International Insights

Valeria Rojas

While I was backpacking in Europe this summer, people always guessed that I was from Brazil or Colombia. Then, after naming all the countries of Latin America, they would give up and I would tell them that I was from Peru. Their response was usually, “Really?! Peru . Machu Picchu!”
It was disappointing that Machu Picchu was all they knew about my country. Don’t get me wrong – Machu Picchu is a breathtaking monument. It is part of our Incan heritage and makes us proud to be Peruvians, but Peru is much more than Machu Picchu.
The Incan Empire was large and covered parts of what are currently Chile, Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador. The empire was formed by many different tribes, each with their own language and traditions, which the Incas conquered and assimilated.
When the Spanish came and mixed with the tribes, our traditional culture changed to incorporate the new customs and a new language: Spanish. The Spaniards put the indigenous people to work on the sugar plantations, and they started to die.
The Spanish decided to bring slaves from Africa to work the fields instead. As a result, Africans in Peru enriched our culture, blending with the existing cultures to create a new dance and music style called festejo.
Later on, there was a migration of Chinese and Japanese people to Peru, and the mixing of food styles created a form of Chinese food unique from all over the world.
All these different cultures and races meet up in one country and have made Peruvian culture quite original. Maybe this is the reason why it was not strange to us to have a president whose last name was Fujimori!
Peru is a country of mountains, vast deserts and immense rainforests, and has an incredibly rich fauna and flora. The country has many different climates throughout. There are more than 1,000 kinds of birds and 25,000 different types of plants and flowers. Our sea is one of the richest seas in the world and has approximately 1,200 fish species.
Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, is situated in the Department Peru, and the Amazon River wanders through the jungles of the Department of Loreto. The Cordillera Blanca, located in the highlands, has snow-covered mountains over 6,000 feet tall.
Since the 1980s there has been a migrating trend from the rural areas to Lima, the capital. This trend increased dramatically with a period of terrorism in Peru. People left everything they had and came to the city looking for protection and a better quality of life.
Unfortunately, Lima was not prepared to receive these massive amounts of people. It was hard for these people to find jobs that could sustain their families and satisfy their basic needs.
The gap between rich and poor enlarged. That is how one can see in Lima rich neighborhoods next to shantytowns. Even though migration rates are not as high as in the past, people still migrate. Now as before, people see Lima as the land of opportunities in which they and their children will have access to a better future.
Peru is like a poor man sitting on a chair made of gold. Peruvians have many things to be proud of: an Incan heritage, diverse climates that produce beautiful landscapes, and food and traditions that are the product of different cultures that came from far away.
However, there is still too much economic and social inequality. How could Peru exploit all these qualities to its advantage? I think that tourism could be a possible solution for this problem. It would create new jobs all over the country, which would help to lower the rates of migration. By creating jobs in the less-developed areas, tourism would improve the economy and importance of these areas in the rest of the country.