PYes Socially conservative, especially when it comes to sex. After all, this was once the seat of the Spanish Empire in South America, where sodomy, masturbation, and extramarital sex were punished with flogging and death. Today, gay couples cannot marry, and women are only allowed to have abortions when their lives are threatened. Prudish parents have veto power over sex education in schools. Politicians embrace the status quo. Antauro Humala, an ex-convict now aspiring to run for president, used the slur when referring to homosexuals.
Peru wasn’t always so intense, just look no further than the Moche Valley in northern Peru. For the past decade, the foggy coastal region has been a sleepy center for tourists visiting the Temples of the Sun and Moon, huge adobe monuments used as ceremonial sites by the Moche people, a group of people who live between the coasts of Colombia. Pre-Columbian civilizations of the second and eighth centuries. For the past year, however, the main tourist attraction has been at a roadside park with a carnival atmosphere. There, as reggae music blared through the speakers, visitors lined up to take selfies with a giant fiberglass statue of a Moche holding his massive penis with the other hand clenched into a fist.
Unveiled in early 2022, the statue pays homage to Moche’s “sex pot”. These ceramic vessels depict engorged genitalia and various sexual acts, from oral and anal sex to other copulations with skeletons, deities, and animals.
Hundreds of Moche sex jars survive today, offering a glimpse into the non-Western attitudes toward sex that prompted sexologist Alfred Kinsey to collect them. Although academic meanings for these jars have varied over time, today they are considered to symbolize the sacred flow of life-giving fluids, for a society that prospered by irrigating desert valleys and catching fish from the sea , long before the rise of human civilization the Inca Empire.
Dubbed a “pornographic statue of fertility” by the municipality, the homage to the Moche sex jug sparked outrage among decent people and was burned shortly after it was installed. (It’s unclear who is to blame; a case has yet to be filed.) But César Arturo Fernández, the mayor of Moche, is undeterred. He commissioned two more and eventually added six sex-themed statues featuring group masturbation, threesomes and homosexuality. At first, it was all dismissed by many Peruvians as a political stunt. But now, the original statue has become a national sensation, inspiring memes and parodies that have been worn at discos and weddings.
On a recent Saturday, visitors struck bold poses beneath the main statue’s towering phallus. Shy giggles gave way to screams. Some hugging members. Others pretend to kiss or lick it, or bow to it in adoration. Other statues invite similar play: mothers place their babies inside a cavernous vagina to recreate their births. A man strokes the testicles of a statue of a gay couple as his boyfriend takes pictures. “We took a lot of selfies,” he said. “This is our anniversary,” said Irma Liñan, a 64-year-old widow on vacation with friends, who would tell her family to come and visit her.
Not everyone is happy. On Jan. 4, conservative lawmaker Milagros Jáuregui de Aguayo proposed a law banning the display of pornographic artwork in public places. But Ulla Holmquist, director of the Larco Museum in Lima, said that whatever the original political motivations for creating the site, it offered a rare opportunity to discuss taboo. And late last year Mr Fernández was elected mayor of the much larger municipality of Trujillo. Who said Peruvians don’t want to talk about sex? ■