- An Interview with Juan Enrique Robles Huertas*
You are with the group LUNDU, which I assume means you know quite a bit about the culture of this region. Could we start first with the cuisine of this region? What is the typical dish for this territory among Afro-Peruvians?
In this province, there's carapulca and mancha pecho. Carapulca is done with fresh potatoes.
Do people eat a lot of meat?
Yes, they eat chicken, farm animals—rabbit, hens, dove. They also eat cat. It's believed that it has nutritional value and that it's an aphrodisiac because it makes the man hotter in bed. That's what is typically said. People sometimes raise cats until eight or thirteen months, then they kill them and eat them.
How did people come to eat that? I don't understand that.
When Ramon Castilla freed the slaves, he left them without food, with nothing, absolutely nothing. At that time, there was a great abundance of cats and blacks would hunt them to eat them out of necessity. As time went by, Afro-Peruvian people continued with the cats and took this on as a tradition. They saw that when they ate it they were more on fire in bed. That's where the idea that it was an aphrodisiac came from.
When do you eat this? Is there a special season that you eat cat?
No, no. It's done about every six months. Upon capturing the mom and the dad, the kittens are left behind. Later, they grow and they're hunted. But you can eat all of it and eat it every day. Sometimes people will have a love fest of a day in which they smoke, drink, and get inebriated, and they all make cat and eat it. With that, you feel strong, powerful, and ready to touch a woman.
How do you make it? [End Page 414 ]
Overnight. You hunt it and drown it in water. Then you cut off its head, you skin it, and you take out its insides. Then you cut it up, you pickle it overnight in vinegar with pepper and garlic. The next day you brown it for about an hour and a half and then you dip it in water and put it onto a pan. You fry it and you add cilantro, onion, and tomato to it.
And the flavor is like what?
It has an appearance similar to rabbit, but the flavor is a whole other thing.
When you eat cat now do you have to rear them a certain way? Do you take one from the streets?
When they catch a cat, they do it with a trap. The cat goes out to the rooftops at night and people set traps. They put fish on the tip of a nail. Then when the cat goes out walking he steps into a trap. He pulls on the fish and the door falls.
What is the favorite dish of the highest celebration? For example, we have turkey certain times a year.
Turkey is also eaten here. That's common everywhere.
Before starting the interview, you were telling me that people don't know much about their history.
In actuality, the majority of Afro-descendants ignore how Africans came to El Carmen: how they were brought here and on what route they were brought here. It's known that we were the sons of kings, because the best from a tribe were sold off. The Europeans took the kings' sons. And the ones who came here weren't sickly or short or skinny blacks. They were people who were very tall, very robust. Nowadays, Afro-descendants ignore a lot about their history. They contributed a lot to the cuisine, in terms of flavor. The Italians brought fideo, and the indigenous population brought the potato. But the blacks are square in the middle and add the flavor and bring carapulca. That's why that dish remains as a...