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The Amazing Story of the Greek Community of San Andres, Peru

The Amazing Story of the Greek Community of San Andres, Peru

People living in the small town of San Andres, Peru, have Greeks to thank for the fact that they exist today.

Because of a few Greek sailors and the local women they married, they have lived to tell the tale of what happened during a horrific massacre which occurred during the 1880 war between Peru and Chile.

This tale of love and the cruelty of war all began in San Andres, a small village on the Pacific coast of Peru.

In 1880, Chilean soldiers invaded San Andres and began an indiscriminate slaughter of the entire population of the town. But living among the Peruvians were seven Greek merchant mariners.

During their travels to the west coast of the Americas, they had come to like Peru and they decided to leave their ship and stay behind in San Andres. Some of them married local Peruvian women and started new families.

When the Chilean massacre began, all the Greek men gathered in one house together with their in-laws and friends, and locked the doors. They all together waited out the invasion in anguish, hearing the horrific sounds outside, and not knowing what could possibly be in store for them as well.

The Chilean soldiers succeeded in completely wiping out the Peruvian population of San Andres, but — miraculously — did not go near the house which the Greek flag was flying.

The descendants of those seven original Greek sailors, now of the 6th, 7th and some of the 8th generation, who now number approximately 650, constitute the Greek community (“Colonia Griega”) of San Andres.

There are approximately one thousand Greeks living in Lima, Peru today, many of them the descendants of this tight-knit community which had lived through so much.

Most Peruvian Greeks have never been to Greece. Yet every year, they not only commemorate the day the lives of their ancestors were spared, but they celebrate several other Greek days as well – March 25th, October 28th, Easter (Pascha), and others.

The Greek community of San Andres in Peru
Members of the Greek Community of St. Andrew in Peru

Surnames such as Komninos, Gikas, Papafavas, Falkonis, and Constantinou are the most common last names in San Andres. Many of the descendants don’t look overly Greek in appearance, since there has been intermarriage with Peruvians for many generations.

But the deep ties to the Greek homeland remain strong. When they hand a grandmother the Greek flag to hold before hoisting it on the flagpole, she clutches it with deep emotion, shouting ”Mi sangre, mi sangre” (My blood!, my blood!).

By Stratos Doukakis

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