The Peruvian dream / Expat in Huaraz (part 14)

A ccording to the National Institute of Statistics and Informatics (I.N.E.I) 12,187 foreigners entered Peru in 2012 and stayed for over a year. The Huaraz Telegraph is wondering whether these visitors came to see the wonders of Peru, or were they looking for the Peruvian dream? If the American dream is the idea that success is possible for every individual, does the Peruvian dream exist? And if so, can you reach for those ideals on the Latin American continent being an expat?

It is fairly easy to spot a tourist in Huaraz, with their tiny day-sacks and camera around their necks, whereas expats blend in; they adapt to the local way of life. But what motivates a person to uproot their entire lives, and leave their family and friends to go and live on another continent? Over the course of the season  will endeavour to interview expats living in Huaraz, to give the readers an insight into why they decided to do just that. But first let’s look at some interesting statistics. Although the following stats are accurate there is no statistical information on how many foreigners live in the Áncash region.

In the period from 1994 to 2012, there were 89,320 registered foreigners residing in Peru that did not leave the country. Between 1994 and 2004 the number of foreigners entering Peru did not exceed 3,500, and between 2004 and 2006 the number of foreigners living in Peru did not exceed 5000. From 2007 the number increased to over 6,000 and in 2012 that number had risen to a staggering 12,187. It´s important to mention that, even though Peru has a law stating that visitors can only stay up to a maximum of 183 days a year, after one year Gringos are considered immigrants in the Republic of Peru, be it legal or illegal.

There is no denying that the number of immigrants has increased over the years and between 2007 and 2012 there were 55,616 immigrants representing 62.3% of all registered immigrants in the analysis period of 1994 to 2012. To make a small comparison, in the last six years measured concern over 50.0% of the immigrants from the period of analysis. The period between the years 2001 – 2006 represented 18,499 incoming foreigners representing 20.7% of all registered immigrants during the study period, while the years 1994 to 2000 represent 17.0% of total registered immigrants. The number of foreign immigrants in Peru has a greater dynamism in the last years of the study. Until 2003 foreign immigrants did not exceed 20,000, this number doubles in 2007 becoming 40,446, and in 2012 the number of foreign immigrants in Peru rose to 89,320.

Dividing the entry of foreign immigrants into different periods (in years) and having the estadisticas de la emigración internaticional de peruanos e inmigración de extranjeros 1990-2012 in hand, one can see that the average annual immigration per period is becoming a growing trend during the last three periods, except from 2001 to 2003. On average, only 2,357 people crossed the border into Peru between 2001 and 2003. Between 1994 and 2012 the annual average is 4,701 surpassing this in the last two periods 2007-2009 and 2010-2012, reaching average immigration figures from 7,420 and 11,118 respectively, the latter being six times higher than the average income of foreign immigrants of the first period (1994-1997). When analysing the gender of the newcomers it´s remarkable that the population of males is by far bigger than the opposite sex. Men represent 66.8% of the immigrants while only 29,636 (33.2%) are female. Since 1994, men have represented more than 60% of the immigration population, but in 2012 they reached 70.9%.

In the document found on the I.N.E.I website the distribution of foreign migrants is also represented by age group. A chart shows that the predominant age group is the 30 to 34 year-olds representing 12.2 % of all immigrants. Immigrants from 35 to 39 years of age characterise 12.1 % during the period from 1994 to 2012. This is followed by the 40 to 44 years old with 11.2%, continued by the group of 25 – 29 years old (10.7%). On the other hand, the highest percentage of immigrants are aged from 15 to 49, representing 68.2 % of all immigrants.

Looking at the gender population pyramid, the concentration is in the middle, being narrower at the base and that there is an increase in the first and last group. Immigrants aged under 15 count for 6.8% and are distributed almost evenly between men (3.7 %) and women (3.1%). People older than 59 years of age represent 10.3% and are distributed between 6.3% men and 4.0% women. Of the total number of 83,628 immigrants over 14 years of age, 33.7% are declared to be single whereas 199 people are said to be widowed, and 98 are divorced.

Between 1994 and 2012, 89,320 foreigners were considered to be new residents of Peru without any migration movement noticed and just before the document starts to talk about the country of origin, it mentions that 69,277 people (representing 77.6%) have come to Peru by air, entering the country at Jorge Chavez National Airport. A small 8.6% entered from the south in Tacna (Santa Rosa), 2.3% from Bolivia (Desaguadero), and a 1.4% came from the north, crossing the border from Ecuador at Aguas Verdes. A total of 3,378 (3.7%) arrived at the harbour of Callao (probably shipwrecked and unable to return home).

The authors of the report declare that there exists a strong concentration of regional immigrants referring to 31.6% of foreigners coming from Latin American countries such as Argentina, Bolivia and Chile. Americans (from the USA) with 12.4% the biggest group of newcomers, followed by the Chinese with 9.3% and Bolivians with 7.8%. As you just have read, you will need to stay in Peru for over a year to qualify for the status of immigrant.

