Notes From Barranco


Above the beach rises a steep cliff crowned with a row of shining new development: high rise condos, sea-facing balconies. This is like Miraflores, Lima’s new downtown mushrooming upwards. But Barranco, the neighborhood, is some blocks back from this, in from the coast.

Blown-out ghost mansions adjacent to new concrete-block apartments. Restaurants and bars, clubs and tiendas. It’s not commercial like Miraflores, at the same time, it’s not simply residential. At night there’s a nervous edge, during the day the streets busy with carbon.


Went out into Barranco tonight and stumbled across a little place called El Keko. The band was playing covers of Nico, the Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin… very earnest and heartfelt covers of American rock songs, curiously drawn from a certain era of the 1960s. Books for sale strewn on a table in the front room of the club. The first place that seemed to me to fulfill Barranco’s guidebook reputation as the “bohemian neighborhood” of Lima.

The place rolled with smoke, the age mix was nicely dispersed, with a concentration of young people, and Aurora and I had beer and pisco as we watched the bands. A young man with the thin face of a high altitude indigenous person, an Inca face, wears a mod hairdo, mop chop in place of knit cap with earflaps.

“Freedom’s just another word for ‘nothing left to lose'” the singer sings in the asymmetrical accent that comes from learning a language very carefully one small piece at a time: the way I imagine I would sing a song in Spanish that I loved first as a song before I could understand what it said.


A hamburger in Barranco: a burger in a bun on a bed of tiny, crunchy fries that crackle as you eat it. Mayo is served on the side in a tube. No lettuce, pickle, or tomato to be found.

Last edited: September 17, 2016

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