Father Jose Maria took us to a Peruvian prison today. Across the street from the jail, us girls rented long skirts then we began the process to get in.
Everything was checked. We weren’t allowed to take in our phones or any electronic devices. Also no medication of any kind. The lady even flipped through my book. She gave me a pat down and checked my waist band and yelled something at me in Spanish that I didn’t understand. At a certain checkpoint, we gave them our passports and had to get arm stamped at two different locations.
There were so many children and women waiting to get into the jail and for some reason, we seemed to fly past them (and it still took a long time for us.) The police seemed to all wear the same serious, tough facial expression. One of the men smiled at me, and I was thankful I was with Father.
We proceeded to walk down this walkway with bars on either side to a room then met yet another stern looking man, then continued into where the prisoners were. I felt like everyone stopped what they were doing to look at us. I had my rosary in my hand the whole time.
The chapel was on the other side of a large, open court and we talked with a man and listened to his story.
We sang and danced out in the big open court. Almost like a performance for the prisoners. We learned the song seconds before going out in front of all of these people and oh yeah, it was in Spanish.
But I felt free. So free to just dance and sing without worrying about anyone’s thoughts. Some of the men weren’t into it but some were prayerful and praising, which was so beautiful to see. Two people of our group gave their testimonies and another gave a message of hope.
Today was some event with the leaders of the jail so they all processed in to the court. And let me tell you…it was a production…three soldiers had to march over to them, march them to their seats, march in front of them. It all seemed a little much to me.
Our group got to sit behind them which made me feel excessively important. They raised three flags (which consisted of more marching and such.) Father even got to raise one, then we sang the Peruvian National Anthem.
One of the leaders gave a message about how they are there to help the people in prison to get out and get back into society. After the speeches, some of the inmates put on dances for us.
We could only stay for two of the dances. One was a dance from Cusco and the other was a native Incan dance. I really was enjoying them. I didn’t always understand what exactly was going on, but I liked watching them. So I was disappointed we had to leave.
Sneaking out the back, we walked through a part of the prision where people were hanging out and buying food. It didn’t feel like a prison back there, maybe a slightly sketchy place with food vendors. Men, women and small children were all there together.
Looking back, it was a wonderful one-time experience. (And I think I was equally intimidated by the guards as I was by the inmates.)