A guest post by Barry Brett
One of a series of short humorous stories of life in Iquitos.
Each article is a portrayal of actual events, written from the perspective of a Californian living in the Jungle City of Iquitos, Peru.
The clock struck midday, and already they were sitting outside my door waiting to go to the game. With six entradas (tickets) to Max Augustin Stadium in my back-pocket my friends were assured entry. Soccer is the life-blood of Iquitos. You’d better watch-out for your life, and there will be blood! But wait a minute, who’s that? I didn’t invite him! “Where’s Carlos?” I asked. “Carlos isn’t coming, he’s an Allianzista!” “Oh really, from which planet, Mars or Venus?” “No Barry, Carlos supports Allianza Lima, he’s not coming. He only goes to Allianza games” “Allianza Lima!” Lima was 800 miles away from Iquitos. “But why?” “Because they win Barry. They win!!!” Feeling somewhat despondent I hailed two motokaros to take us to the Stadium.
Outside the Stadium, faces painted in the colors, my friends shouted the familiar chant of their team – CNI. The College Team of an isolated Peruvian City, situated on the banks of the Amazon and surrounded by thousands of miles of rainforest, had suddenly found it’s day in the Sun. Ridiculed, derided and languishing at the bottom of the league for oh so-many years, suddenly (miraculously) CNI found itself within a hair-breadth of the ultimate prize The CUP! Outside the stadium, seats near the supporters of the opposing team (the expected winners) were selling at three times the price of seats for CNI. Illegal bookies, working out of a local bar ran odds Five-to-One against CNI! My friends rushed to place their bets.
It was rowdy. There were screams of anger and joy. Police in “full-metal-jacket” raced up and down the aisles quelling one outbreak after another. Spectators, their jungle blood screaming for vengeance and a win, became more and more agitated. Vendors standing in the aisles were pushed and shoved, their cakes and popcorn trampled-upon, as people squeezed-by to get a better view. Waving their banners and pounding on their jungle drums there were constant threats and shouts of foul-play. Things were reaching fever-pitch. The ground vibrated and the stands shook as fans jumped up and down in their seats, shaking their fists in a show of solidarity. Then the referee blew the whistle. KICK-OFF. The game commenced!
Leaving the stadium after the game there was a sense of disbelief. Supporters poured into the street over-whelming the vendors selling hamburgers and sodas. How could it have happened? What did we do to deserve this fate? All those long years in the wilderness of the rainforest has finally come-down to this. Underdogs forever and a day and now, and now – “WE’VE WON!” Yes we’ve won. The CUP is ours. The table’s turned and now we’re the winners!
The following day we assembled with thousands of supporters in Plaza 28th July to view the “CUP” and listen to speeches from the soccer-players and the City Mayor. My friends suggested we should hire a motokaro so we could participate in the “Grand Caravana”. A procession of several hundred motokaros would wind its’ way around the streets of Iquitos waving flags and banners. Caravanas were not uncommon, but this would be bigger and better than most. Leaving plaza 28, we gained speed rapidly, accelerating at red lights and crossing the median strip into opposing traffic. Police stood-by but did nothing. Pedestrians that dared step into the roadway, quickly jumped-back onto the sidewalks as the Caravana sped-on proclaiming it’s victory throughout the villages and city districts. Hollywood Freeway on a Friday afternoon, I thought. Without the graffiti, guns and sign language!
There were nasty incidents when overloaded motokaros carrying nine or ten supporters, overheated and broke-down or tipped-over, delaying the procession. Passengers fell-off, sustaining minor injuries, only to rejoin the parade by clinging to the sides of subsequent motokaros. Whole families rented motokaros to participate in this victory parade. Mum, Dad, six or seven kids and Grandma and Pops. They waved flags, chanted the slogans and drank what appeared to be coca-cola! It smelt a little different. Something like that unauthorized chemistry experiment at school, oh so very long ago. You know the experiment I mean. The one with the “Still!”
Villagers in the suburbs lined the sidewalk to view the procession and show solidarity with their victorious home-team. Spectators and passers-by climbed trees and street poles just to get a better view as the Caravana raced past with a tremendous roar. Suddenly we took a sharp bend and tipping toward the side hit a pothole in the road. It was the end of our day on the Caravana. We sat at the side of the road as streams of motokaros continued their daring drive into the sunset. I thought about all the tickets California Highway Patrol (CHP) could have written this day. They would need to cut-down the entire rainforest just to supply the paper!
Friends passing-by picked-us-up and drove us home. There was just the question concerning the damaged motokaro. Who would pick-up the tab? I turned to my friends. “Well Guys, you made-out like bandits with those bets you placed.” “I think it’s time you anteed-up.” “But Barry, uh, well we didn’t, we didn’t mean to.” “But, well, we sort-off bet against CNI. We just didn’t think they could win!” I slumped-down into my armchair in total disbelief. How could they? What kind of team-players were they? These lifetime jungle supporters wearing team colors, chanting the chants, waving the College flag, their bodies engraved with CNI tattoos. I didn’t have the heart to tell them, but whatever happened to team pride and loyalty? After my friends left I was faced with the thorny issue of the motokaro repairs. There was just one problem – I couldn’t pay either. I also bet against CNI!!!
Barry Brett, has spent three of the past five years here in Iquitos Peru. Growing-up in England, he emigrated to the U.S. as a young man and has lived almost forty years in Huntington Beach, California.
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