Details of the famous Arequipa passport

The Arequipa passport is currently a rather controversial souvenir. For some detractors, it is a sign of antipathy, causes disunity and puts up certain barriers in a country that should be more united. However, for others it is a document that enhances the pride of being from Arequipa and how special it is to be born at the foot of a volcano. Based on these positions and the different historical events that cultivated the figure of an independent region, we believe that it is important to know the events that marked this city so that it currently holds this peculiar satirical souvenir.

Passport of Arequipa
Passport of Arequipa

a) About the Arequipa Passport

This souvenir has two possible authorships. Both appear to be well founded, even though one has filed a complaint against the other. Something important to highlight before starting is the notion of land independent of Peruvian territory. This idea was born from different historical events that persisted in the imagination of the so-called children of the volcano. We will see these details later. For now, we are interested in learning about the authorship dispute over the playful and controversial passport at the same time.

The authorship of this peculiar document has two stories that border on the legal issue. At the end of the 20th century Fredy Castillo Neyra, recognized for having won the Arequipa Unpublished Music Festival performing the song “I don’t know if it’s love”. A worker at the Leche Gloria SA company, he received the task of writing the text for what would be the first Arequipa passport. The details that Berner Heaberli, general manager of the company, left him was that he had to write a funny text and as a parody. After the details were completed, all that remained was to print the document. The first edition consigned a thousand copies. These carried the signature of Julio Ernesto Granda, international chess champion; Raúl Obando, historical captain of FBC Melgar, among other important figures.

The first document was delivered to President Belaúnde Terry, the second was for his wife, and the third was for the President of the Council of Ministers. This passport became quite popular with the Gloria group as the main owner of the rights. Even when Pope John Paul II arrived in Arequipa, he was given his Arequipa passport.

b) Who created the Arequipa passport?

After these events, Willy Galdós Frías, known as the “Consul of Arequipa”, began to have his authorship recognized on the well-known Arequipa passport. Willy Galdós, narrates that the idea was born after being expelled or deported from Venezuela, for not carrying the proper documents. He narrates that while he lived in the plains country, he worked making stickers which he sold. When he was deported, already on the plane, after a conversation with an American, who mentioned that in his country everyone has a universal passport and can enter any nation.

After the event on the plane, with the idea in mind and set foot on Peruvian soil. He decides to travel to Arequipa. Upon returning to the Chili River valley, he decides to visit the managers of the Leche Gloria SA company, to propose the project to them and to finance the initiative of printing passports to serve as souvenirs. Not receiving confirmation or an answer, the so-called Arequipa consul left without expecting anything. However, in 1982, they told him that the aforementioned company delivered the curious document to its workers after a meeting of the main executives who visited the land of volcanoes. This motivated him to initiate a complaint in INDECOPI at that time known as ITINTEC. After years of legal battle, Willy Galdós managed to prove that he was the intellectual author of the document. Obtaining in this way the authorship of the Arequipa passport.

c) Historical events that narrate the independence of Arequipa

Some historical events shaped the Arequipa identity that can be expressed as “being independent”. This form of thought was born precisely in the liberation campaign of Don José de San Martín. It is narrated that when this general proclaimed independence in Lima on July 28, 1821, Arequipa and of course other cities, were still under Spanish rule or under royalist flags. Remember that the media of those years were not as immediate as they are now. According to some accounts, Arequipa was the last city to learn of the proclamation of independence. It was not until 1823 that Simón Bolívar arrived and showed the documents proving the capitulation of Ayacucho. After this sample, the Lauretana Academy gave the corresponding validity to this document. Later that day, the independence of Peru was proclaimed in Arequipa.

However, this curious historical detail is not the only one that shows Arequipa’s independence. Years after the proclamation of Peruvian independence against the Spanish crown. Another event occurred where the needs generated the creation of a first legal passport. During the year 1882 and the war against Peruvians and Chileans was in full course. The Peruvian capital was guarded and in the hands of Chile, the then president Francisco García Calderón, was deported to Chile for refusing to sign the surrender act. At that time, Lizardo Montero, who took refuge in Arequipa, became provisional president and installed the National Government in Arequipa. Giving a supreme decree in 1883 that ratifies the following:

After proclaiming this decree and for security reasons, he ordered the creation of a passport. All people who left the Arequipa territory going to the occupied territory or abroad had to carry a passport. In this way, the first Arequipa passport was created that prevented the entry of spies or people outside the Peruvian defense. This historical document had the name “Diplomatic Passport of the Independent Republic of Arequipa”. Over the years, the people of Arequipa have kept this historical document with great pride.

d) What is the Arequipa passport like?

The passport is in the shape of any other passport. With a maroon lining, similar to the Peruvian passport. Inside the passport you can find different sections that border on the absurd and parody, all with a comic end. Above all, in the “Genetic identification” sections, which ask for quite controversial data. Another section is dedicated to data on curiosities of the people of Arequipa. Throughout the document it can be seen that it does not neglect comedy and on some pages historical data is presented with deviations again towards the comic. At present they are quite well known by the local population and little by little a space was gained among the cultural aspects of the white city.

For Willy Galdós, the creation of an Arequipa passport was not enough, so he decided to create with the same intention some coins and bills that he calls “The golden characatos” in words from its creator: “it is the only currency that is never devalued”. They are coins made of precious metal alloy, have a value of three dollars. The bills, for their part, carry the images of illustrious people from Arequipa such as Francisco Mostajo, Mariano Melgar and Víctor Andrés Belaunde. Currently, Willy Galdós signs and stamps each passport under the title of Consul for Life of Arequipa.


By Machupicchu Terra – Last updated, August 28, 2023

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