There are so many examples of good old fashioned determination here in Peru. Of course, there are some deadbeats here. But—based on my decade and a half here—they are few and far between. Especially in Iquitos. There is very little assistance from the government. So if you want to eat you’ve got to get out and hustle.
Niki Gonzalez is a good example.
I met him my first year in Iquitos. Back then I used to go to the Boulevard most nights to watch the street comics ply their trade. The Boulevard is where the locals come to hang out. It’s about a hundred feet wide at its widest point and the length of a football field. It is sandwiched between a half dozen bar restaurants and the muddy backwater of the Amazon River.
Street vendors peddling anything from cigarettes to popcorn wander through the crowd.
At the far end of the Boulevard—near an ancient Catholic Church—is where I first met Freddie. He was born with deformed legs. So the doctor amputated both of them below the knees. Freddie would be a small man even if he had two good legs. Now he was about the size of an average midget. A cassette player blasting out rock music from the eighties, Freddie hopped around to the beat of the music, flailing his arms like he was about to take flight. Sometimes he would get on his skateboard and zip through the crowd. He never drew much of a crowd. But those of us who did watch him enjoyed the show and would toss coins at him. Regardless of the accuracy of the toss, Freddie would snatch it out of the air. Of the dozens of times I watched his show, I never saw coin hit the pavement.
I haven’t seen Freddie in years. Some say he passed away. Others insist that he he’s living with a sister in Lima. I think about him now and then. It never fails to bring a smile to my lips. Freddie never asked for a handout. He considered himself an entertainer. He had too much pride to ask for money.
“So what’s the point of this post?” you may ask.
I suppose it’s to say how much I respect the hundreds of people here who are too proud to ask for handouts. But bust their butts every day—rain or shine—to provide a meager living for their families.