Deep Thoughts About Peru…


Fourteen years ago, I went to Peru, visited Machu Picchu, Cusco and Lima, and figured I’d seen the country.

Machu Pichu

Machu Picchu… check!

Last year, going back to Peru with Heifer, I realized what a boneheaded assumption that was. For one thing, the country has changed radically since 1999. Lima’s population is now approaching 9 million and the city is far more glamorous and glittery than it was back then, although the slums on the outskirts of Lima stretch for miles and are truly grim.

RivasMoney photo from Wikipedia.

RivasMoney photo from Wikipedia.

Despite the country’s huge economic advances (no Latin American or Caribbean economy grew faster than Peru’s from 2001 to 2011) over 30% of Peruvians are still poor — and the struggle to survive is concentrated in the sierra (highlands) and the selva (Amazonian jungle) where Heifer works.Coming up to Chillcapata

While Peru is beautiful in almost every conceivable way…

Gorgeous Lake Titicaca

Gorgeous Lake Titicaca

…this country twice the size of Texas is packed with copper, gold and zinc, ripe for mining. And its climate poses a bit of an agricultural challenge, to say the least.andres

In the sierra, it’s difficult to raise much of anything except potatoes…

A million hours of work to create an arable plot of land.

A million hours of work went into building terraces to create arable land at 10,000 feet.

….and just about the only animals that can survive the altitude and cold are sturdy llama and alpaca.On the road to Chillcapata

The people who live in the highlands, where I spent most of my time wheezing for breath at 8-12,000 feet, are mostly indigenous and are now embroiled in an epic battle to save their beloved mountains from rapacious mining interests (that also threaten to destroy the jungles).

Pasco City is right on top of this ugly open mine.

Pasco City is right on top of this ugly open mine.

They are hard-working, proud, creative and fiercely independent people. chillcapata mama

…and I have so much respect for Heifer working with those communities to help them make a living on the land.

17-year old Rebecca Yanac keeps the breeding records for the family's alpaca herd.

17-year old Rebecca Yanac keeps the breeding records for her family’s alpaca herd.

I usually never like to go back anyplace (there are too many new places to see) but I reckon I’ll be going back to Peru soon. mom & baby

For one thing, I’ve got a new god-daughter there.

Leidy Melisa Arpasi Calle (before I cut her braids & became her godmother)

Leidy Melisa Arpasi Calle (before I cut her braids & became her godmother)

And I’ve got some other important people I need to check on, too.little oneTo read my previous blogs on Peru (including explicit alpaca lovemaking– and the story of my new god-daughter) check these links:

Categories: Heifer International, Peru, Philanthropy, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

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19 thoughts on “Deep Thoughts About Peru…

  1. Brava Betty. A personal thank you for going back there and explaining all these little details about modern Peru. Copper, gold and zinc? Wow! But only agriculture = potatoes, llama and alpaca.

    • Yes, Rosie — it’s kind of an unfair balance … but hopefully the country will control the mining and the environmental impact — and attempt to funnel that money back into the infrastructure of the country, education, etc. They have a great model in Brazil … just hope more progressive interests will prevail!!!

  2. Pat Sayer-Handley

    Betty, What kind of camera did you use for your wonderful photos? Thanks, Pat


    • Hi Pat! I use a Canon T2i … with a Tamron 18-270 lens … I love my camera SO much!! Specially the lens, which allows me to zoom in without crawling on top of people & not switch lens. I’m usually taking photos fast, so that really matters! THANKS!

  3. Lucky you. Lucky God daughter.

    • I was actually fairly proud of myself since I did the Ultimate God-mother Duty this year and sent off a package of gifts … and maybe next year, I can deliver them in person??!! She is such a darling girl!!!

  4. Your Goddaughter and the baby at the bottom are so cute. I have to make it back to Peru someday – I loved it when I was there. You hate to see the mining and exploitation of the land when the poorest people don’t get the benefits and only suffer from the ill effects.

    • Jeff, You are so right about the mining exploitation .. and since the Quechua and other indigenous groups believe strongly that the gods live in the mountains, the horrible rape of these peaks hurts them in their souls. It’s not getting better — (I attached an article about the Minister of Mining convincing the president of Peru to exclude the Quechua from the indigenous people’s right to negotiate how the mining companies can act in their land. It’s a total paradox because much of the tremendous growth of the economy has been due to mining exports — and yet, you have to wonder about the end result of all that environmental degradation. (Go back — you’ll love it even more the second time!!)

  5. Extraordinary photos Betty! I felt like I was there. Can’t believe you became a godmother, how cool! You always open my eyes to beautiful places of which I’d only had a cliched image in my mind. And here you’ve done it once again, thank you.

    • Thanks, FF — Peru really kind of crawls into your heart and takes up residence! The people are so endearing — and even though I was kind of horrified that they asked me to cut Leidy’s long braids and thus, become her godmother (I really felt it was way too much of an honor), it was such an amazing experience and everybody was so happy about it, I was really glad it happened. And now I have this great lifelong connection to Chillcapata & those lovely people!!

  6. Martha Radatz

    We just returned from several weeks in Peru (Lima & Cusco), a visit 23 yrs after our initial visit. We were impressed by the obvious economic growth in the intervening years. However, in speaking with friends in Cusco, where we lived formerly, they say the benefits of that financial gain have not trickled down to the poor, for whom life is just as hard, if not harder than before. The most obvious change in Cusco was the presence of McDonalds, KFC & Starbucks on the plaza (which once housed only local establishments), where they sit tax-free on land owned by the church. The one thing that hasn’t changed is the beauty of the people and the land. Our visit to Heifer Peru to hear about the work being done there, was a wonderful vision of hope. Thanks for your beautiful photos and insights!

  7. Thanks so much for that comment, Martha — I love hearing about your Heifer travels!! The statistics show that poverty in Peru has decreased from 54% of the population to about 30% over the last 15 years– but that’s still a LOT of people living in poverty. And it’s hard to see how the economic benefits of mining will trickle down to the rural people — whose water, land and air is being polluted at a frightening rate. I was also shocked to see Cusco’s massive development — I guess it’s proximity to Machu Picchu has been a mixed blessing. I always tell anybody who asks to go to MP right away — before they “improve” it for tourists.

  8. Deb Morrow Palmer

    This country is on my bucket list, of course, with textiles and weaving being a favorite of mine. The glorious colors, and the incredible hats, the people wear; your pictures say so much. If I go that is the part of the country I want to see. Not the progress. With economy the way it is and a big push towards buying precious metals and gems, I fear for the countries that are supplying the demand. How do we teach ourselves to do with less?? I am a horrible example because I love to be surrounded with unusual things!! ha!
    I so loved the blog when you became the babies Godmother. Those are the moments when I hold on to God tight. It was a God thing, a moment in your life, to be amazing for all involved in that one celebration. One to connect you forever.

    • I agree with you about my goddaughter Leidy — what a gift was bestowed on me there!! — but you have got to get to Peru … you’d love it there!

  9. Just gorgeous Betty! I had to share! I too visited Peru but way back in 2001. I would love to go back and am heading to neighboring Bolivia this fall.

  10. I am so jealous … I have wanted to go to Bolivia for YEARS! I hope you have an amazing trip and I’m counting on you to blog about it!!

  11. Inspiring blog, beautiful pictures

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