It was 12:00pm, midday, not 12:05 or 12:30. Nor was it close to 1pm. The Peruvian custom of being late, the Government hopes, is now banished forever.
Poor punctuality is commonplace in Peru. It’s not unusual for someone to be as much as an hour late for a social gathering or even a business appointment. Are you meeting a Peruvian at 1pm? Don’t expect them any time before 1:30pm. La Hora Peruana as it is called in Spanish, or Peruvian Time in English is a throwback to colonial times, from which this bad custom has continued. The Peruvian Hour exists across Latin America and Mediterranean Europe where the word Peruvian is replaced by the given nationality.
All this is now set to change in Peru – at least that is the hope of ever-punctual President Alan Garcia. He insists it’s time to change and has launched a campaign that culminated today called La Hour Sin Demora – Time Without Delay. “Tardiness shows a lack of respect“, he stated. Continuing, he argued that the benefits of being on time extend beyond mere common courtesy, that punctuality can improve business performance and economic productivity. So it was in Lima’s Plaza de Armas today, at midday – not a second later – Peruvians watched the President ring-in La Hora Inglesa, English Time, and urged Peruvians across the country to set their watches according to the clock of the Peruvian Navy.
Shortly after ringing the bell at 12, three clowns walked through the press area, in which I was located directly in front of the President, carrying a coffin. The coffin was symbolically carrying The Hora Cabana – Cabana time, a joke at the expense of Ex-President Alejandro Toledo who is from a small town called Cabana. Toledo was always late for everything. He often kept foreign dignitaries waiting for hours and always turned up late to all his appointments and press conferences. Alan loved the joke targeting his predecessor and pointed it out to others, laughing.
Later, the plaza was filled with traditional dancers from across the country. I also caught up with the Hora Cabana coffin carriers and took a few photos.
Will Peruvians manage abandon tardiness forever?