Sunday, September 22, 2013

Couple of Things About Getting Married in Iquitos, Peru

I don't know if all of this still applies but because there is a rash of gringos marrying Peruvian women from Iquitos, I thought I'd post it--being someone who married a young woman from Iquitos.
    As a preliminary heads up, let me say this: Remember that you are the hunter, and other than providing food and protection, not particularly necessary. What is necessary is that the women in the family, the tribe (as most are not more than four generations removed from deep tribal life), get to be together all of the time. If your wife has three sister and they live in Lima, well, sooner or later you will live in Lima or the marriage is done. They are the focal point, you are the hunter. You provide, then disappear. It can be loads of fun so long as you know what's coming after the first year or two or marriage.
    On the mundane level, there used to be several papers you needed to get. When you're getting married you have to put an ad in the most read daily newspaper (La Republica) for three days running, announcing the marriage and asking for anyone who know it shouldn't happen to come forward. If you are a US male, you will be sent to Lima to get a Certificate of Bachelorhood, which will prove that you are not currently married, that your divorce has been finalized if you are divorced and that you are not responsible in any way for another woman as a wife.
    The US Embassy in Lima has no such document, but will, after some begging, write a note that says you have sworn you are not married and are free to marry. That has to be notarized in the Embassy. And if you don't know that it is coming, well, it will be a pain in the neck to suddenly have to fly to Lima before you can be married.
     In terms of parties, I don't know if this applies to all Iquitos marriages, but certainly did to mine: We began having parties--or providing cases of beer, anyway--to people about 5 days before the wedding. The first group that had to get lots of beer were people who hated the family I was marrying into and would be willing to hire a brujo--bad sorcerer--to make our lives miserable. So we had to make them happy and keep them drunk until after the wedding.
    The next night was a party for all the families that simply had grudges against the family I was marrying into: Neighbors they'd fought with, authorities that didn't like us and so forth.
    The third party was for people we didn't hate but certainly didn't want anywhere near something as intimate as our wedding.
    The fourth party was for the people we liked but didn't like enough to invite to a wedding.
    And then finally, there was the wedding for the few dozen people we liked--or whom the family liked.
    Very important to keep the bad vibes away and 15-20 cases of beer per night is not a big price to do it.
    Then we had our own parties: At one, my future wife invited all of her sexiest friends and some prostitutes who sat in chairs at one point around the outside walls of the room. Someone starts music. You--me--are told to pick any woman to dance with. They're all dressed to the nines.
    I finally went to Chepa and told her I didn't want to dance with anyone else, regardless of the rules.
That was a good thing, because if I had picked another woman, that would have been reason to cancel the wedding.
    Not long after the wedding, the bride gets in a motokar and drives away alone. She is going to see all of her former lovers. If she doesn't return, it means she was seduced and changed her mind. If she returns fairly quickly, she love you.
    Then there was the US Embasy and the attempt to get Chepa into the US.
    We arrived in Lima, went to the Embassy, did whatever we were told, filled out the paperwork and so forth. The next day, when we returned, I was told I'd have to go to the US to get a letter from my bank, notarized in the city in which I lived, telling the Embassy how long I'd been banking there. It didn't matter, I was told, how much money I had, just get the letter.
    With--at the time--a 37 percent surcharge on flights originating in Lima, I paid about $1500, flew to New York, got the letter and returned in a couple of days.
     The Embassy personnel took the letter, then said I had to get a letter notarized in New York from the people I worked with telling them how long I worked there. I was furious. Who were they to do this to me. They said they were the ones who could give Chepa a green card and just get on with it.
    So I did.
    When I returned they told me to go back to New York and get a copy of my signed apartment leased and have it notarized there.
     When I finished that--altogether, including keeping Chepa in Lima with a sister for 26 days or so, plus getting the AIDS test the insisted she have, plus her fingerprints and all that--I was out about $10,000. And the Embassy person, with a straight face, said something to the effect that most Peruvian women being brought to the US are brought there for sexual slavery. Going rate for gringos was $10,000, so that's what they made me spend. If I was taking my new wife to the US to sell her into slavery, I wouldn't be making money.
     The second issue, the Embassy person said, was hot pants. Gringos get hot pants for these beautiful dark-skinned Latinas. So they make it hard for you to bring them home because once there, you might learn that your beautiful dark-skinned Latina is actually a very short person who doesn't speak English, doesn't know anything about our culture and winds up being dumped by the hot-pants gringo once the hot-pants cool off and ends up on welfare.
    So they do everything in their power to discourage you from taking the new wife to the US.
    I asked why they couldn't tell me that earlier: I was told that would constitute discrimination and they would be open to law suits. So they did it their own way.
    In my case, while it wasn't easy, the first five years of marriage were so fantastic, that it was all worth it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

wow... crazy story... really enjoy your writing peter...