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The Soy Andina Blog

Searching for hip hip, we meet the legends…

I love it when stuff like this happens.

Back in Lima we realized we could use some archival footage of hip-hop for Cynthia's story: hip hop's been a big part of her life since the age of 16, and the movie will show her making the connection between hip-hop and folklore. I wrote to some film lists and filmmakers and got nowhere. But when I returned to New York, there was a postcard nestled in the stack of bills:

City Lore and The Point Present:
a screening of the rough cut of the documentary
From Mambo to Hip Hop: Music & Survival in the South Bronx
When: 6:00 pm, Saturday, June 11th
Where: The Point, 940 Garrison Avenue, Bronx

Favorite books (and software) that help me make a film

No, I'm not talking about books that focus on making documentaries. (Though I've got a few, my favorite being Alan Rosenthal's).

I'm talking more universal topics - procrastination, avoidance and resistance. Know what I'm talking about? These are the two best books I've ever seen on the subject: Now Habit and War of Art. Do they help? I won't make cheap jokes about not getting around to reading them yet. 'Cause I have and yes, I'm working them a bit. Biggest revelation: my tendency to get so wrapped up in this work that I convince myself I don't have time to exercise or have fun. And how counter-productive that actually is.

On a more grounded plane - money and taxes. For four years, I've tried to figure out best way to keep track of money and tax stuff as an independent. I'm usually obsessively organized but never felt like I had a handle on this. Then stumbled upon June Walker and her new book Self-Employed Tax Solutions. Been looking for something like this for years.

Back in the USA…but for how long?

Been back USA for three weeks. Yikes, this is my first blog entry since returning. Bud, my blog/web guru, must be seething but hopefully I'll placate him with this and more frequent posts. So what's going on? Being back has been unsettling, to say the least. I sublet my place through August so I'm staying at friends, which is wierd when it's your own city. And not just any city but New York, which isn't exactly the most laid back place to find your bearings. The plan coming back was to stay about 6 weeks and find at least $15,000 to continue the editing work in Peru. Plus show work-in-progress to trusted folks. But everything's kind of been derailed. My mother got very sick. So I spent last week outside of Nashville, TN (she moved there last year to live with my sister). She's stabilized for now but I'm wrestling about when to return.

eNewsletter: April 2005


>>>S O Y A N D E - N E W S <<<

E-news about the making of "Soy Andina"
A dazzling documentary/dance journey from NY to Peru

2005 Issue #16

Dear friends:

I'm returning to New York from Lima on April 28 for 4-6 weeks to get feedback and look for final funding (about $15,000). Plus see old friends and family, eat bagels, run in Central Park, and attend my U. of Pennsylvnia alumni reunion - things you just can't find in Peru.

I'll be carrying DVDs with new clips - but if you've got a fast connection, have a peak now at

A longer "rough cut" is still being worked on, and I plan to get that shipped up to NY later in May.

Nelida Photos




Llamellin, 1927 to Port Chester, 2005: Some Things Haven’t Changed

I always remember the story of my grandmother Genadia. I was told that she was fired from her government job when the male authorities learned that she was expecting a baby (my mother) without getting married. That was in 1927. She held a job as an elementary teacher in one of those little towns far away from Llamellin. Probably a place nobody wanted to go, especially the “super macho men” for whom it was OK to have children without marrying their girlfriends or taking any responsibility.

In those days, women had no rights or voice. They couldn’t vote and few were schooled (Gendadia was actually one of the few exceptions; my other beautiful grandmother, Ines, was illiterate). What’s more, women weren’t conscious of their situation; they accepted that situation as normal.

For a “lady” to become pregnant without getting married was not only a disgrace to the family and the town, it invited all kinds of punishments, starting from the “male God,” to the male authorities and male family members. The authorities didn’t care whether she was going to get economic support from the father of the expected child. In most cases there was not even a “legal” recognition of the child. The Catholic Church supported these practices, of course, because in those times the only legal marriage was the “religious” one.

