Peruvians go wild about fútbol or soccer, which is the main social activity in small towns across Peru. Matches, such as a claissico between Alianza Lima and Universitario de Deportes (“La U”), fill stadiums throughout the year in major cities across Peru. Cienciano, an underfunded team from Cusco, made world news when it defeated huge, internationally acclaimed teams such as River Plate in Argentina and Santos of Brazil—Pele’s old team. In December 2003 Cienciano became the first Peruvian team ever to win the coveted Copa Sudamericana.
Despite the general lack of financial support from the Peruvian government to sports, surfing and, more recently, boxing have made headlines in recent years due to the world championships obtained. Kids in Lima and other parts of coastal Peru often grow up surfing, and it is no surprise that several Peruvians are among the world’s top-ranked international surfers.
Volleyball is also a quite popular sport, especially among the female crowd. The Peruvian women’s team was one of the dominant forces in the 1980s, culminating in the silver medal won at the Seoul 1988 Olympics. Paragliding has always been popular in Lima, where thermals rise along the ocean cliffs and allow hours of aerial acrobatics. Other adventure sports such as rafting, kayaking, mountain biking, trekking, and especially mountain climbing have lured a generation of young Peruvians who often make a living working as guides for foreigners.
Bullfighting is a long-running and nowadays controversial tradition that can be traced back to Peru’s colonial days. Lima’s bullfighting season begins with the Señor de los Milagros (Lord of the Miracles) religious festival in October. Limeños and fans in general pack the city’s main bull ring, the historic Plaza de Acho, to see the Sunday-afternoon contests featuring internationally acclaimed bullfighters from Peru and Spain. Bullfighting is a standard part of many festivals celebrated in Peru’s highland towns, despite animal rights organizations that have increasingly questioned and opposed this centuries-old tradition.
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition