About 3 months ago, I got to know an amazing person, Prof. César Gutiérrez-Muñoz. He is a historian, an archivist, a traveller, a big lover of Peru. From the first meeting with him, when he told me some stories from his life, I knew that this will be the right person to make an interview with. He is “old enough” to tell me about Peru now and then, and what’s more, he is very friendly (he always brings me chocolate from his trips 😛 ), so I was hoping that he would agree with that. And he did. We did the interview about 3 weeks ago, we talked about Peru, culture, people, security, history, and here is the result – authentic view of Peru:
1. What is the best thing about Peru?
Peru itself. Peru is very diverse and every place has something unique to offer. Unfortunately, diversity became a reason for many conflicts. Some Peruvians think that their own city or province is better than others and they don’t find all the provinces equally important and valuable.
2. Which places would you recommend tourists to visit?
Tourists that are willing to get to know Peru should travel not only to big cities but also to small villages all around the country. Apart from enjoying the place, they should try to learn something about the culture and the country.
If you want a specific recommendation, there is a place near Cusco called Ausangate (“Rainbow mountain”) that is as colourful as rainbow, when you get there, it’s like a dream. It’s around 3 hours from Cusco by bus and 3 more hours of walking. The view is stunning and definitely worth the long journey.
3. Most Peruvians speak only Spanish although Peru has these three official languages: Spanish, Quechua and Aimara. In what part of Peru are these languages spoken? Are they mandatory in schools?
Well, Quechua is spoken in Andes and Aimara near the borders with Bolivia, there are also a lot of indigenous languages that are only spoken by several people mostly in Amazon jungle. It’s not common to study all of them obligatory in schools, but if someone wants to learn those languages, there are many ways. Some universities provide Quechua classes and of course children study Quechua or Aimara in the areas where those language are spoken.
4. I’ve noticed that there are so many feasts in Peru. Do you think that all of them have the reason to be the bank holiday? What is the most important holiday in Peru?
I agree that there are many feasts, but, to be honest, all the feasts have a reason. There was an attempt to move feasts to Mondays and Fridays but it didn’t really work. Regarding the most important holidays, I would say: Independence Day, Easter and Christmas. However, there are also other holidays that people and businesses love to celebrate, such as: Mother’s Day and Father’s day.
5. What are characteristics of Peruvians?
Recently, there was an earthquake in Colca Canyon, and a lot of houses were destroyed. People living there reacted with the words: “Well, we aren’t dead”. They put the houses together and continue living there. I think this attitude is one of the characteristics of Peruvians. We always stand up, whatever difficulty we go through, and continue our lives. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why Peru and Bolivia are nowadays the most economically developing states of South America.
Another characteristic is that Peruvians are “Criollazos”. There are two meanings of the word criollo, firstly criollo can refer to Spanish born in South America and secondly criollaso, which means “vivo” or a “smart ass”. Peruvians are smart asses in the sense that they often look for shortcuts and they take advantage of the situation.
I would also that that Peruvians are innovative. Peru is known for many impressive monuments, such as, Machu Picchu, Huamán, Chan Chan or Nazca lines. However, even nowadays we can’t really explain how they were built. And what about potatoes?? There will be no potatoes in the world without Peruvians.
6. I Feel like Peruvians are always happy and no stressed at all. Do you agree? What do you think is the recipe for the happy life?
Because they don’t work 😛 Well, no. It depends on personality of everyone. Stress is an individual characteristic of any person in the world and we can’t really relate it to Peruvians.
7. Are there any things that make you feel happy/sad about Peru? Which ones?
Well, there are many things that make me proud of Peru but unfortunately there are also many reason that make me feel sad. For example, children that are working on the streets. There are many of them that come to school hungry because they don’t have enough money for food and they can’t focus during the classes because they are tired. Luckily, government started to do something about the situation and enhanced project called “QaliWarma“ that provides food to kids in pre-schools, elementary schools and some secondary schools across the country in order to improve attention and attendance of the classes. This program helps to substitute what is missing in households.
8. I’ve been living here around 8 months and realized that Peruvians usually don’t try to save up some money. Why do you think it is like that?
Well, what kind of salary are we talking about? The minimum salary in Peru is 850 soles which is around 230 euros. If you have around 200 euros, you can’t really save some money. People are said to save up at least 10% of their salary but most of them just live from month to month.
9. The family is the most important part of your lives. Children stay with their parents much longer than in Europe and it’s normal that two or three generations live together. I noticed that many young people rely on their parents and don’t want to become independent. Is it true?
It is said that there are around 1,5 million Peruvians that are “nonos” – they do NOT work and do NOT study. There are many reasons: they either don’t look for a job, they can’t work/study or there is simply no work. Well, I would say that the thing is that many jobs are paid so badly that people don’t want to do them or they aspire for something better. Even though, they complain that they can’t afford to go to the cinema or buy the newest TV, they don’t do anything about it.
10. It’s not a long time since Peru was dangerous place to visit. What do you think about security in Peru now? Is it a safe country?
I actually think that Peru nowadays is more dangerous. New president Pablo Kuczynski bounded to fight against the crimes in cities, streets and households. The most common crime is stealing on streets (phone or money). Unfortunately, police mostly do nothing about it. A lot of thieves are poor people that steal because they need to support their families. If you ask them why they don’t wash cars instead of stealing, they answer that it’s not possible to provide for the family from that kind of work… Another common crime is a robbery – even households of people working for government are being robbed. To sum up, insecurity is the thing that at the moment defines Peru.
11. Do you think that Peruvian history influenced relations with other countries nowadays?
We went through good times, bad times and even worse times. The worst part of our history that I remember are 80s. There were many active terrorist groups that people were very scared of. Luckily, there are a lot of bright moments in our history, like periods of: Moche, Chimú, later Incas and Spanish. When Spanish came, Peru became the center of the whole South America and the countries around Peru were named according to the location towards Peru, for instance: Bolivia used to be called “Alto Peru”.
12. Peru is a very diverse country with many natural resources. Thus, why do you think that Peru is still considered as a poor country?
For a very simple reason, this richness has to be explored and exploited. Lamentably, in many cases it’s impossible to explore or exploit some resources. For instance, there are many gold or silver mines in Peru, but the locals or even government don’t want them to be exploited. That’s why there are many protests against mining. However, in some cases government make deals with other countries that invest money and explore Peru. The reasons are simple – they have better technology and personnel.
13. Do you believe that Peru has a potential for a future development?
I think that Peru will have a chance for development if we all unite and work together regardless political or religious views. Like today, when Peru is playing in the qualification for Football Championship. At that moment all the Peruvians are watching united together.
A big thank you for the interview and I am adding a small memory from the day of our meeting.