Strand­ed in Tac­na after the police shut down our Hawapi camp. Locals report­ed signs of a for­eign inva­sion to the author­i­ties, not­ing odd struc­tures and sus­pi­cious demar­ca­tions; the press took it even fur­ther and the police got to work. All pass­ports, data and footage were seized and tem­porar­i­ly con­fis­cat­ed. But the Peru­vian police were always kind and after a long day detained in sus­pense in their desert out­post, we got a night ride through the desert all the way to our hos­tel in Tacna. 



We pitched our tents on the Peru­vian side of the dis­put­ed bor­der. The dis­put­ed bor­der is a tri­an­gle of land at the coast. Two sides on land con­verge at land­mark Hito 1: one side traces the geo­graph­ic par­al­lel straight to the coast at the mar­itime bor­der lim­it, the oth­er con­nects the Hito 1 point to Pun­to Con­cor­dia, the for­mer­ly estab­lished bor­der point, 10 kilo­me­ters north of the Riv­er Llu­ta. Two of the three ver­tices are sit­u­at­ed on the coast­line and the third only 264m inland, at Hito 1. The area of the tri­an­gle is 3.761 hectares. The area inside the lim­its of the tri­an­gle is noth­ing but sand and sparse veg­e­ta­tion, hav­ing been suc­cess­ful­ly cleared of its land­mines. It is now an impen­e­tra­ble, emp­ty field, guard­ed on one side by the Peru­vian police, and one side by the Chilean police, and the oth­er by the uncom­pro­mis­ing Pacif­ic Ocean (although that stretch of water is uni­lat­er­al­ly claimed by Chile). Our camp was right beyond the triangle’s Peru­vian bound­ary, on a flat field of sand pro­tect­ed by soft dunes and wild sug­ar­cane groves, under the gaze of the police watchtowers. 



The ter­res­tri­al tri­an­gle has two sides earth.
While one side, sea, is made and unmade by the tide.
The tri­an­gle is by nature unful­filled.
Inside the tri­an­gle is shrub­by desert, devoid of human life.
Its nine acres can nev­er be claimed or touched.
The rival sol­diers that patrol its two desert bor­ders guard its empti­ness.
Duti­ful­ly pro­tect its eter­nal ambi­gu­i­ty.
Zeal­ous­ly pre­serve its unearth­li­ness.
The ter­res­tri­al tri­an­gle is a meta­phys­i­cal tri­an­gle.
We were pon­der­ing the incon­gruity of the geom­e­try, won­der­ing how to rec­on­cile the bilat­er­al stand­off and the tri­an­gu­lar force­field.
We took a long walk down the beach to San­ta Rosa.
We bought a cou­ple of bot­tles of cold beer and sit in the shade of the shut­tered up Puesto de Salud. I took out my note­book as Iván unrav­eled a stick­er he found in a pile of beach trash.
A bumper stick­er of the Peru­vian Nation­al Police’s coat of arms.
An oval frame with two crossed swords, divid­ing it diag­o­nal­ly into four quar­ters. The inter­sec­tion of the two swords is cov­ered by the shield, itself divid­ed into three sec­tions, two small­er ones on the upper half and one larg­er one on the low­er half. Each of the three sec­tions con­tains a sym­bol­ic fig­ure: a lla­ma, a tree, and a cor­nu­copia spilling gold coins; the ani­mal, veg­e­tal, and min­er­al wealth of the land.
Below the shield, three words adorn a float­ing scroll, the mot­to: DIOS PATRIA LEY
The words do not refer to the three sym­bols, but to anoth­er trin­i­ty.
PATRIA pul­sates in the cen­ter, promi­nent, in a high-con­trast black-on-white text.
While DIOS and LEY wave from their lat­er­al posi­tions, the sup­port­ers, loy­al aux­il­iaries, in a low-con­trast black-on-red text.
Sub­dued, par­tial­ly eclipsed.
LEY on the right flank.
DIOS on the left.
Swords in hand, they par­ry.
As the cor­nu­copia of gold coins pours down onto PATRIA

In a tri­an­gle all sides meet each oth­er.
DIOS falls into place between the diminu­tive LEY and the effu­sive PATRIA.
DIOS ful­fills the tri­an­gle.
At that moment, Iván plucked from the stony ground a small tri­an­gle of bro­ken glass.
A sca­lene tri­an­gle whose pro­por­tions recall the pro­por­tions of ter­res­tri­al tri­an­gle.
Just as we were try­ing to sit­u­ate DIOS.
This lit­tle tri­an­gle sig­naled to us.
That it had been there all along.
The pure tri­an­gle.
Per­fect asym­me­try.
Intact and impen­e­tra­ble.
All sides meet each oth­er in a triangle.


The 16 par­tic­i­pants are divid­ed into two camps.
The red and the white.
Each group occu­pies two sides of a square are­na.
Four and four.
An invis­i­ble diag­o­nal bound­ary cross­es the square.
Each side meets, one by one, in the cen­ter with its dia­met­ri­cal oppo­nents.
To per­form a mutu­al ges­ture.
First dance is PATRIA.
Cross­ing swords.
Two by two.
Then all reel togeth­er in pairs.
Cross­ing swords.
Sec­ond dance is LEY.
Two by two.
Then all reel togeth­er in pairs.
Then all leave the are­na.
Coca-leaf tea.
Todos jun­tos.