An Interview with Mario Guevara
By Vicente Revilla
Photo by Vicente Revilla
Revilla: As for defining the meaning of the literature of bricherismo,
where was the concept born? Why there? What is your role in that literary
movement? Who are its primary literary exponents?
Mario Guevara: The literature of bricherismo signifies a shift in the body of Peruvian literature. This is because it represents a social, economic, and cultural phenomenon that is developing in cities, such as Cusco, which experience a massive influx of international tourists. In addition, this theme offers enormous possibilities for expression in different literary genres. Well now, the brichero is that person who assumes, as his manner of making a living, social relations with foreign female tourists and who, adopting a unique lifestyle and outfitting himself in all manner of peculiar accessories, tries to obtain social and economic benefits that give him the fleeting illusion of success, but which really make his marginality and dependency quite obvious.
The brichero, as a literary personage, was born in Cusco, that epitome of a tourist city, in 1989. The character was the basis of “Cazador de Gringas” [“Gringa Hunter”], a story of mine which was published in Origen, an archeological review. No one knows who coined the actual term “brichero”; it is only known that people came to use that word to designate a man who was having relations with foreign women tourists. Scholars say the word appeared at the end of the 1970s, came into greater currency in the ‘80s especially in the taverns, pubs, and cafes of Cusco. One supposes that the word is derived from the English word “britches” or “breeches,” that is to say trousers or short pants, an article of clothing that has an intimate relationship with the service lent by these Latin lovers.
To tell the truth, I believe that my accomplishment is in having contributed a character to Peruvian literature. Never before had any Peruvian writer dealt with this subject. Afterward, I wrote the story, “Tourist Guide,” in 1991, in which once again appeared the brichero character. Moreover, the story “Gringa Hunter” was produced as a play by the Grupo Impulso, a Cusqueno theater company in 1991. Following that, other productions were done in which other national troupes took part.
Now as the years go on, other writers have engaged the subject of the brichero. This character has appeared in a number of short stories and novels including “Buscando un inca" [“In Search of an Inca”] a 1993 story by Luis Nieto Degregori; Inka Trail, a 1997 novel by Oswaldo Chanove; Noche de cuervos [Night of the Ravens] a novel by Raul Tola, published in 1999; Miguel Arribasplata’s 2001 novel Bajada de reyes [The Fall of Kings]; La morada de hastio [The House of Excess], a 2001 novel by Carlos Rengifo; “La danza de la lluvia” [“The Rain Dance’], a story by Jorge Flores Aybar, published in 2002; and La Orgia del moro [The Moor’s Orgy], Luis Gallego’s 2002 novel.
It is paradoxical that only in Peru does one write about this subject and not in other countries with a greater or lesser influx of international tourists. In countries like Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico and others, bricheros exist, but they are known by other names. Furthermore, the writers in those regions have not taken into account the enormous literary possibilities that this subject offers.
VR: Mario, is there anything such as the hour of the brichero? Someone told me that four o’clock in the afternoon meant something important, that at that time that one sees bricheros in Cusco’s central square, the Plaza de Armas.
MG: They appear in the Plaza de Armas no matter what the time of day because the foreign women always mill about there. The bricheros like midday when the king star is most potent. They go out to sun themselves after a night of revelry. I believe that that habit does not have any real meaning for them. It just allows them to check out the state of the “market.”
VR: And of this brichero or fortune hunter, wouldn’t one say that in a certain way he is like those characters in the movie How to Marry a Millionaire with Marilyn Monroe, the movie about the women of humble means in search of millionaires?
MG: The only parallel that can exist with the movie How to Marry a Millionaire is that the bricheros, no matter how humble they are, don’t look for millionaire gringas, but foreign women who have some amount of money, who can foot the bill for the days that they spend together. That would be for food, drink, and lodging expenses. And if the brichero is lucky, and this does occur once in a while, the gringa pays to bring him to her country. But, the brichero, in a stoic manner has to endure the wild moods and rages of the gringa. She could be a nymphomaniac or a drug addict. Or someone who is emotionally disturbed. He has to give himself up to her totally to get a little money, given that the economic situation in Peru is catastrophic. It can happen that a brichero successfully meets up with a foreign woman, but that only happens in the movies.
VR: Now in the book An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser, the main character seduces a girl of humble means. How is the brichero different from those characters?
MG: In regard to the book by Theodore Dreiser, I will tell you that a brichero will absolutely never search for an impoverished foreign woman. If he ever did that that, he would have to be crazy in love because a poor gringa is a burden to him. It is possible that it could happen, but it is a rarity because the bricheros look for gringas who have a solid economic situation. Also, the foreign women who arrive in Cusco work in some way and have some money. In the event that the woman and the brichero marry, he would travel to her country, and he would certainly have to work in order to share household expenses. If he does not work (and that work could be cooking, doing the wash, or other tasks), the gringa, with a swift kick, would send him back where he came from.
VR: And what is the future of the brichero as a literary character?
MG: We will have bricheros as long as Cusco is the point at which foreign women from various parts of the world converge and as long as Cusco conserves its archeological sites, which have been suffering damage for decades. Bricheros might change their style of dress, their methods for winning over women tourists, or they might adopt other amorous practices. But there will always be colorful bricheros hanging around.
VR: Gringa Hunter, that’s a book with a strongly-worded title, isn’t it?
MG: About the title, I will tell you that I have always seen bricheros as hunters lying in wait for their prey. They know precisely the places the gringas frequent, and they are there for the ambush just like a hunter who knows in detail the moment when his victims will appear. It’s just that they use different tactics to trap their prey.
VR: As a way of bringing this interview to a close and giving a bit of humor to this conversation, tell me: are you still a brichero? Would your fondest desire be to have some gringa carry you off to her castle in Switzerland and there, while you teach Andean mysticism to the Europeans, you would benefit by dedicating yourself to writing the novel of all novels about bricherismo? Do you dream about that?
MG: I have distanced myself from the brichero life for more than a decade because I now dedicate myself exclusively to writing. It was an entertaining period of my life. It grew out of my adolescence, and for me those relation- ships were important because they taught me to know gringas better and instructed me bit more about their cultures. Now, if a gringa appeared who had a castle, not a shabby or rundown one, I would run off with her. I have always wanted to live in a castle even for only one night. As for a novel about bricheros, I will surely write one. It is a question of having enough time and peace to do the writing.
VR: Good luck and thank you for the interview.
(Vicente Revilla lives in Brooklyn,
New York and is a librarian at the Borough of Manhattan Community College,
CUNY. His photographs have been exhibited in New York City, Hawaii, Lima
and other cities in Peru [http://www.photo-galeria.com]. His work has also
been published in magazines like Society, Libri, Community Review
and Hudson River. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)