Basketball, Language, and Civil Unrest in Peru


My basketball team played our first game last Wednesday night. I played about 15 of the 40 minute game. In my 15 minutes, I had 2 points, several rebounds, a few blocks, and 3 fouls. The refs here call MUCH closer than in the States.  Or maybe they’re picking on me because I’m a gringo playing rough.

We won the game handily, 64-49. Afterwards, José started some gringo-chant for me. Everybody stood in a circle clapping their hands. I couldn’t understand the first lyrical repitition. Then it turned into “IS HE HOT, IS HE HOT?” (Pronounced ‘EES HE HOAT’) And then “EN TU CULO, EN TU CULO!” On/in your ass, on/in your ass!

UPDATE: At the time, I thought Jose was saying ‘Is he hot’, but later realized he was saying “Icy Hot”, which would be pronounced the same in a thick Spanish accent. For more info, check out Hazing in Peru.


I had great confidence in my Spanish when I arrived. I’ve improved, but also become very aware of my limitations. When Peruvians are talking with each other, I usually tune them out. If it were English, you can try to tune people out but you can’t help comprehending what they are saying. In Spanish, I can tune them out without comprehending anything. Easily!

When the guys on the team are all talking trash and making fun of each other or otherwise horsing around, I can’t really take part. They talk so fast and I’m not yet 100% fluent with Peruvian slang and profanities. Once in a while somebody will bring me into the trash-talking. If I say what immediately comes into my head, it usually makes everybody laugh. But sometimes I don’t understand what they say and I freeze up. I’ll just blow them off and act like I don’t care.

I don’t understand much when the coach is addressing the whole team. During pep talks or explaining a drill, I can understand if I listen really hard. However, he will usually start on with the next sentence before I fully comprehend what he’d just said. In your native language, you don’t need a second to comprehend. You just get it. And so I get lost after a while and stop listening. I miss the majority of what he says when talking to the whole team.

I have a goal to read Spanish. Before I moved down here I checked out a Spanish book from the UMSL library and tried to read it in front of the computer where I could look up words I didn’t know. Each page took several minutes to complete and I didn’t really understand what was going on after three pages. So I quit. My mistake was checking out a collegiate-level book. Next time, I’ll get something intermediate.

Civil Unrest

Moquegua, a city in the south of Peru, made world news yesterday. Protests and civil unrests have been heating up for about a week over the tax revenues from the copper-mining industry. Protests turned into riots yesterday and the laborers took sixty policemen hostage. If this happened in America, it’d be a big deal. Nobody mentioned it at the office. I had to bring it up and still nobody cared.

I brought it up by asking if it were related to a protest I saw downtown. I actually saw two protests – each with 500+ demonstrators. It was amazing. One was for the union of education administrators in Arequipa. They wanted more money. I saw some sign that read S/. 100. They were protesting to get about $35 more per month.

The other protest was related to the riots in Moquegua. A few hundred Moqueguanos trekked up to Arequipa to protest here as well. Their demonstration was much more organized and passionate. They had an old VW bug with a megaphone to lead the way. There was a giant mannequin resembling President Alan Garcia with blood all over his face. And there were others with signs that were painted so well with images of poor people toiling in the mines that they could have sold as art. Both protests were passionate and they could definitely give some pointers to the American unions. Both protests had hundreds marching and screaming. Both protests had a drummer to beat his drum and somebody to scream into a megaphone. Some protesters who didn’t own drums brought cooking pots and spoons to bang them.


“Te Quiero” by Nigga / Flex

“Ella Me Levanto” by Daddy Yankee

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