multicoloured hat and a poncho, and carrying a flute, which he can be heard playing on Les Rambles, at the Vila Olímpica or Maremagnum. Yet alongside this small segment of the population there is a varied and unrecognised community. They may work as nurses, as caretakers for the elderly, run small grocery stores; they are butchers or own restaurants and hardware stores. There are also successful doctors, engineers and lawyers as well as entrepreneurs who are investing their time and fortune here, despite the crisis.
According to the Peruvian Consul General, Héctor Matallana, the first Peruvian consular office was opened in Barcelona in 1850 and the first records of Peruvians arriving here date back as early as 1887. That accounts for over 120 years of a continuous, subtle presence, very distinctive from other South American immigrant populations.
The first great wave of migration began in the mid-Fifties.“Basically, they were medical and law students, the majority of whom intermarried with Spaniards and are fully integrated into the local society,” Héctor explained. To this group belongs, for example, Dr. Dante Torres, a pediatrician with 30 years of practice in the city, or Dr. Mario Trelles, a plastic surgeon and the president of the Spanish and the European Laser Society. Trelles directs the Vilafortuny Institute in Cambrils and has just opened an office in Dubai. He is emblematic of the Peruvians who arrived in this first wave of immigration.
The next big wave of immigration occurred in the Eighties at a time of major social conflict in Peru. The former president, Alan García, refused to pay the country’s foreign debt. As a result, Peru was put on the blacklist of nations and the country fell into a deep recesssion, which provoked mass migration of Peruvians. Furthermore, the country suffered an increase of terrorism and drug trade.
Over the next twenty years, armed conflict between the Peruvian government and the Communist Party of Peru, Shining Path, would plague Peru’s national security and result in more deaths than the combined total of those killed in all of Peru’s civil and foreign wars since its indepedence nearly 200 years earler.
The final wave of immigration came in the Nineties but this time included a smaller number of immigrants. This final group has mainly worked in construction, in hotels and restaurants, caring for the elderly and in manual labour jobs. It is precisely this group that has most suffered the ravages of the economic crisis; according to data provided by the Peruvian consulate, 30 percent of Peruvian residents in Catalunya are currently unemployed.
A smaller percentage of the community are local business owners. Their openness and natural friendliness have earned them trust and confidence within the neighbourhoods where they have established themselves. Although most understand Catalan well, there are few in Barcelona who speak it, perhaps because they share a common language with locals and many Catalans continue to speak with them in Spanish. Outside of Barcelona, in places such as Girona and Lleida, where Catalan is more dominant, it has become easier for them to integrate Catalan into their daily lives.
The boom in Peruvian cuisine—primarily in the United States and the Anglo-Saxon world—and more recently in Europe, is encouraging restauranteurs to invest in the sector. An example of this is particularly evident in three Peruvian restaurants that have opened in the city—Tanta Barcelona, by Peruvian entrepreneur and renowned chef, Gastón Acurio, Inti Barcelona, promoted by another international chef, Roger Santamaría, and Tradicíon Moderna, headed by the young chef, Roberto Sihuay.
The Observatori de la Immigració for the year 2010 registered 14,742 Peruvians living in the districts of Eixample, Sants-Montjuïc, Sant Martí, Sant Andreu, Nou Barris and Horta-Guinardó. Lower numbers of the community were found living in Les Corts, Ciutat Vella, Gràcia and Sarrià-Sant Gervasi, where the population ranged from 500 to 800 per neighbourhood. The Peruvian Consulate, which keeps more up-to-date records of migratory movement, puts the figure higher, at about 25,000 Peruvians residing in Barcelona.
“In general, the majority of Peruvians who enter into Spanish territory possess a work permit and residence visa; many are here as part of a family reunification programme, which is a marked difference with respect to other communities,” Consul General Matallana assures me. He notes that the Peruvian residents in Barcelona are often characterised by their creativity and persistence in achieving their goals. “Peruvians are considered a hardworking collective, non-conflictive and respectful of local customs,” Héctor said.
The majority of Peruvians currently living in Barcelona originally came from the north coast of Peru, with the largest group arriving from Trujillo, followed by Chiclayo, then Huaraz, Piura and finally Tumbes. Typical physical traits from this area are found in the northern, pre-Inca culture—Moche, Chimu and Tallan—more than from the Quechua and Aymara world that predominates the south and central highlands of Peru.
The large presence of Peruvians who come from Trujillo becomes evident each year on December 8th, when the procession of La Virgin de la Puerta is celebrated. The tradition originated in Otuzco, 75 kilometres from the city of Trujillo. Another popular tradition that has been brought to Barcelona from Peru is the procession of El Señor de los Milagros, the purple Christ of Lima, which comes from the country’s capital city.
A celebration that is becoming increasingly popular here is held on July 28th at the Parc del Forum. Organised by the Federation of Peruvians in Catalunya (FEPERCAT), this feast coincides with the Fiestas Patrias of Peru “to commemorate the country’s Declaration of Independence from Spain and with the spirit of assertion of national identity, as well as being a symbol of our gratitude and our integration into our adopted land,” affirms the president of the society, Carlos Ucañan. On that day, Peruvians step away from their offices, their businesses, their jobs and their homes, leave their daily fight for a better future, in order to come together in Barcelona in a gastronomic and festive gathering that brings them back to their distant homeland, if only for a few hours.
Peruvian journalist Regina Garcia has lived in Barcelona for 15 years. Here is a list of restaurants she suggests:
Kenko I y II
Tel. 93 410 8135
Dos de Maig 250
Tel. 93 436 5556
El Patio Latino (the oldest
Peruvian restaurant in Barcelona)
Martinez de la Rosa 10
Tel. 93 416 1923
Tel. 93 459 3564
Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes 487
Metro: Rocafort, Urgell
Tel. 93 325 7110
Tel. 93 410 7380
El Meson Peruano
Tel. 93 325 1242
El Rey del Pollo
Tel. 93 518 0229
Roger de Llúria 54
Metro: Passeig de Gràcia
Tel. 93 216 0352
Metro: Hospital de Sant Pau
Tel. 93 433 5136
Tel. 93 422 3782