Foreword editor THT August edition 2014

Post-modern-colonialism in the Americas

Last month I heard something most interesting during an interview I did, so interesting that I would really like to share it. It concerns a Peruvian lad who has a foreign girlfriend, and she had asked him the following question: ¨How come the people that used to salute me, say hello or even hug me at a certain place, are not doing this anymore now that I am officially living here? I don’t feel the same warmth as when I was a tourist.¨ His answer was a simple yet cryptic: ¨Welcome to Huaraz

It’s true, a trip to Huaraz as a tourist is still a good idea. Despite the poor road conditions, lack of service in restaurants, and the overwhelming number of agencies and touts, Huaraz and its surroundings have much to offer. Living here is a whole different ball game though. It´s difficult to pinpoint what it is exactly that changes the sentiment towards a foreigner who becomes a citizen. It probably has much to do with the fact that becoming part of the gringo society involves a short process of acceptance. Being accepted into the community depends on what you can offer. In other words, it´s not about whom you are as a person, or what you stand for, but what you´re bringing with you, and where you are from. Other ex-pats living here have confirmed on different occasions that it even depends on what café you drink your coffee in.

One of the first mistakes that most newcomers make is that they stick with the groups of gringos that are already formed. Instead of settling in, having a look at what´s around, and listening and investing a little bit of time to learn the basics of Spanish, many fall into the trap of speaking only English and, therefore, immediately lose a valuable connection with the locals.

So why are foreigners choosing Huaraz as their new destination? According to a well-respected foreign person who has lived here for more than 15 years, there are three main reasons. The first reason is that the person fell in love with someone in town and decided to move here and start a family. Or they didn’t fall in love, but were trapped when a one-night stand produced a baby, and Huaraz became home out of necessity, meaning this person does not necessarily like the mountains or outdoor activities, but simply chose to remain in Huaraz because his or her new partner resides here. Ironically this is this person who is most likely to learn to speak Spanish properly, and has the highest chance of being adopted by the locals as a new member of society, on the condition that he or she is not too outspoken or critical.

Financial investment is another reason for a gringo to move to Huaraz. More often than not these foreigners have a superior education compared to the locals, and as Peruvian laws are easily manipulated or simply not obeyed, it´s relatively easy to establish a business or NGO. In most cases, this type of person frequenly doesn’t have any regard for the law because as far as they are concerned the locals don’t either. Investors need to be friendly people as they cannot risk having too many enemies in town, simply because they depend on them. Other investors might choose to live far away from the civilised world where no authorities can bother them. Problems arise when land is bought at a very unfair price, and promises and commitments that were made to the local community in terms of education or social projects never come fruition.

The third group concerns fortune seekers. In most cases these foreigners have a low level of education, although this may still be higher than average local person, and have no prospects in their home country. For them Huaraz appears to be the land of opportunities, where even the most unproductive person can become important. So until the Peruvian Government is prepared to change the existing laws on immigration, a gringo cannot be blamed for staying here longer than they are permitted to do so, or can they? It appears that if you have the right amount of money, and the right connections you can melt into the local community with little or no challenges. Earlier this week someone called it post-modern-colonialism in the Americas.

Rex Broekman

Founder and editor of The Huaraz Telegraph


Also interested in the other editorials of our editor?

Editorial July 2014

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Editorial May 2013

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