From Latin America

Escaped to Peru sponsors Peru´s most successful cricket team

Posted in Traditions and Culture by escapedtoperu on April 14, 2011

 

The Cusco-based Tour Operator Escaped to Peru, part of Escaped to Latin America, is proud to be a sponsor of the Peruvian national cricket team as they enjoy their best ever result in international competition in Costa Rica.
The Peruvian national cricket team has enjoyed its best ever tournament in Costa Rica and the Tour Operator Escaped to Peru is proud to have been a sponsor and is a constant supporter of the development of this sport within Peru.

The recent ICC Americas Division III tournament was held in San Jose, Costa Rica between the 14th and 18th of March and featured 6 Latin American teams seeking promotion to the second division. Peru competed against teams from Belize, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico and the Falkland Islands and on pitches that were slow with huge boundaries all the teams battled with the local conditions and struggled to score runs. The Peruvian team played extremely well to beat every team except the eventual group winners, Belize.

Gary Sargent, the Managing Director of Escaped to Peru, is normally a member of the squad but missed this tournament due to work commitments. He explains "The current team is made up of mainly ex-pats like myself who have been nationalized". Gary goes on to say "We are actively promoting the development of cricket amongst Peruvian born young men and women and we are sure that within a few short years we will be able to field a complete team of native Peruvians". Until that happens the nationalized members in the side will continue to represent Peru in a sport that is not yet fully recognized by the Peruvian authorities despite being supported by the ICC, the world governing body.

Some of the private bi-lingual schools in Lima such as Markham and Hiram Bingham are running cricket coaching for their kids, both male and female, and recent junior tournaments bode well for the future. Anyone who is interested in finding out more about cricket in Peru can contact Gary via his office.

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Peru Tours – 5 Unmissable Places To Include In Your Trip

Posted in Traditions and Culture, Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on February 13, 2011

If you’re planning a Peru vacation, there’s a couple of places that you really shouldn’t miss – especially if this is your first trip to Peru. Here are 5 place in Peru that you should include in your Peru tour plans.

1) Machu Picchu
Everyone has heard of the world famous UNESCO World Heritage site, and you’ve probably seen the picture of the impressive Inca ruins rising out of the cloud forest. No matter how many times you’ve seen the image, nothing compares to actually standing and looking down over the site. If you really want to go for the traditional Machu Picchu experience, try to book yourself onto the Inca Trail, a four day trek that follows a 500 year old Inca path and finishes at the site.

2) Amazon Jungle
Half of Peru is covered by the Amazon Rainforest which provides a home to the greatest concentration of animal and plant life on earth and incredible bio-diversity. The main areas that are visited by travelers are the Tambopata and Iquitos regions which can be reached relatively easily. The Peruvian Rainforest is a truely spectacular environment even if you are not a complete animal or bird enthusiast!

3) Nazca lines
Best seen from a light aircraft, the Nazca lines are a set of ancient drawings on the surface of a desert in southern Peru  that range from simple lines to complex images like monkeys and spiders. Some figures are more than 200m across, and archaeologists are still debating hotly as to the origin and purpose of these mysterious lines as they can only really be fully viewed while flying!

4) Lake Titicaca
This lake sits 3,811m above sea level and is the largest lake by volume of water in South America and is shared with Bolivia. Visitors can navigate the lake by small boat and visit the various islands dotted around it’s vast area, as well as paying a visit to the famous Uros floating reed islands made by the inhabitants who still to this day live and work on their self-constructed homes.

5) Colca Canyon
The second deepest canyon in the world (the deepest being the Cotahuasi next door), Colca Canyon offers visitors the opportunity for some spectacular hiking and other adventure and cultural activities. It’s also recognized as one of the best places to see the famous Andean condor, the largest land bird in the world with a wingspan of 3.2 metres.

Visiting all 5 sites
Depending on the time constraints of your vacation, it’s possible to visit all these sites as part of the same trip. However, to do this independently normally requires a lot of time to organize transport and travel between the different sites (many of which are hundreds of miles apart) let alone sort out logistics once you arrive. If you are planning on taking a Peru vacation where you have less than a couple of weeks to play with and want to see this top 5 it is generally advisable to book with a Peru tour operator.

Have you visited any of the sites mentioned above? What other spectacular places would you recommend for Peru vacations

Author: Gary Sargent – Escaped to Peru / Escaped to Latin America

Cusco and Puno Handicrafts

Posted in Traditions and Culture by escapedtoperu on September 5, 2010

A visit to any market or museum in Peru will demonstrate the great assortment of crafts and textiles, many of which come from the Cusco and Puno highlands areas. They are the result of centuries of historical development, with pre-Hispanic shapes abounding and merged with other symbols brought over by the Spaniards. Peruvian crafts and textiles have a unique and complex identity with a touch of innocence in their native art.

Styles of Pottery Design in Cusco and Puno
The works of Peruvian artisans display weaving with a harmony of geometric designs, the cultural elements blending with the retalbo boxed scenes, miniature pictures of peasant life on carved gourds. Sculptures produced include stone, wood and gold and silver relics as well as many forms of pottery. The Inca tradition has heavily influenced the pottery of Cusco. The Inca Renaissance was a movement that helped to revitalize Cusco art and resulted in a great many pieces of pottery, including flower motifs, dishes and a variety of types of crockery. Another style of Cusco pottery is known as the grotesque tradition, a design created by Eriberto Merida and derived from the figurines in Quinua pottery. This style tends to display rough characters such as peasants and picture of Christ with facial features that are deformed and hands that are over sized.

A Load of Bull
One of Peru’s most well-known pieces of pottery that is created by the artisans of Puno is a ceramic bull. It originated as a sacramental element during the branding of cattle ceremony. Shaped as a flask, the bull figure was used to hold something known as chiha, a mixture of the blood of cattle, which was then drunk by the high priest conducting the ceremony. Churches, country chapels and homes are also created by Puno potters and their humble designs are typically covered by a white glaze. In addition, potters include designs and figurines depicting musicians, dancers and different types of flora and fauna from the area around Lake Titicaca.

Textiles of Cusco and Puno
An important source of income for many mountain communities, including Cusco and nearby markets such as Pisac and Chinchero is the production of textiles. In these areas can be found a great number of weaving cooperatives and exhibitions of native textiles. Weavers have been creating textiles for many generations. The region from which the textile comes plays a large part in the color and quality of the designs and defining a personal and community identity.

The weaving display symbols that are visual metaphors of the relationship between the physical and spiritual world and the Quecha people. Cusco textiles are primary woven by hand from alpaca or the wool of sheep. The process starts with the yarn being spun by hand on drop-spindles and then colored using natural dyes from extracts from plants, insect larvae or mineral oxides. A loom is then used to produce the weaving. It may take up to several months to produce larger items such as shawls or ponchos. The weavers more often than not sell their pieces directly to the public, giving them an opportunity to discuss the significance of the design and symbolism and for the buyer to praise the work.

Each textile is a unique and beautifully made item and purchasing such textiles directly from the community serves to help the local economy and preserve local self-esteem as well as contribute to a tradition and culture that has remained unchanged for hundreds of years. If you are on a trip to Peru, be sure to include a trip to a handicrafts market in either the Puno or Cusco region to be amazed by the cultural legacy on display, and even have a chance to take a piece of it home with you.

Author: Gary Sargent – Escaped to Peru / Escaped to Latin America

Great response to new Lima tour program from Escaped to Peru

Posted in Traditions and Culture by escapedtoperu on August 27, 2010

Lima, the capital of Peru, is a city that many tourists have traditionally avoided spending much time in. A new city tour designed and run by the tour company Escaped to Peru is changing the perception of visitors to this huge South American metropolis.

The tour company Escaped to Peru has received a great response to its new format Lima city tour. Two months ago the company, based in Cusco,  decided to introduce a new format for its full day city tours in Lima giving visitors a better and more rounded experience of this South American metropolis. Passengers who have taken the new tour have been very enthusiastic about their experience and the format has been deemed a success.

Gary Sargent, Managing Director of Escaped to Peru, explains “Lima has an unwarranted bad reputation in our opinion, it is in fact a nicer, safer city than many of its Latin American counterparts. Many people elect to avoid the city and just transit to Cusco or Arequipa, which in our opinion is a shame given its rich and varied history and the interesting legacy this has left”.

The new full day city tour called “Culture and Contrasts” allows visitors to see some of the many facets of this huge city. As well as visiting the pre-Inca mud brick pyramids now surrounded by modern suburbs, plus the colonial center with its lovely ornate buildings with their wooden balconies, visitors also see some of the modern districts, both rich and poor. The extreme contrasts of Peru are made obvious as visitors are shown some of the poorest neighborhoods such as La Victoria followed by affluent areas such a San Isidro. Passengers have walking tours several times during the day allowing then to see local people doing everyday things. Lunch is taken in the Bohemian district of Barranco in a local restaurant rather than in the more touristy places in Miraflores.

Gary ends by saying “After taking this tour our passengers are left in no doubt that Lima is a very interesting city with a rich heritage and plenty of things to see and do, and they are glad they didn’t just fly in and out!”.   

A full description of the program for this guided tour can be found on the company websites.

Peruvian Music and Instruments

Posted in Traditions and Culture by escapedtoperu on August 21, 2010

The music of Peru is based on sounds from the musical roots of this ancient Andean country combined with the influences of Spanish colonial period music. There are many varieties of Peruvian music including coastal Peruvian music, traditional music from the highlands, and Peru Negro which is a fusion of traditional and afro-Caribbean themes. There is another type of popular Peruvian music that is called Huayano and is very much like Pre-Columbian music. Coastal Peruvian music has a fusion style while Andean Peruvian music is native to Peru.

Established in 1969, Peru Negro is an Afro-Peruvian style of music designed to celebrate and conserve the black culture and heritage of the Peruvian coast. It gained a reputation as it rescued conventional dance and music and became internationally recognized with the release of the album, “The Soul of Black Peru”, with songs from popular Peru Negro singers. The year 2001 saw the first international recording of the song “Sangre de un Don”, released by Time Square records. At the time Peru Negro had only twelve members but has since grown to thirty, all of whom are very talented.

The charango is the national instrument of Peru and forms a major part in much Peruvian music. It has five strings and is similar to a mandolin or ukulele. It can have a harp-like quality if it is played as a plucked instrument but can have a stronger and more rhythmic sound if played as a strumming instrument.

Other instruments used in Peruvian music are lutes, guitars, bandurrias, vihuelas, pan pipes, and rattles made from llama toenails! A very simple instrument, very popular along the coast is the “Cajon” which means “box”. It is a rectangular wooden box which has a whole in to emit sound and is simply drummed with the hands while the player sits on it!
The pan pipe is an instrument made up of five or more pipes that increase gradually in size and length, based on the principle of the closed tube, which is a tube that is closed at one end and plays a single frequency. It has long been considered a popular folk instrument and has been determined to be the first mouth organ, predecessor to the pipe organ and harmonica. Materials that make up the pipes of the pipe organ are typically bamboo or giant cane but can also be wood, plastic and metal.

The bandurria is a type of chordophone which is an instrument that makes its sounds by means of vibrating strings between two points. It was used primarily in Spanish folk music and is similar to the mandolin. The modern bandurria has twelve strings which are tuned in pairs and is classified as part of the Hornbostel Sachs set of musical instruments.

The vihuela is a type of guitar or lute derived from fifteenth and sixteenth century Spain, where its “Christian” shape made it gain popularity over the lute derived from Arabia. It typically has six strings and is very comfortable to hold. Some vihuelas do not have octave stringing in the bass but many do and each design works equally as well for its sound which is very resonant and sweet and bright. Known as “chapchas”, the llama toenail rattles are a type of percussion instrument, and are worn on the wrists while playing the drums.

When in Peru you are sure to hear the sounds of pan pipes whilst in the Andes and of course the Amazon has its own styles. In addition to traditional music you will of course hear plenty of salsa, merengue and Latin pop should you choose to sample the nightlife.
 

Author: Gary Sargent – Escaped to Peru / Escaped to Latin America

Northern Peru – The Secrets of Chachapoyas, Kuelap and Gotca Falls

Posted in Traditions and Culture by escapedtoperu on July 29, 2010

If you are considering visiting Peru on your vacation you should consider the less visited North of the country. Peru vacations are not just about Machu Picchu; there is so much more!

Chachapoyas – The Spanish Stronghold
Included in the secrets of the North is Chachapoyas, one of Peru's oldest cities with a long history and its colonial Spanish influence. This small town is located in beautiful northern Peru and its name is derived from the Chachapoyacuno, a native word meaning "mountain of mist or forest". It was originally founded on September 5, 1538 by Alonso De Alvarado and was the capital of the whole of Eastern Peru during colonial times as it served as a staging post for expeditions intended for colonizing and conquering the Amazon Jungle.

The city has remained fairly isolated until relatively recently when better roads were built connecting it with major coastal cities such as Chiclayo, Trujillo and Piura. The climate and surrounding spectacular mountain ranges make Chachapoyas a unique and beautiful destination. The colonial Spanish influence is still evident by the existence of large colonial mansions with their red clay tiled roofs, patios and wooden balconies with their surrounding orchards and gardens, and fields of sugar cane and coffee.

Around Chachapoyas
There are many attractions for tourists in and around the city of Chachapoyas. The city has three plazas which are linked by Victory Street, named after the victorious Chachapoyanos who paraded through the city on this avenue after famous battles. The main square in the city is called Saint Anna's square and is where the first church of the city was built. Historically eight days of bullfighting took place in this square during the San Juan de los Indios festivities. In the east of the city Independence Square is to be found where a monument stands to the Chachapoyan heroes from the battle of the Higos Urco that took place on June 6, 1821.

Other attractions close to the city include the Cuyana fountain which is located on the hill known as Luya Urco just west of the city. This fountain is legendary as it has a water-well sunk into a rock from which Santo Toribo de Mogrovia was able to draw water, ending a drought that was affecting the region. It is also considered a fountain of love as it is said that any man who drinks from the fountain will always be attractive to the women of the city. Anything goes with the desperate…

The Ancient Citadel of Kuelap
There are also many important archeological monuments in the areas surrounding the town that were built by the Chachapoyans. Some of these are ancient stone citadels that were built on the tops of mountains with commanding views and leaving more land open for cultivation. One of the best examples of one of these citadels is Kuelap which is three miles from the village of Tingo and one hour by dirt road from Chachapoyas.

Kuelap is a colossal structure containing millions of cubic feet of stone and presumed to have taken 200 years to construct. Its strategic location between the Marañon and Utcubamba Rivers, both tributaries of the mighty Amazon, has contributed to the fact that it still stands today. At 9,843 feet above sea level, it can be reached by car, horseback or a three to four hour hike. The main group of buildings are circular with one main access corridor, designed for maximum security and defense. Inside the huge outer walls there are over 400 buildings in total, some of which are small round stone houses with some of the larger ones measuring up to 1,969 feet long and 66 feet high. Many defensive towers were strategically placed around the complex to protect the exterior and interior of the citadel from ancient invaders.

The Waterfalls of Gotca
Gotca Falls, located a couple of hours from Chachapoyas, remained unknown to the wider world until an expedition in 2002 led by Stefan Ziemendorf, a German engineer, and a group of Peruvian explorers re-discovered it. At a height of 2,532 feet, Gotca Falls is the third highest waterfall in the world if you consider its two stage drops together. The scenery is spectacular and the 3 hour hike to the middle of the falls is well worth the effort, as you are able to stand under the torrent at the bottom of the first drop.