My grandmother was fired not only from her job but from her life as well. Her crime was to fall in love with the wrong guy and to become a single mother. “Punishment” imposed by the “male lawmakers” left her without income.

The guilt and pressure women endured in those times is beyond my understanding. My poor grandmother, instead of hating the male authorities or religious organizations responsible for the “macho mentality,” became more religious and obediently confined herself to imprisonment for life. Society cut her freedom, her beauty and her heart. I never saw her going out, nor attend any social event in town except church.

I imagine my grandmother as the subject of the movie “The Scarlet Letter.” Like her, there were - and still are – many other women in town who had endured the hardship of rules imposed by the “machos” that put all the responsibility and blame on women who followed their own will. But that was in 1927, when my mother was born. My grandmother remained single and in the “jail” of her house, her garden, and her endless knitting up to her death.

Yet here in 2005 in Port Chester, NY - a growing Peruvian community just 45 minutes from New York City - neither time nor place seems to have changed the attitudes of some people. I wasn’t fired like my grandmother, nor did I have a baby without getting married. But I was singled out and harassed in my own business because, according to the “macho thinking,” I was “smiling and talking in a flirtatious way” to married men, disturbing the peaceful lives of these poor male victims (who by the way, have the right to smile and flirt even though they are married.) But I was also committing the sin to behave as “equal” as men; I forgot that in the 1920’s women were not supposed to make mistakes because all the decisions were made by men. Therefore men's mistakes were taken as normal.

Unlike my grand-mother who was fired, I decided to stand up before shutting “my doors” to a “macho town” that cannot stand independent women who speak
up and shine. I am outraged to still find people (male and female) who think the same way as Llamellinos did in the 1920s. It’s sad to see that some immigrants in Peruvian communities in the USA make their lives a simple routine, probably watching only soap -operas, “el show de laura,” going to malls, or gossiping. I understand - work might be hard, depression and loneliness may take over. I would like to think they might not have the time to see, with wide open eyes, a beautiful life exists beyond the “macho” world.

I smile now, thinking that in 2005 in New York, I could be a very happy single mother if I wanted to. And how proud my female ancestor, including
the divinity of Pachamama, would be, knowing that at this time women not only have choices in their lives but have the tools to defend themselves, and we can laugh in the face of any man who tries to shut us down.

Procrastination Breakthrough

Within an hour of writing the last entry about procrastination, I wrote what I was procrastinating about - a script for the first part of Cynthia's story. Took about 3 very focused hours. Later that night I met the editing team, and they were delighted. Which in turn gave me a big burst of confidence. Now I have to continue - finishing her script, then shifting to Nelida's. But today my mind is weighted down with thoughts again about money - emails to sponsor prospects, the NYSCA (New York State Council of the Arts) proposal, paying my bills, negotiating a deal with Perfo the sound studio. I feel like I never can properly immerse or finish one job or the other, right brain left brain right brain left leaves both sides very weary. OK, I can fundraise and do it well. Yes I can conceive, shoot and write a story. But geez, both at same time...I always read about all these people who do it all and I really don't know how.


Shaman’s March

Yesterday I met Juan Jose again. He's a Spaniard living in Cuzco who runs an agency that organizes shamanic and alternative healing programs in the Peruvian jungle. He's written a treatment for a documentary about shamans and thinks I'm a guy who can help find money or distribution for it in the US market. To my surprise, I agreed to meet again. At first I was wary. For one thing, the perception I'm an instant pipeline to money because of my American passport or resume. Two, the shaman/alternative healing theme. Personally it's an interest of mine - but God (or whatever term Shamans use) only knows how many people probably have pitched films on the subject. But Juan seems to have actual connections to Spanish funding and distribution in Madrid, which I researched a bit, and wants me to meet with them next month here in Lima. Also, I like him personally - he's a thoughtful guy, a pharmacist by background who's really got knowledge about the topic. And Raul and I have talked about pitching other projects with a shared cross-cultural theme. This could fit as another project in the pipeline. But I must be diligent about not getting distracted or wasting time, there is none to waste.

