What is it like being a Jamaican in Peru?

Xavier: What’s it like being a Jamaican in Peru? Hi, I’m Xavier Murphy, the founder of and today in Jamaicans to the world; we talk to Joseph Wong, a Jamaican living in Peru. Welcome Joseph, how are you?  

Joseph: I’m okay Xavier. I’m fine thanks. How are you? 

Xavier: I’m doing good. Actually today am in a new area, a new studio that I got set up and I’m a little excited 

Joseph: I’m first? 

Xavier: Yes, yes! You are the first. You’re the first here. So before we get into Peru, which paat a Jamaica yuh come from? (Where in Jamaica are you from) 

Joseph: From a small town in Manchester, Christiana. I don’t know if you heard of it. 

Xavier: Yeah man, yeah man. Yes, I have people that come from the Manchester, Mandeville and so I’ve driven through there. 

Joseph: Yes I’m from Christiana. Went to Knox College. 

Xavier: That’s my next, you know the next question. So you’re a Noxie. 

Joseph: I’m a Noxite. 

Xavier: So is it Noxie or Noxite? 

Joseph: Noxite. 

Xavier: Noxite, alright so I’ve been saying the wrong thing. Thanks for correcting me sir. So tell us your story. How did you get to Peru? 

Joseph: Well my wife, she was studying in Jamaica. She was on a scholarship. We both attended the Caribbean Maritime University and that’s where I met her. And then  we were dating for some time around two years, and then because of my job and her job she went back to live in Peru and I was visiting only on vacation, when I had vacation. But since the past three years, I’ve been living here with her. 

Xavier: Okay so love brought you to Peru. 

Joseph: Yes love brought me to Peru. 

Xavier: And let me ask you, I’m getting that little nosey here. Did she know English when she came to Jamaica and was studying there? 

Joseph: She studied English here in Peru but she was not as fluent as she is now. When she was in Jamaica you could barely understand what she’s saying or if you understand, you understand some words but now she’s fluent. 

Xavier: good  

Joseph: Well with my help she’s fluent  

Xavier: And I’m sure she’d pick up some patois while she was there 

Joseph: Yeah she knows some patois for sure.  

Xavier: So tell us about the people of Peru. You got your introduction kind of in Jamaica with your wife but tell us about the people. What are the people there like? 

Joseph: Well the people here, if you ever visit here you’ll find out that they’re very kind people, very friendly and very helpful set of people. That’s one of the best things about Peruvians, they’re very kind people. 

Xavier: And how are they towards Jamaicans? The people, when they realize that you you’re from Jamaica. What’s typically the reaction? 

Joseph: Well they love Jamaicans because they know the famous Jamaicans Bob Marley they love reggae, they love Usain Bolt. So for sure, when I say that I’m from Jamaica, they say ah! Usain Bolt and Bob Marley that’s normally the comments I get. Actually one time there was a football match here. I think maybe two years ago with the “Reggae Girls”, was playing against Peru and I went with my family. We were wearing the Jamaican colors and Jamaican t-shirts and actually people are stopping us asking to take pictures thinking we all were Jamaicans.  

Xavier: So your wife was wearing the Jamaican colors too?  

Joseph: Yeah. There were like six of us wearing the Jamaican colors  

Xavier: So your wife now is claiming. 

Joseph: Yeah. She’s claiming Jamaica  

Xavier: Good, Good. 

Joseph: We were in a stadium full of Peruvians and maybe only along with the football team, maybe six other Jamaicans in the stadium. 

Xavier: I can imagine you were like a dot or a speck right in the whole stadium. 

Joseph: Representing Jamaica for sure. I had these dreadlocks, these dreadlocks hat they sell in Jamaica. I had two and I was wearing these dreadlocks so you can imagine everybody coming up to take a picture with the “rasta man” because you don’t see rastas here. 

Xavier: You mentioned something there, are there are a lot of black people? Do you find other? Because it’s South America, well kind of central south their about. How is the diversity there?  

Joseph: Yeah we have black Peruvians. I tell you my mother-in-law is black. You will think she’s my mother, you’ll think she’s Jamaica. She will pass as a Jamaican. She’s black so we have a lot of black Peruvians here.  

Xavier: I see.  

Joseph: Very diverse. 

Xavier: And is there a history? Like for example in Panama a lot of the black population there were the migrant workers that came to work on the canal. I know even in terms of Costa Rica, some of it is the folks that came from Panama and kind of trickled down into Costa Rica and some of these other places. 

Joseph: Yeah. I think it’s the same. They trickled down until they arrived to Peru that’s how they have the black Peruvians.  

Xavier: I see. And do they maintain, I know I’m going a little deep into some of this stuff but do you find that they maintained any of the past history like in Costa Rica they say “Mek a Tell Yuh” (Let me tell you) which is the equivalent to our Jamaican or as we say Jamaican patois. They speak “Mek A Tell Yuh” and even in some places in Panama any of that trickle down for the folks that kind of came down through Panama or came that way? Do you encounter any of that for the black people. 