The Gotca falls are produced as the Cocahuayco River runs over a sharp cliff face from a high plateau and falls for the first thousand feet to a large ledge which interrupts the torrent. The river waters then meander a short distance through vegetation and fall over the side of the second cliff to continue the decent to the base of the canyon.

Although this region is relatively new to tourism, many Peruvian travel agencies have developed tours for people with an interest in archeology and a sense of adventure. A tour through the landscape and history of Peru's little known northern region can make for a magical and enchanting vacation, one that few people have had the opportunity to experience.

The Paucartambo Festival – Peru's Best Kept Secret

Posted in Traditions and Culture by escapedtoperu on July 18, 2010

If you have booked, or are researching, a Peru tour to discover the delights of the country, be sure to try to include the Paucartambo Festival. This festival, held in July each year, is a celebration of worship of the Virgin of Carmen, the patron saint of the small town of Paucartambo. For the vast majority of the year it is a quiet, remote rural town, located amidst magnificent scenery at the convergence of the Mapacho and Qengo Mayo rivers, about three hours from Cusco along a dusty narrow road.

Then for 3 days in July the town explodes! The main thrust of the spectacular Paucartambo festival takes place from July 15th to July 17th with thousands of visitors coming from all over Peru and the world to watch the town play host to one of the most fascinating and exciting fiestas in all of South America. The population of the town swells from around 1500 people to over 12,000 over these few days.

On July 15th, the festival begins with the entrance into the principal town church of all the sixteen different dance groups wearing costumes and masks in accordance with their respective customs and traditions. Meanwhile the most important dancers, Capaq Negro and Capaq Qolla, come into the building from the rear entrance singing a salute to the Virgin.

Photo by James Brunker

During the festival, the entire population of the town gathers itself in a spiritual mass that carries on along the main street, holding flowers, candles and other offerings. In the evening hours there is a glorious display of fireworks in the main square, during which different groups of Chunchos, Capag Qollas and Sagras wildly dance in the square, jumping through bonfires that have been set around the plaza. At midnight, all the dancers come together again without their elaborate costumes to solemnly pray for the Virgin in front of the closed doors of the church.

Photo by James Brunker

During the festival, the entire population of the town gathers itself in a spiritual mass that carries on along the main street, holding flowers, candles and other offerings. In the evening hours there is a glorious display of fireworks in the main square, during which different groups of Chunchos, Capag Qollas and Sagras wildly dance in the square, jumping through bonfires that have been set around the plaza. At midnight, all the dancers come together again without their elaborate costumes to solemnly pray for the Virgin in front of the closed doors of the church.

The primary day of the festival is July 16th and in the morning, the people of the town return to the main square after attending mass to receive gifts of handicrafts, fruit and toys made for them by the majordomos of each dance group. In the afternoon, the Virgin, beautifully decorated and escorted by the Capaq Chuncho, is removed from her resting place next to the main alter of the church and is carried through the crowded streets and squares of Paucartambo to the head of all the dance groups. The groups are now in their festive costumes and the respective band for each group plays its distinctive music, creating an uproar that resounds against the surrounding mountains.

The next day is a ceremony reminiscent of the ancestral cult of the dead. Each dance group parades to the cemetery through the townspeople lined up along the streets and sings to remind themselves of their ancestors and their listeners of their own mortality. In the afternoon the image of the Virgin is carried through the narrow streets of the village for the last time to the bridge named after Carlos III of Spain where all the townspeople gather silently to pay their respects and the Capaq Qolla and Capaq Negro sing a prayer of farewell.

The main square then fills again for the fiesta’s grand finale once the Virgin has been put safely to rest. Dramatics take place as dancers imitate Spanish bullfighters and a mock battle occurs recalling a war at the time of the Incas. Fighting ends when the fallen warrior dancers are taken away and the Qolla king is killed by the king of the Chunchos as his wife is taken as a trophy of war. The fiesta is officially closed the next day by the dancers doing the traditional cachapari or farewell dance.