By the way, the log entry title refers to one of my favorite documentaries of all time, Sherman's March by Ross McElwee. I think when I started yearning to make a documentary I had something like that in mind - personal, funny, quirky, moving.

Fear and procrastination

Last couple of nights I didn't sleep much, my mind obsessed with all things I need to do to get this film done, and realization of how much I avoid or procrastinate, usually in the name of "there's a million other things to get off my plate first" or "I'm too tired I'll wait for a better block of time" or something like that. Take this blog itself, I find myself resisting doing it mightily, have never gotten into the rhythm, the habit of just doing it. When I started this blog a few months ago I had some vague idea that I would intimately share the inner workings of the creative process, and be a fun thing to do besides. And that's not the case, yet. But I keep going in fits and starts. My friend and Blog consultant Bud ( is on my case now more to just keep blogging and it's helped. You know, I need people and deadlines to please and be accountable to. Otherwise stuff doesn't get done.

It's funny how this blog spell checker keeps flagging "Blog" and "blogging."

But enough self-referential blog stuff. There are more important things I am procrastinating about today, namely:

1. I must get a proposal to TIM, the cell-phone company that I met with weeks ago to pitch for sponsorship.
2. Review the editing script and delve into the transcripts
3. Asking someone for money to save my ass for this month

When really I would just prefer to crawl under the covers you know?

We’re gonna be on NPR!

Hey, now this is press we like.

I got an email from an Oakland-based journalist Reese Erlich last month. We were connected by Global Exchange, a cool organization I traveled to Cuba with four years ago on a cultural exchange program (before the Bushies decided to ban that in the name of Freedom. Don't get me started....)

Reese was planning to file a few stories about Peru, and I suggested a few ideas and contacts. Turns out one of the stories he liked was ours! Or I should say more accurately, Cynthia's. Hip-hop Latina New York girl travels to Peru to come to grips with cultural identity while plunging into folkloric dance world. Perfect fit for Latino USA, a weekly show airing on NPR stations.

Cynthia was in fabulous form, spinning tales from her "gangster" days in NY to remote villages in Peru with her unique blend of street smarts, wit and insights that continues to blow me away.

And thanks Generalisimo de Sonido Guillermo Palacios and Anamari from Perfo Sound Studio for sharing their space and expertise.

Img 1864 1-1Img 1861 1-1Img 1867 1-1

Hey, they say I’m a “Personality”

Fun and even, dare I say, witty exchange with my UK buddy and Cajon maestro David Mortara that just came out in Altopilar, an online portal to everything Peruvian.

CB-B2 means “False Money” in Peru

Saturday after the script meeting I gave Sergio some cash I owed. We walked to the money changer guy in Barranco to change the $100 bills to soles. The money changer refused to accept the bills - said the money changers and banks were not accepting this particular series, CB-B2, because there was a flood of counterfeit bills circulating from Pakistan. We were like "what"? Que cosa? Yesterday it was the big national story here - it's true, no one is accepting the money. Interbank dispensed these bills from their ATM but won't take them back! Never a dull moment here.

Earlier Clips: Cynthia dancing her way through Peru

These clips, each one minute, were beautifully cut by Sergio Garcia in Lima in 2005. For these, you'll need Windows Media Player to view. Download here if need be.

Video Clip: (Chincha, the Central Coast)

Chincha screenshot

Festejo en El Carmen (Chincha)

Click on the photo to view

Video Clip: Puno


Fiesta de la Candelaria (Puno)

Click on the photo to view

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En Español

Host a Screening



Cynthia Paniagua (New York)

Ballet Folklorico Peru (Paterson

Peru Profundo (Chicago)


Turn Right at Machu Picchu

The White Rock

American Chica

Faces of Celebration: Photographs of Peru

Shaping Society through Dance

The Guinea Pig: Healing, Food, and Ritual in the Andes


John Cohen

Danzak (Gabriela Yepes)

Cooking up Dreams (Guarango)


Fertur Travel Peru

Lima Tours

South American Explorers - Peru


NEWS (in English)

Peruvian Times


Mayu Hand-knit Alpaca

BarSol Pisco