ALESSANDRA PERON MARQUEZ

Alright, so we’re here in Japan nearby the National Police Agency you’re attending. How did a surfer end up all the way here?

Sometimes, life just takes you for a ride you never see coming. There’s no way I’m gonna give up on surfing; it’s such a huge part of me! Life just wanted to take me for a new kind of ride this time is all.

How did a surfer girl from Rio end up in a Tokyo police academy.

Do you feel any different about Colombia now after revisiting?

I was so young at the time that I honestly don’t really remember much…a lot of moving around, that’s for sure. A lot more than I’m used to now. Breakfasts in all kinds of new places with new faces. My grandfather’s business practices were a bit unorthodox for your average family life, and I don’t know if I mean that in a good way. I’ve thought about the “what-ifs” a lot, and now, I don’t think my life would’ve been anywhere near as rewarding if I hadn’t gotten the chance to experience surfing or that trip around South America. Honestly…I have no idea where I’d be right now had things stayed the way they were, and that’s scary.

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But still what motivated you to become a police officer?

Not gonna bring down the mood with a sob story, but the last half of my childhood was without any kind of parental figures. I mean, the only parental figure I had was an older friend of mine, a cop in Rio who watched my back and treated me more kindly than anyone else did on those rough streets. It’s sad, but Rio is way too famous for their corrupt justice system. There’s not a lot of cops you can trust since most of them are no better than the criminals they lock up. I guess that’s where my drive to become a police officer comes from, just a desire to help people as genuinely as humanly possible. I dream of being able to find a gal who I see that weaker part of myself in and be there for her…become a lighthouse in rough waters.

Idream of being able to find a gal who I see that weaker part of myself in and be there for her… become a lighthouse in rough waters.

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How was growing up in Rio with that experience?

Not gonna lie, it’s tough to compare my experiences to others when it came to growing up in Rio. A selfish part of me wants to say it was worse than other girls…but the truthful side of me says it always could’ve been worse. At the tender age of eight, I was working my fingers to the bone from sundown to sunset, but sadly, that was the kind of life a lot of girls led on the streets.

How were you able to fend for yourself?

A lot of us did what we could with what we had, and for a lot of us, that was just…makin’ and sellin’ stuff. I had two little portable stoves and would make the journey back n’ forth to Leblon, frying up all kinds of food for tourists. Burgers, chicken wings, vegetables if I had access to them…sometimes, stealing was necessary. Every day was a gamble where all of the odds were stacked against you, it felt like.

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For such a challenging childhood, how did you get into surfing?

If I had the time and energy, I’d go burn off steam after work by swimming. It was a kind of medicine a doctor couldn’t prescribe, I guess. My life changed forever when one of the same tourists that would buy my cruddy fried food passed me a surfboard; I never wanted to let it go after that. Swimming was medicine, but surfing became my life support. It was a way to express myself in a way that I had never been able to before. Suddenly, life became less about just surviving, and it gave me a kind of purpose and something to look forward to that a grubby lil kid in Brazil never would’ve thought she’d look forward to, you know? It was my outlet, my everything…

Did you ever feel like it would become as big of a part of your life as it is now?

As soon as I climbed up on that board, surfing and I just clicked. I never would’ve thought so many doors would have opened up for me through it, though. There was one summer, around when I was fourteen…someone I just thought was a regular beach tourist approached me, telling me I had promise as a surfer, and before I knew it, RipCurl approached me for a sponsorship! It felt weird, not gonna lie…a street rat like me, suddenly having eyes on me just because I just so happened to be good at something I love? When those kinds of things started happening, the world began opening up for me in ways that a teenager who knew nothing but hardship would never dream of, and I mean that in the best of ways. It’s honestly very humbling.

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What was your favorite part of competing?

At first, I almost felt…protective of my prowess as a surfer and my talents in it. However, when I started meeting the people I was competing against, I quickly realized that there was more to it than my own ego and how I felt about my talents. Once I overcame this block of mine, I was able to find camaraderie in the people I probably should have found rivalries in, and soon, those comrades became friends of mine, and I was able to connect with people on a genuine level without the stress I was used to. So it’s gotta be the friends.

What did you feel was the next step after coming back from these championships?

In the long term, I knew I wanted to keep practicing and see how much better I could get through surfing. I also wanted to go to school and work hard to become a cop, now that those doors finally felt like they were opening and that goal was within reach. Although…to tell you the truth, the first thing I did after I got home was buy up an old, busted van from the 60’s and fix her up as well as I could, treating it with tender love and care. As weird as it sounds, it felt like a kind of closure on my past, I guess. [laughs]

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That wasn’t the answer I was expecting [laughs] Where did you take it?

