Guest post: That was the VIP entrance

Guest post by James Garnett.

So this Kentucky Derby thing was run today? Heh. Reminds me of the last time that I watched horses being raced. It was in Lima, Peru, circa 2006. We had just climbed a series of peaks in the Andes and were killing time back in the city before we had to get back to the airport. Unfortunately, the arrival schedule (straight from camp to the city, no hostel or hotel stop) had not permitted us to shower or change clothes after returning from base camp, so we were rather dirty and stinky. Also, unshaved. Basically, we looked like complete bums, and smelled the part. But Bob wanted to go to the race track rather than sit in a bar, so that’s what we did.

When we arrived, we saw a group of well-dressed, clean, groomed indigenous Quechua-speaking people headed into the race track entrance. Feeling a little embarrassed, we joined their group and followed them in, but the Spanish-speaking entrance guards stopped us from going in. I was pretty certain that it was because of our bum-like appearance. Bob spoke with them briefly (he speaks Spanish, I do not), and told me simply “come on”. He walked towards a different entrance that none of the indigenous peoples were using. Just inside the door was a uniformed police officer behind a desk. So at this point, I was pretty certain that we were doomed and going to be spending some time in some kind of vagrant jail.

The police officer smiled, stood up, greeted us, and had us enter our names and passport numbers (“just enter any number, I use 8675309 myself,” said Bob), and then motioned us towards a door leading to the race track. Through that door, an usher directed us down towards a clean, tidy table right by the track itself, and a waiter appeared to take our orders.

I was obviously somewhat agog. So I asked Bob wtf had just happened. “That was the VIP entrance. We’re white, so we’re VIP’s. They wouldn’t let us in through the other entrance because that’s the one for the indigenous peoples, who sit up there,” he said, pointing to the faraway upper stadium seats.

White, dirty, smelling, disheveled? VIP.

Clean, groomed, well dressed, indigenous? Lower-caste, relegated to the nosebleed seats.

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