I think I just witnessed the impetus for the revolution of George Orwell’s animals in Animal Farm. The Friday feria in Inquilpata is really quite a sight — enough so in fact, we weren’t even the only white people there. Two tour vans pulled up Friday morning and European tourists stood on the side of the road gawking, slack-jawed at the weekly market to buy and sell animals…among other things. Mads and I were there to meet Oscar and Baltezar to sell our fattest pig, and also buy some piglets, rabbits and replacement ducklings.

To find the pig section we meandered through dozens of gorgeous, dirty-blond dairy cows munching on cut alfalfa and followed the sound of screaming to the source. The many burly Peruvian woman selling their pigs seemed completely unfazed by the objective wails coming from their tied up, up-side-down, prodded, harnessed and bagged chanchos. Making a path through moving, screeching sacs on the ground, and stakes tethering larger more energetic pigs, we decided to wait for Oscar and Baltezar on the edge of the action.

As prospective buyers walk through the pig section, the saleswomen try to entice them by unveiling their piglets from nylon sacs, lifting up them up by their ankles, and pointing eagerly at their two perfect rows of 16 nipples. Apparently this is what everyone wants to see. If the buyer is interested in a larger pig, the woman will flip the chancho onto its back, and shove a stick in its mouth to keep it from biting her while she grabs its tongue and taps its teeth. The only downside here is you’d think the pig wouldn’t be able to scream with a cane-sized stick in its mouth, only it really doesn’t seem to make a difference. The sound is somewhat deafening, especially when combined with the background noise of surly cows, diesel engines and some guy with a megaphone desperately selling blankets. Once the saleswoman hooks a buyer, it’s just a matter of tying a rope around the pig’s back ankle and another loop around its neck.

As I was just starting to get used to the whole feria process, I saw something totally surprising yet utterly Peruvian. In the midst of this hog-tying mess, food vendors would pass through selling the usual gelatina, galletas and other sticky sweets. And to my amazement people were actually buying them. Call me a newbie, but for some reason after poking at pigs and carrying poop-laden sacs around I’m not exactly in the mood to suck ice cream out of a bag. But, I guess I’m in the minority here.

September 20, 2013