A Brief Overview of My Experiences in Peru
It has always been a dream of mine to travel to all the Spanish speaking countries in the world and Peru was my first step into making that dream come true. Coming from Mexico, one of the countless of places that fell victim to the white, Spanish colonialists, I wanted to learn and witness how this has shaped their worlds and what has been done to remain true to themselves even in the face of the oppressors. Peru was a wonderful place to start. I got to witness the beautiful culture of the Quechua and how many of their communities have stayed true to their Incan ancestors. But at the same time I witnessed how much change they have experienced. Many of these communities have had to conform to using paper money because that is what the major cities are dependent on, and in order for the Quechua to maintain themselves they have turned to selling their goods. Another thing that I also witnessed is that children grow up speaking Quechua but once they enter school, they can only speak Spanish while in school. So a lot of loss of the native tongue has come out of this system. Thankfully, there has been some schools taking initiative and becoming a Quechua-Spanish school where both languages are being taught, but most importantly showing pride in the native language.
For me, the key aspects of this trip are as follows:
- The difference between what makes me a traveler and what makes me a tourist and the fine line that is drawn between the two.
- Learning from a culture and just being present and open-minded, but keeping in mind that we are westerners that have different views on many things.
- Taking into account my home country and seeing the similarities and differences found in each culture.
The highlight of my trip was getting to talk to an NGO called Sacred Valley Health (Ayni Wasi). They talked about women’s health and how important it is for the community to help each other instead of the white Westerners coming in and telling the communities what to do. They have indigenous women who volunteer as Promotoras who work in their villages as a health consultant for their communities. Once they have worked there for about 2 years and have shown a full understanding they are promoted to Docentes where they get to train the new Promotoras and also are made into full-time employees. We got to talk to two wonderful Docentes who shared their stories and what it means for them being women leaders in their community. Seeing the pride in their eyes made me very happy and thankful that we got to hear their stories.
My biggest takeaway from this experience is that I still have a lot to learn from this culture and its people. Unfortunately we only got to experience a very limited, skewed view of some of these communities and did a lot of tourist attractions. However, because of this I am thankful that we got the opportunity to have very deep discussions as to what being a traveler means and how we can deal with some of the situations we had found ourselves in. Overall, I am thankful for this experience and will continue to think about these important issues and apply what I’ve learned here to future travels.