May 18, 2019
We set out to write a blog post about literary references to Peruvian pisco
since the word “pisco” was first documented in Peru in the 16th
century. It was pleasantly surprising to find that many prominent writers from
around the world have written about Peruvian pisco over the course of five
However, our euphoria soon dissipated when we realized that none of the
historical texts we studied were written by women. While we do appreciate the
literary contributions of males, especially when the subject is pisco, we
decided to scrap our original blog idea. The absence of women in this realm
compelled us to discuss a subject that is even more pressing for us: the gender
Gender inequality is not just a historical phenomenon and it is not limited
to published works. It is prevalent and oppressive in present day, from the way
we divide household duties to the lack of women in management level positions.
As explained in Global Issues: Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment,
“Globally, women have fewer opportunities for economic participation than men,
less access to basic and higher education, greater health and safety risks, and
less political representation”. This issue affects every country. In fact, it
is so ubiquitous that it will take 108 more years to close the gender gap
around the world (World Economic Forum).
Although this may seem dire, there are ways to accelerate equality between
the sexes. One way is by celebrating the achievements of females. The National
Women’s History Alliance encourages people to recognize the dignity and accomplishments
of women because it promotes higher self-esteem in girls and greater respect
toward women in boys. As a result, girls perform better in school and
communities become less violent. Greater self-esteems and appreciation of women
are not universal cures, but they are an important part of the process of
achieving gender equality.
Taking this advice of the National Women’s History Alliance, we would like
to highlight the accomplishments of one admirable female poet, Blanca Varela.
As a bonus, we will demonstrate how Peruvian pisco played a role in her
Considered one of Peru’s greatest poets, Blanca Varela was born in Lima in
1926. Her mother, Serafina Quinteras, was a composer, poet, writer, singer and
journalist. Following her mother’s footsteps and with persuasion from Octavio
Paz, Blanca published her first poetry book in 1959. She won many awards in her
lifetime, including the Federico García Lorca International Poetry Prize in
2006. She was the first woman to ever receive that prestigious award.
In a short note titled “Amigos, fantasmas y recuerdos”, written in 1974,
Blanca discussed the pisco cocktails she frequently drank at the Peña Pancho
Fierro, a gathering place in the Plaza de San Martín in downtown Lima. She
didn’t reveal the “secret recipe” of the pisco concoction with macerated fruit.
However, she did discuss how inspired she felt in the intimate company of
Peru’s most prominent artistic figures. The “magic circle” included Sebastián
Salazar Bondy, Teresa Carvallo, Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, Martín Adán, César
Moro and Fernando de Szyszlo. In “Amigos, fantasmas y recuerdos”, Blanca
sentimentally recalls the time she spent at the Peña Pancho Fierro
(Jochamowitz). We are happy pisco was part of that experience.
Recognizing Blanca Varela is a small advancement in closing the gender gap.
We hope her accomplishments will forge a path for other females in the future
so the next time we revisit written works about pisco, we will find
contemporary female’s names next to men’s. We know we can’t change history, but
we can influence the future.
To close this post, we would like to share a poem written by Blanca Varela, Curriculum Vitae:
say you won the race
and the prize
was another race
you didn’t savor the wine of victory
but your own salt
you never listened to hurrahs
but dog barks
and your shadow
your own shadow
was your only
and disloyal competitor
“Blanca Varela.” Wikipedia,
Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Apr. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blanca_Varela.
“Global Issues: Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment.” Global Issues: Gender Equality and Women’s
The Global Gender Gap Report 2018.
World Economic Forum, 2018, The Global
Gender Gap Report 2018, www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GGGR_2018.pdf.
Jochamowitz, Luis. “’Una Pequeñísima Puerta’.” Caretas Ilustración Peruana,
Varela, Blanca. “Curriculum Vitae.” PoemHunter.com,
27 Aug. 2016, www.poemhunter.com/poem/curriculum-vitae-4/.
“Why Women’s History?” National Women’s