Accommodation is difficult to find over this crazy weekend, so the best thing to ensure you can witness this fantastic and unique cultural event is to plan well ahead and get in touch with a Cusco based tour operator who has links to the local community and service providers. With their connections they will try to ensure you either get accommodation in Paucartambo or at least transport to and from the town on the days of the festival. This way you can have the rare experience of being one of the few foreigners to enjoy these incredible celebrations.

Author: Gary Sargent – Escaped to Peru / Escaped to Latin America

The Paucartambo Festival – Peru's Best Kept Secret

Posted in Traditions and Culture by escapedtoperu on July 18, 2010

If you have booked, or are researching, a Peru tour to discover the delights of the country, be sure to try to include the Paucartambo Festival. This festival, held in July each year, is a celebration of worship of the Virgin of Carmen, the patron saint of the small town of Paucartambo. For the vast majority of the year it is a quiet, remote rural town, located amidst magnificent scenery at the convergence of the Mapacho and Qengo Mayo rivers, about three hours from Cusco along a dusty narrow road.

Then for 3 days in July the town explodes! The main thrust of the spectacular Paucartambo festival takes place from July 15th to July 17th with thousands of visitors coming from all over Peru and the world to watch the town play host to one of the most fascinating and exciting fiestas in all of South America. The population of the town swells from around 1500 people to over 12,000 over these few days.

On July 15th, the festival begins with the entrance into the principal town church of all the sixteen different dance groups wearing costumes and masks in accordance with their respective customs and traditions. Meanwhile the most important dancers, Capaq Negro and Capaq Qolla, come into the building from the rear entrance singing a salute to the Virgin.

Photo by James Brunker

During the festival, the entire population of the town gathers itself in a spiritual mass that carries on along the main street, holding flowers, candles and other offerings. In the evening hours there is a glorious display of fireworks in the main square, during which different groups of Chunchos, Capag Qollas and Sagras wildly dance in the square, jumping through bonfires that have been set around the plaza. At midnight, all the dancers come together again without their elaborate costumes to solemnly pray for the Virgin in front of the closed doors of the church.

Photo by James Brunker

During the festival, the entire population of the town gathers itself in a spiritual mass that carries on along the main street, holding flowers, candles and other offerings. In the evening hours there is a glorious display of fireworks in the main square, during which different groups of Chunchos, Capag Qollas and Sagras wildly dance in the square, jumping through bonfires that have been set around the plaza. At midnight, all the dancers come together again without their elaborate costumes to solemnly pray for the Virgin in front of the closed doors of the church.

The primary day of the festival is July 16th and in the morning, the people of the town return to the main square after attending mass to receive gifts of handicrafts, fruit and toys made for them by the majordomos of each dance group. In the afternoon, the Virgin, beautifully decorated and escorted by the Capaq Chuncho, is removed from her resting place next to the main alter of the church and is carried through the crowded streets and squares of Paucartambo to the head of all the dance groups. The groups are now in their festive costumes and the respective band for each group plays its distinctive music, creating an uproar that resounds against the surrounding mountains.

The next day is a ceremony reminiscent of the ancestral cult of the dead. Each dance group parades to the cemetery through the townspeople lined up along the streets and sings to remind themselves of their ancestors and their listeners of their own mortality. In the afternoon the image of the Virgin is carried through the narrow streets of the village for the last time to the bridge named after Carlos III of Spain where all the townspeople gather silently to pay their respects and the Capaq Qolla and Capaq Negro sing a prayer of farewell.

The main square then fills again for the fiesta’s grand finale once the Virgin has been put safely to rest. Dramatics take place as dancers imitate Spanish bullfighters and a mock battle occurs recalling a war at the time of the Incas. Fighting ends when the fallen warrior dancers are taken away and the Qolla king is killed by the king of the Chunchos as his wife is taken as a trophy of war. The fiesta is officially closed the next day by the dancers doing the traditional cachapari or farewell dance.

