Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Peru - A Country Without An Identity

The most striking thing I´ve learned from my classes so far is that Peru is a country that doesn´t seem to have any sense of national identity. From the Spanish invasion in the 1500s, right up until the hacienda system (essentially a feudal system) was abolished in 1968, it has been occupied by two separate societies that didn´t intermix. And even among the indigenous peoples, there is so much diversity that one really can´t think of them as a single society.

There is also a great deal of distrust of the central government in Lima by the people who live in other parts of the country. History has taught them that Lima does whatever serves the interests of the rich people in Lima and the coastal cities, and ignores the needs of the rest of the country. When the national government finally began a significant effort to build highways from the coast to the interior of the country, it did so without any concern for where the population was located. The goal was simply to provide the shortest path to carry metals and minerals from the mines to the coast where they could be shipped abroad.

The regional and municipal governments sometimes do things in defiance of the central government. When the national government decided to go along with the U.S. policy of eradicating coca from Peru, several municipalities in the south whose population were going to be affected by the crackdown declared that coca is part of the patrimony of Peru, and its production cannot be banned.

Contributing to this identity crisis is a distrust among the different segments of society. The Spanish and mestizos in the large cities feel threatened by the huge immigration of indigenous people over the last 50 years, and the indigenous people in the Amazon region feel threatened by the people who have immigrated from the mountains to exploit the resources there by creating farms and cattle ranches. The experience of the Peruvian people over hundreds of years has been that if you trust someone, you will be exploited by them.

I´m often told by my friends here that I´m too confiado, that I trust people whom I don´t know well. I guess that´s because my experience living in North America has taught me that most people can be trusted, and don´t have any reason to harm me. I imagine that it will take a long time for the people here, whose experience is just the opposite, to be able to live together in harmony.

1 comment:

Ajay said...


Your Peruvian friends are correct when they think you are too confiado. You can not loose your American way of thinking in just a few cases of thefts of your camera and passport.

You need to develop a vigilant attitude in your travels and stay abroad which is not the good old US of A.

Keep posting and let the photos also come once you get a new camera.