Fourteen years ago, I went to Peru, visited Machu Picchu, Cusco and Lima, and figured I’d seen the country.
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.
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.
While Peru is beautiful in almost every conceivable way…
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.
In the sierra, it’s difficult to raise much of anything except potatoes…
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.
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.
They are hard-working, proud, creative and fiercely independent people.
…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 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.
For one thing, I’ve got a new god-daughter there.
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.To read my previous blogs on Peru (including explicit alpaca lovemaking– and the story of my new god-daughter) check these links: