I want you to take the title of this article two ways. First, that family does matter a great deal here in Peru. So family MATTERS. And secondly, and not illogically, family matters can take a lot of time and concern. FAMILY MATTERS.
Perhaps the first question is “What is a family?” My family in the U.S. consists of my two sons, an aged aunt and a few cousins scattered around the country. We could hold a family reunion in a small room.
Obviously it is different here. Let me give you an example. One of my students was showing me some photos of her daughters. There was another photo of a very young child. She said to me proudly, “this is the grand daughter of my cousin. How precious she is. She is my prima nieta— What would you call her in English?”
I searched my memory for any specific term, but realized that I had never even thought of such a relationship. In fact when I considered the matter, I realized that the network of family relationships in Peru was far more complex than any I experienced with my family in the U.S. This relationship for my student, for example, was so important that she carried that photo with her in her wallet. So family as it is defined here is much larger than what I had in the U.S and has a different meaning.
In this regard, I was reminded of the film Great Big Fat Greek Wedding where the WASP groom had just a few people on his side of the church and the bride ( from a Greek family) jam packed the other side. Here in Peru, my wife can count at least three hundred family members.
Therefore, family relationships do count for a lot. And they involve lots of people, which mean that things can get complex at times. However, I believe that families here provide an important network of support—both emotional and in other ways.
What family also offers is a rich social life that can dominate your waking hours here in Lima. With a big family, you have no trouble filling your social calendar. There are any number of occasions: weddings, birthdays, confirmations, baptisms, velorios (a service for the recently departed), and so on. It can be hard to have time for anything else.
Family also is a marvelously abundant source for gossip and discussion about the other members of the family, a favorite activity.
Personally, I feel a sense of support here that I did not experience in the U.S. Often when I had a problem there, I had a feeling that I was “on my own”. Here I feel that there is a network that will help me. And in turn I am ready and willing to provide assistance when it is needed. Therefore for the four years that I have lived in Peru I have learned one important lesson: