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Notes from Callao, Peru 1963
I am sitting in the Norwegian Consulate in Callao, Peru. The consulate itself is situated near the docks and, like most of the area, is to a certain extent run down. In terms of the way of life here, however, I would say that it subscribes to about the norm of respectability - a stuccoed front of a dirty cream color; sidewalks swept, but nonetheless with an aura of sordidness; and the interior of the building naked but for a dozen or so benches and desks at which sit representatives from not only the consulate but of the Norwegian shipping lines. General impression: functional.
This I am wont to compare to the Norwegian Consulate in the United States. San Francisco, to be specific, for there in a glass-steel building on California Street were mahogany counters, thick carpet, and modern decor hidden behind a fantastic glass door an inch thick.
The volume of traffic through the consulate here, I would say, is equal to that of San Francisco if not more. There were eight ships in the Harbor outside Callao waiting in line for berths when we arrived on Monday, five of them Norwegian.
Peru is less impressed with the non-functional and supercilious, less oriented to the ostentatious. It is unnecessary to maintain a front of any sort... such as the front of quiet wealth found in San Francisco (and I would gather at other places in the United States). In the words of our escort from the consulate, "there is no time for unemployment," which means to me that in contrast to the port cities of Mexico, Columbia, and Ecuador, Callao-Peru is bustling with that clean, new-country feeling which says that the only place in the world to go is up progressively, sponsored by some unknown motivation among the people. They are rising at great speed, streamlining themselves of the extraneous and unnecessaries of life for which they "have no time." This is America in the late 1800's but with world trade taking the place of America's internal movement west (the Turner Thesis).
A trolley car goes arrogantly past outside as Peru climbs.