I did what any ambitious kid would do…gathered my friends, told me we were going on a trip and not to worry because paying for it was all on me. See, we spent a lot of time talking about doing traveling all over South America but never thought we could actually do it. Suddenly, that opportunity was open to us, and I didn’t want to let it pass us by. Really, I’m glad we had this opportunity at all since I wouldn’t trade what we experienced for the world, even if my friends just thought it was a rad road trip.

IMean every second, over 43,000 square feet of rainforest are destroyed – that's the equivalent of 4,000 football fields of rainforest decimated every hour.

What were among the places that stood out on your trip?

Something I don’t think a lot of people know about South America is that there’s so much diversity in the environment.. You have the mountains, and there’s the beaches that I call home, waterfalls…None of us wanted to take that for granted. Like the world’s best dessert, you want to savor it, you know? Peru? Insanely dazzling mountains. Patagonia? Unlike anything else I’d ever experienced, and I mean that in the best way. Then, there’s the Amazon…I wound up having a lot of flashbacks of what I could remember of my childhood in Columbia.

Do you feel any different about Colombia now after revisiting?

I was so young at the time that I honestly don’t really remember much…a lot of moving around, that’s for sure. A lot more than I’m used to now. Breakfasts in all kinds of new places with new faces. My grandfather’s business practices were a bit unorthodox for your average family life, and I don’t know if I mean that in a good way. I’ve thought about the “what-ifs” a lot, and now, I don’t think my life would’ve been anywhere near as rewarding if I hadn’t gotten the chance to experience surfing or that trip around South America. Honestly…I have no idea where I’d be right now had things stayed the way they were, and that’s scary.

Business practices?

Columbia is pretty well-known across the world for all the wrong reasons, a huge one being the uh…infamous cartel. I was never a dumb kid and began to draw conclusions of my own…I guess things became a lot clearer after he was killed, and it turned out I was right.

I can connect the dots. Do you ever want to return to Colombia?

I do, but saying I want to return for those reasons would be less than truthful. It’s not like I can really find any family there since everyone’s either scattered, missing or…dead. The reason I want to return to Columbia, the most important lesson I learned on my trip, was that preserving the environment is vital. I came back with a sense of responsibility to protect where I come from. It’s painful, honestly, to see these beautiful lands, the cultural relics of a world gone by, the natural splendor that will never return if they disappear…and they’re being destroyed for no purpose. Humanity is stepping into nature’s turf and pushing it aside for their own selfish gains…the thought of contributing to that actually frightens me. I want to do whatever possible before it’s too late and the world as we know it is gone. I want to let future generations live what I have.

Iwas never a dumb kid and began to draw conclusions of my own…

Now that you’re on the other side of the world, do you miss the beach?

I mean, of course, but it’s not like I’m dying without it [laughs] There’s some amazing snowboarding here that can help tide me over while I’m doing business here. I mean, it’s kind of like surfing on land, right?


What are you working towards to protect the environment even if you’re far from the places you hold dear?

Right now, I’m trying to get organizations to pay attention to South America and how it’s suffering, and the best way to do that is to be vocal, I’ve noticed. My biggest goal is to help rally the local residents together and go from there…it might not sound like a huge goal, but it’s hard for one person to do on her own. That’s not a sign for me to give up, though. There are places here to protect, places where you live to protect. Nothing should be overlooked.

There are places here to protect, places where you live to protect. Nothing should be overlooked.

With your kind of title, do you feel like you’re risking more?

It would be incredibly stupid of me to say no. Despite that, I think that there’s something more valuable when it comes to strength in numbers, especially when you’re not a part of the system. It might sound backwards, but trust me, it makes sense if you’ve grown up in the way I have.


Well, welcome to the system, we have ways around that.

I’m excited to see what you fine people at Jespionne have in store.

Ithink that there’s something more valuable when it comes to strength in numbers, especially when you’re not a part of the system.

PHOTOS

National Police Agency Tokyo Japan / Amazon River Surfing Photography by Paul Nicklen / Ecosystems Servies Patrol / Rainbow Mountain by Jess Mandia / Kayapo Warriors by Martin Schoeller / National Geographic Photography / Silvia Izquierdo / Andre Penner / Tristan Oliff / Takashi Nakagawa / Ricardo Mazalan / Sam Abell / Lester Ledesma


TAGS

National Police Agency Tokyo, Japan / National Research Institute of Police Science / Pipeline Bodysurfing Classic / Surfing in Hawaii / Snowboarding in Japan / Cali Cartel / The summit (16,500 feet) of the Vinicuna / Rainbow mountain / Vintage Volkswagen / Ecosystems Services Patrol / Brazil Expedition / Ipanema Beach / Surfing / Patagonia / Amazon Rainforest / Uyuni Salt Flats / Pantanal / Pablo Escobar / Snowboarding

January 29 th, 2018

INTERVIEWS