Joseph: For the black Peruvians there is nothing so historical like that, that came from ancestors but here they have what they call Incas. Like Mexicans, they have the Mayans. Here we have the Incas, so that is their history for the Peru, Incas.  

Xavier: Okay and do they have like holidays celebrations? Different things that Incas celebrate there that showcases the culture and the customs and all of that. 

Joseph: They don’t have holidays specifically but in this small town more in the mountains in a place called Cusco then there you will see all of the history, all of the dances, all of the culture of the Incas so they preserve this culture. Actually, there is a place I don’t know if you have heard of it before Machu Picchu  

Xavier: Yes. 

Joseph: That’s in Cusco, they preserved this area. They preserve it, trying to preserve history. 

Xavier: So you are close to it? 

Joseph: Not close. By plane it’s like an hour an hour and then an hour by the train. 

Xavier: Okay because one of my questions which was you know places that you should visit or you would recommend visiting and it sounds like you’ve been there. 

Joseph: Yeah. The best one so far for me was Machu Picchu because they said it’s one of the new wonders of the world. It’s the most historic place here in a Peru. Very nice historical place Machu Picchu. 

Xavier: And so since I am already on places, any other recommendations if I was to visit. And I do want to visit Peru. I’ve always wanted to visit that location. Always mess it up Machu Picchu always, always mess it up. Any other place that you would recommend that you’d say if you come to Peru either visit this place or you gotta have this experience. 

Joseph: Yeah for the historians, will be Machu Picchu. For the musicians, will be Barranco because this smaller town is for musicians. You will see live music, the arts Barranco will be the place and for dancing or for salsa it will be the place that I’m living now kayo. It’s the town of salsa. 

Xavier: So you salsaing? 

Joseph: Yeah, I’m trying. I don’t ketch (catch) it as yet, but I’m trying. With mi (my) two left foot I’m trying. 

Xavier: Well listen man if you some of them reggae dances that salsa thing might come on a little easier.  

Joseph: No, salsa is much harder trust me. 

Xavier: I’ll agree with you. My wife and I did a few classes. Went on a cruise and we’ve seen people do it on a cruise and wi seh wi ago try a likke ting (We are going to try a little thing) and we go classes and when we get down there and see some of these people, we were like we’re not we’re not getting up here. 

Joseph: Maybe after a few beers it will be easier but… 

Xavier: So am gonna move on to food. What’s the food like? And what would be one of the things that you would say Xavier, if you visit you have to try this. 

Joseph: Well if anybody visits Peru they will have to try “ceviche”. I don’t know if you’ve heard of ceviche before but the Peruvian ceviche is one of the best. It’s like raw fish but it’s marinated with lemon and other spices but very soft very nice food ceviche. We like to eat cook food. If it’s not cook we will eat it. But ceviche, it’s one of the best. It’s like conch salad, I don’t know if you have tried the conch salad before but the ceviche of the fish is one of the best. 

Xavier: Okay. My wife loves ceviche. I’ve tried it but I won’t say I’m a big fan of it. But if I come there I have to try some if that’s what you recommend. 

Joseph: I’ve tried it outside of Peru and trust me it’s not the same.  

Xavier: Peru has the best one? 

Joseph: Peru has the best one.  

Xavier: So on the topic of food. Do you do you cook any Jamaican food there or are there any Jamaican restaurants that you have encountered in Peru or where do you get your fix? 

Joseph: There’s one Jamaican restaurant but it has only Jamaican name. It doesn’t sell the Jamaican food it only has the Jamaican name. But before when I was um traveling  more frequently I used to bring the curry and I used to bring the browning and seasoning from Jamaica but thank God I found one supermarket that sells Jamaican curry so I don’t have to be traveling with curry in my bag anymore. So I find Jamaican curry. When I cook that curry even the neighbors are coming to as for food. 

Xavier: So are you doing curry goat or are you doing curry chicken? 

Joseph: I’m doing curry mutton, curry chicken, I’m doing jerk chicken. I did jerk chicken maybe two weeks ago and I had to do it outside on the barbecue and people are coming asking if I’m selling jerk chicken.  

Xavier: So it look like you can have a future little drum pan chicken on the corner there. 

Joseph: Yes, it’s in the planning because they love Jamaican food it’s very different. They haven’t tried the spices we have. 

Xavier: So you gave people samples and they came over? 

Joseph: Yes, we have to give them samples. We give them a taste of Jamaica. 

Xavier: So I’m gonna move on from food and talk a little bit about the language and was that a challenge for you? Or were you learning it when you were in Jamaica. Previously a minute ago right before we started I hear you were talking to everybody and you were just like fluent. It’s like you know this thing. 

Joseph: I studied Spanish to cxc level in Jamaica and then when I got here, I was using Google translator but with time I’m learning little, little. But I’m not fluent as yet but little by little I’m learning. 

