Wed | Jan 26, 2022

‘Jamaica Free Town’ in Lima, Peru

Published:Thursday | July 4, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Lima, Peru, is a comfortable place for the solo traveller who appreciates long walks and city gardens. The only curiosity for local Peruvians was whether the black tourist in their midst was from Brazil or Cuba. The answer was always surprising and initiated friendly conversations.

After a visit to the National Archaeological Museum, I started on another quest to discover MuseoLarco. I asked directions back to the National Archeological Museum. After another few minutes of walking, I started to feel lost (now this is the part in the story where myth can meld with reality), but I could have sworn I heard a voice sing, “ No woman no cry.” I looked up and glanced at the word ‘Jamaica’ on a restaurant board. The sign said ‘Jamaica Free Town’. I looked through the spacious, wooden-framed opening. There, on the wall, was a picture of Bob Marley sitting on the grass with a football. It was like a magnet, and I was hungry.

A young Afro-Peruvian waitress told me I could sit anywhere and I sat under the picture Bob with his football. The ambiance was nice, no music, but I had the feeling that things really rock here at night.

The waiter, also Afro-Peruvian, saw my incredulous look when I noticed the huge photo of Bob Marley on the far wall. “Is the owner Jamaican?” I asked. “No, he just loves Bob Marley,” he replied. I quickly looked at the menu, hoping for jerked chicken, salt fish, anything.

I asked the waiter if there were other Jamaican-style restaurants in Lima, and was told this was the only one. I explained that I was visiting from Canada, and have Jamaican roots, and couldn’t wait to tell my friends back home about this place. I ordered the salad and fried trout ( Sudado de pescado), which was delicious, and declined the very tempting desserts.

Before I left the restaurant, the waiter offered to take my photo with Bob in the background. The whole experience was surreal. What were the chances of coming across the only Jamaican-themed restaurant in Lima while lost? Sometimes when you are far from home, fate conspires to connect you to your roots when you least expect it. As I left the restaurant to continue my journey, I knew – ‘everything’s gonna be alright.’