First, a bit of a disclaimer: this is your unapologetically turistica introduction to the beautiful land of Peru!
Right now I don’t quite have the perspective or internet bandwidth to post about all the deeply moving stories I’ve experienced so far in this amazing country. So I’m just going to give you the view from 15,000 feet .. which is approximately how high I am today in Pasco City, the highest city in Peru. (And yes, that is the sound of my heart pounding, trying to pump oxygen to my brain.)
Peru is severely beautiful .. with miles of ocean shoreline and the Andes (sierra) and the jungle (selva). It’s bordered by Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, and Chile and is packed with silver, gold, copper and zinc – making it well-nigh irresistible to mining interests that never saw a mountain they didn’t want to level.
Although the country’s economy has improved dramatically over the past decade, the indigenous people in the Highlands (where Heifer does most of its work) are still overwhelmingly poor, ferociously independent, and definitely know how to rock a hat.
In the center of Marcopata, we saw a statue that pretty much captures the Highland spirit. The bull represents the Spaniards who colonized Peru. The condor tied to its back is the indigenous people, who claw and fight to be released from bondage – literally drawing blood.
These proud descendants of the Inca Empire are going to need every shred of that irrepressible spirit today to resist the triple threat of mining companies, urbanization, and climate change. Almost one-third of the country’s 30 million inhabitants now lives in Lima, yet you know it must kill something inside these proud people to leave their mountains and ancient traditions to descend to the arid pull of the city.
Heifer’s projects are mostly in the high central plateau, where it is developing programs that support the Highlanders’ traditional pursuits of raising alpaca and llama, growing potatoes, and making handicrafts – working with communities to make these pursuits economically viable, entrepreneurial, and sustainable.
I can’t wait to share those stories… just as soon as I can breathe properly again. It’s gonna be epic!