Monday 12 May 2014

Our quest to visit a Peña

In South America, peñas are or (are supposed to be) bars or restaurants where people get together to play traditional folkloric music, eat, drink and be merry. Intrigued, we first attempted to go to a peña in Arequipa, Peru.

However, the one listed in the Lonely Planet just didn’t exist. We asked a couple of locals if they knew where it was. They didn’t. One of them looked it up on his iphone and found the Lonely Planet entry and sent us off in the direction of where it was supposed to be, but it simply wasn’t there. We walked up and down the road looking at the street numbers but just could not find it.

Cover band in a bar in Arequipa
We gave in and found a bar with some live music instead. The band were quite good, but listening to Oasis covers in a bar in Peru wasn’t quite the authentic evening we were after, even with the extra beer that was donated to us by two very drunk Peruvians.

We did better on our second search for a peña in La Paz, Bolivia. We actually found the venue! There was nobody there when we arrived around 8.30, but the Lonely Planet said it didn’t really get started until at least 10 and so we settled into a very cozy and lovely bar next door (Etno cafe cultural) for a few drinks.

We hadn’t eaten and started to get hungry and so around 10, we took the plunge and became the first clients for the peña that evening. We ordered some food and were assured that the music would get going later when more people arrived. Around 10.30pm a French couple joined us and also ordered some food. They were told that the music would start when the audience reached 15, so only 11 more to go!

Empty Marko Tambo Pena on Calle Jaen, La Paz

The French couple gave up almost immediately, but we were more determined and hung on for at least another 20 minutes (we’d also ordered more food than them).  Eventually, we admitted defeat and went back to the cozy bar next door for a few more drinks before heading back to the hotel. We walked back past the peña, just to check there hadn’t been a last minute rush of people. It was closed.

We’ve still got 5 months left of our trip and there are supposed to be peñas in Chile and Argentina too, so I haven’t quite given up hope yet! Although I’m not sure if I’ll be able to convince James to go peña hunting for a third time, but watch this space!

Have you been to a peña? Where was it? Was it actually open?! And did you enjoy it?

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