On some final thoughts on Peru

My trip to Peru was well-organized, well-planned, well-thought out. Obviously, Peru is a country of contrasts, rich/poor, European/Quechua, English/Spanish, urban/rural, modern/ancient. I have encountered these contrasts before, but never to this extent. I have a new appreciation for all of the wonderful things and people that populate my life because I saw how limited life might be when you don’t have certain advantage, I saw a lot of people going off to work crammed into tiny buses, three-wheeled tricycles taxis, traveling on foot. Cars were a luxury. I gained a new found admiration for people who can live at or above 13,000 feet where the air is thin, the temperatures are cold, and making a living is very hard–little heat, no air conditioning, few creature comforts, Llamas are not the easiest animals to live with, and roads that I would take for granted are narrow, curvy, and rough, which is totally normal in rural Peru. I think that the hardest thing to navigate is that poverty, You can buy a piece of weaving, you can pay tips to visit a local home, you can employ a few of the locals for sharing their day with you, but the poverty these local indigenous peoples is real and you really can’t solve that. For some really simple reasons (and a couple which are rather complicated) these high mountain people are isolated from the horn of plenty which some people in urban Lima and other large cities enjoy. There are issues of literacy, of even speaking the language of power and influence–Spanish. The legacy left by colonial Spain is far reaching and powerful. The Spanish have been gone for more than a century and a half, but the political and social mess that they created still hangs on, and the shadow of Pizarro hangs long over a city like Cuzco. I also realize now that there is very little that the Peruvians might do to resolve many of their rural social problems. Since transportation is such a huge issue in a country that is as mountainous as Peru, many people never travel more than a few miles from the place where they were born. The rural indigenous Quechua are a small portion of the entire population, so the federal government cannot rationalize spending large amounts of money to connect those people to better systems of health and education. I also realized that American culture consumes enormous amounts of resources–water, food, housing, education, health, space, energy. We are a culture of hyper-consumerism. Nevertheless, I have a new appreciation for the industry and exuberance of my own country and its ability to generate wealth and power. Peru struggles with a political corruption that paralyzes its ability to solve social problems or to control the exploitation of its natural resources. In some ways, Peru is an emerging nation and economy. Mining, agriculture, fishing, tourism, and manufacturing are all growing parts of burgeoning economy in which many Peruvians might participate, but then again, many rural people find themselves isolated, marginalized, and left out. The paradoxes between the have’s and the have-not’s is breathtaking as ancient forces and beliefs collide with post-modern hyper-consumerism in a post-colonial meltdown of European values, languages, and conventions.