Accommodation is difficult to find over this crazy weekend, so the best thing to ensure you can witness this fantastic and unique cultural event is to plan well ahead and get in touch with a Cusco based tour operator who has links to the local community and service providers. With their connections they will try to ensure you either get accommodation in Paucartambo or at least transport to and from the town on the days of the festival. This way you can have the rare experience of being one of the few foreigners to enjoy these incredible celebrations.

Author: Gary Sargent – Escaped to Peru / Escaped to Latin America

Soccer in Argentina – Who is Maradona, and why does he divide opinion?

Posted in Traditions and Culture by escapedtoperu on June 20, 2010

As the Soccer World Cup unfolds, it's very difficult to ignore the Argentinians. If not for being the only national squad with two victories in the group stage so far, their progress is shouted from the rooftops at press conferences and interviews by their colourful manager, Diego Maradona. If you're an Argentinian you probably love him, and if you're a soccer fanatic from anywhere else you probably can't stand him. So, who is Diego Maradona and why do so many people hate him?

Maradona was born into a poor neighbourhood of Buenos Aires, the first son after three daughters. Discovered by a talent scout at the age of ten, he played for the youth team of Argentino Juniors until the age of 12. Testament to his skill at such a young age, he would entertain spectators at senior league games as a ball-boy by showing off ball-juggling tricks at half time. This led rapidly into a string of successful contracts with clubs from Argentina and Europe, creating 258 goals from 494 appearances. Internationally his reputation is the strongest, embarrassing the best defenders in the world for 17 years whilst achieving 91 caps and 34 goals. Pretty impressive, but why does he have such a bad reputation?

A Professional Cheat; The "Hand Of God"
One of Maradona's most infamous goals was against England in the 1986 World Cup. During this time, Argentina was at war with England in the Falkland Island conflict, so much more was at stake than the match. Argentina went on to win the tournament, but as former Argentinian international Roberto Perfumo stated, "'In 1986, winning that game against England was enough. Winning the World Cup was secondary for us. Beating England was our real aim".

In a one-on-one contest with the English goalkeeper (who was about half a foot taller) Maradona won the ball from a challenge in the air by clearly using his hand to push the ball into the net. The referee didn't see the foul and awarded Argentina the goal. At a press conference after the match, Maradona claimed that the goal was scored "un poco con la cabeza de Maradona y otro poco con la mano de Dios" (a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God).

A Poor Example In His Personal Life
Not exactly a good example for young soccer players, Maradona became heavily addicted to cocaine in the 1980's, a habit that lasted almost twenty years. He gained a huge amount of weight after his retirement from professional football and became obese, requiring surgery to bring his weight down. In 2004 he was admitted to hospital for a heart attack following a cocaine overdose and alcohol abuse caused another admission to hospital in 2007. In accordance with the media circus that had evolved around his personal life, there were three false claims about his death in the month following his admission to hospital. Many of Maradona's professional peers acknowledge his problems, the following quote coming from international player Carlos Tevez;

"Although I believe in Maradona in football I sometimes question him when it comes to life, as he is wonderful in soccer and fabulous as a coach but lives a poor and dear life."

A Towering Ego
Outspoken Press Conferences and ridiculous quotes characterize Maradona; some favourites…

“The Lord helps those who help themselves.”

"I did it with the hand of reason." (After smashing the windscreen of a press photographer)

"I worked hard all my life for this. Those who say I don't deserve anything, that it all came easy, can kiss my arse."

“I am calm, … My surname is not a burden for me. It might be for others, but not for me.”

Seen By Over 100,000 People As The Son Of God
In 1998 in the city of Rosario, founders created the "Maradonian Church", complete with ten soccer and Argentinian nationalist-based commandments. Maradona is referred to by followers as D10S, a fusion of the Spanish word "Dios" (God) and the number 10 that was on his shirt during his playing days. Christians worldwide are, naturally, offended.

Despite Everything, Still Better Than Everyone Else In The History Of Football
Despite the controversy surrounding the infamous "hand of God" goal, in the same match Maradona sealed Argentina's victory with a 60 yard run beating no fewer than five England players in ten seconds. The effort was labelled "Goal of the Century" because it was deemed the greatest individual goal in the history of the game. That wasn't just a flash in the pan either – in a FIFA internet vote, he finished in first place as "Player of the Century", testament to his incredible sporting skill, despite everything else. Makes that big ego even harder to swallow…

If Argentina make 2010 the year of their World Cup victory or not, the name of Maradona will no doubt prevail. Any visitors to Argentina who ask for local opinions about Maradona are more likely to get an animated reply about the man than a non-committal shrug of the shoulders; for all his faults, you can't deny that he's lived with typical Latin American passion, and aroused the same in others.

Author: Gary Sargent – Escaped to Peru / Escaped to Latin America

How To Dance The Tango Like They Do In Argentina

Posted in Traditions and Culture by escapedtoperu on June 14, 2010

It's time to tango!  Few dances rival the passion and showiness of the tango, the dance that everyone associates with Argentina.  Celebrity dancing shows like Dancing With The Stars and Strictly Come Dancing are popping up all over the world, showing us all that anyone can have a go, but where do you start?  Try these useful pointers…

1) Listen to the music a lot to get the "feel"
Familiarity with music gets your body moving nicely to it, and feeling is everything with the tango; experts say that you must really learn to listen to the music before you start to dance.  Do it whenever and wherever you can; in the car, at work, just before you go to sleep.  If you find after a few weeks that you can't stop listening, you may have just found a life-long passion!

2) Get comfortable with the basic steps to find you dancing feet
Tango as a dance is very free-form, based in improvisation.  However, before you can let your feet do the talking, you need to train yourself in the basic moves and steps.  To get helpful pointers and be surrounded by others to keep you motivated, find a local dance school or, even better, dance with someone who already knows it.  Failing either of these, don't let circumstances kill your passion; try finding instructional videos on the Internet, a much easier alternative to reading a list of foot movements or trying to decipher pictures.

3) Persevere…
Like everything in life, only regular practice will get you going smoothly, and tango is no exception.  Beginners must devote lots of time to solo practice and it is widely acknowledged that big advances can, and must, be made in tango without a partner.  As you "walk your miles", try to move like you are already an excellent dancer; the dance is as much about attitude and communicating yourself as anything else.  You may find yourself more convincing than you think!  Also try and make your practice a regular commitment; it is common knowledge that the successful dancers are those that book a month of classes and show up to every one.

4) It takes two; find a partner
Once you've put in the time with your own steps, it's time to get someone else involved.  Even though tango isn't a subtle way to meet people, make sure you dance with lots of different partners so that you don't get lazy being accustomed to the way one other person dances; everyone is different, and if you are improvising you should be ready for that!

5) More practice; get out there and enjoy your dancing!
Hopefully if you've dedicated yourself regularly to the previous steps, you'll have a group of people with whom you can go out and dance for fun, as well as knowing some good spots.  The free-flowing aspect of the dance will come easier with time, as moves need to come automatically from "body memory" and not from actively thinking about them; this naturally only comes with a lot of practice.

Which style to learn?
Tango evolved in Argentina as a melting pot of cultural influences from world-wide immigrants that flooded into Argentina at the beginning of the 19th century.  Lonely and looking for company in their new surroundings, the arrivals developed tango as a means to mix and express themselves beyond language.  Thus, tango is a portrayal of Buenos Aires and its people.  Over the last 100 years many different styles have evolved, including Ballroom, Social and Stage.  Many consider the styles to be so drastically different that if you have learnt one, it won't form a basis to help you learn another. 

True or not, the best way to learn Argentinian tango is to follow it to the source.  Numerous companies run entire tours based around exploring Buenos Aires through learning to dance the tango.  As well as an unforgettable adventure, you'll be sure of learning a pure-blooded form of the passionate, dramatic and beautiful dance that everyone wants to be good at.