Xavier: You could have fooled me because I hear you was rattling off some stuff there and I was like… I couldn’t even pick up one word out of it. Because if you slow it down sometimes based on the little two years and living in Kingston 21 where I live which actually South Florida. I am use to the Spanish or hearing it but you were quite fluent. Well to me, sounded fluent. 

Joseph: Yeah, not there yet. 

Xavier: Well good. What would you say was your biggest adjustments? So when you moved from Jamaica to Peru what would you say was the biggest adjustment you had to make? 

Joseph: The biggest one was with the language and then with the weather. Because here, the heat is not a problem for me because Jamaica is always hot but when it’s cold here it’s really cold. So those are the two biggest challenges for me language and the weather. 

Xavier: So in terms of cold, what are you talking about there in terms of….it’s not cold to snow right?  

Joseph: No, not cold to snow but I don’t know about the other Jamaicans but I don’t like the cold. Once you go below 16 for me it’s already cold. 

Xavier: I hear you because I live here because if I was to live in the north of the U.S or Canada, or any of those places I couldn’t do it. Could not do it, I love my warm Weather. 

Joseph: Yeah, I love the warm. 

Xavier: Is it difficult to work? Let’s say I was going to move there or whatever. Is it difficult the process of being a Peruvian resident? Or Peruvian somebody that is authorized to work and that sort of thing, is that a difficult process there? 

Joseph: No, if it’s to wok, if you have somebody that’s….let’s say a company that has a legal company that can sign a contract, then you can get the residence card to work here or if you’re married you can work here. But for me I don’t work here because I’m a seafarer. I go to sea, I work and I come back. I’m here one month, two months on vacation so…..  

Xavier: Okay, so you head out and then come back in and head out and come back in.  

Joseph: Yeah that’s how I do it. 

Xavier: I see. And you’re saying headed out at sea that means you’re on a boat. 

Joseph: Yeah, on a boat. I’m not one of those commercial vessels, gas tankers 

Xavier: That’s interesting. I guess you studied marines so you’re used to it. Some people can’t stand being out there for a while, you’re saying you’re gone for months. Some people just…. 

Joseph: Yeah you’ll get used to it. You get used to it until you can’t stand the land. 

Xavier: So when you come back to land, I know Peru is again tropical and so on. You get your fruits there? You get all your fruits that you would get in Jamaica? May be even some. What’s that like? 

Joseph: You will get some. You’ll get banana you, you will get the mango, you will get the tangerine or mandarin, you will get the pineapple, you will get the grape, strawberries. You won’t get the guava, you will get sour sop if you’re lucky, fruit like those. Orange you will get. 

Xavier: You don’t get a yam though, you’re not getting you yam and breadfruit though? 

Joseph: No. You won’t get no yam, you won’t get no breadfruit. If you are lucky, you will find green bananas. 

Xavier: Well I’m sure you met do with what you can find and get there and turn it into something you know. 

Joseph: Yes 

Xavier: I’m sure of that. So Joseph tell us about the type of music you’re hearing there are you hearing reggae or is it just reggaeton and salsa what type of music are you hearing in Peru? 

Joseph: Well here you will listen salsa mostly.In every part you go you will listen salsa but also there is reggaeton that is very popular as well, but mostly you will see young folks listening to the reggaeton. Also there is cumbia, but it’s like oldies. 

Xavier: So is it old latin…what is cumbia. It sounds interesting. It sounds old but it sounds interesting. 

Joseph: It’s not like old salsa it’s a different type of music because just like reggae that you can hear the rhythm and know its reggae, cumbia has a rhythm by itself also. 

Xavier: Ok. All right, so I’m winding it down and the question I have for you is this. You land in Jamaica, what is the first thing you’re doing? Is it food? It could be visiting here to get a sea bath. What is the thing that you do when you head back to Jamaica? One of the thing you have to do. 

Joseph: Well the first thing exiting the airport there is one island grill there by the airport is to get some ackee and saltfish. 

Xavier: I see so no ackee there? 

Joseph: not even saltfish 

Xavier: All right well Joseph listen I appreciate you spending some time with us. I know we had this conversation kind of before with the interview but congratulations. I know you had mentioned the wife is having a baby so congratulations on that and you know what, that’s exciting. 

Joseph: It’s a one of a kind baby, Peruvian Jamaican. 

Xavier: Yes and I know you’re going to teach him or her some patois. 

Joseph: So here’s how I typically close out I know for the most part Spanish is the dominant language there. What is the informal way that Peruvians may say goodbye to a friend, a good friend. What’s the informal way? We seh (say) boy ketch yuh lata (catch you later) the old folks she catch you (you) pon (on) the strong or likkle more (little more). What typically Peruvians say when they’re saying goodbye 

Joseph: Well here they say ciao which is informal. 

Xavier: Oh ciao. All right 

Joseph: Yeah ciao 

Xavier: Well Joseph thank you again for spending some time with us on Peru and as they say in Peru, ciao!! 

Joseph: ciao. 

Photos  – Deposit Photos

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Xavier Murphy