This is also the main condition for our interviewee plus the fact that he or she should live in Áncash, and in this edition of The Huaraz Telegraph we conducted the interview with one of the many Swiss people living in the area.


1. Who are you?

My name is Jean-Paul Glassey and I am originally from the Canton of Valais, which is one of the 26 cantons of Switzerland, situated in the southwestern part of the country. I am from a little town called Nanda. It is actually a very touristic town in the Alps with only a thousand habitants during the low season, but in high season the population rises to 24,000 and the most important activity is skiing.

2. How old are you and what’s your profession?

Well, by the time your paper will be published I will probably be 70 years old, as on the 7th I am celebrating my birthday. I am an architect by profession; however, I work in tourism mostly. My wife Merling and I run an adventure tour agency called Las Cordilleras and we organise different activities from andinismo and trekking in different parts of South America.

3. How long have you been living in Huaraz?

For 27 years now, but I have been back to Switzerland a couple of times. The first time I stayed for 18 months which was back in 1987.

4. What brought you to Huaraz?

I arrived in Huaraz purely by accident or coincidence, as I hadn’t planned it at all. I was on an expedition trying to conquer the Aconcagua (Argentina) and after that we went to the Monte Fitz Roy and in the night of the 31st of December I met a Peruvian guide called Eduardo Figueroa. He is the owner of Edward´s Inn in Huaraz. He said why are you not considering coming to Huaraz, and visit the Callejón de Huaylas? I had heard of Huaraz because of a film shot by René Desmaison on the south peak of Rondoy. I said to myself, why not? So I continued doing more climbs and finally took a bus from Buenos Aires to Lima.

5. How has your life changed over the years?

Obviously, my life has changed completely. Life in Switzerland is all about work. You live to work, and here in Peru you work a little bit to live. I have two daughters and I married a Peruvian from Trujillo more than 25 years ago. Our daughters live in Lima; however, we are happily living in the Callejón in the Acopampa District near Carhuaz, but I visit Huaraz almost daily to do shopping and other stuff.

6. What are your favourite hangout spots in Huaraz?

Bon, there are several restaurants that I like, such as the Hotel Andino restaurant and Tio Enrique offers great Swiss sausages, which reminds me of the Swiss gastronomy. Crêperie Patrick prepares an authentic Swiss raclette, which I like a lot. There are many Peruvian restaurants that I like as well, such as Huaraz Querido, they prepare some good seafood. I have to stress that in all these 27 years I have never touched food sold on the streets. I am a bit picky but always prefer to eat at a restaurant. I drink my coffee at Bookafé or at Landauro near the Plaza de Armas. There is another great café in the Cultural Centre, which is run by an Italian guy. It´s important that a place is clean and quiet, I believe hygiene is very essential too.

7. What is it you miss the most from back home, and how often do you go back?

Honestly, I don’t miss many things from back home. Switzerland is so small… Every time I go back I see my old friends sitting in the same restaurants and bars. They are drinking the same beer and are talking about the same things; however, their bellies get little by little a bit bigger every time. I believe they have much money in the bank, but there is not much progress in Switzerland at the moment. Here in Peru there is much more movement than in Switzerland. In terms of food bindenfleisch, also known as bündnerfleisch, or viande des Grisons although I have to admit that most of the products are now to be found in Huaraz as well. Last time I visited Switzerland was two years ago when we went to do skiing with the family and I stayed for three months.

8. What is it you like most about Huaraz?

As a city, I think the ease of moving around in very little time. You get to know the people very quickly and my wife and I have many friends. It´s easy to develop professional activities in the city without being obligated to go to Lima. I am not much interested in city life, which might explain why we are living in the Callejón de Huaylas. Huaraz is chaotic and very noisy and sometimes even dangerous; however, as a centre point for meeting people it´s not too bad.

9. What’s your opinion of the tourist business in Huaraz?

Well, I have to admit that the tourism business has fallen dramatically. And I believe this is all due to the mining companies. There are a couple of reasons. Before the mines, most hoteliers, agencies, restaurants and other businesses promoted our region. However, with the startup of the mines, many engineers and other professionals came to our region and occupied the hotels and started to rent cars and buses from the agencies, which was easy money. So tourism became plan B. Another item is that there are no institutions. The Chamber of Industry, Tourism and Trade does very little since I left being the president of the Chamber of Tourism (since it has merged) in 2003, and there are also no regional chambers. Another concerning topic is the Huascaran National Park that does not comply with its own rules and it seems that they are more bullying tourists instead of facilitating them. And finally, and this has been said by many, the lack of promotion for our region. The only site being promoted abroad is Machu Picchu. Peru is not even promoted anymore; everything is focused on Machu Picchu. This site receives I believe more than 2,500 visitors per day! And the north of Peru only receives a very small percentage of these tourists.

The Callejón de Huaylas should focus on senior citizens. Lima and Trujillo are often humid and very busy, so the Callejón de Huaylas could be a great alternative for those who are suffering health problems but have money and free time. And these visits should not be Friday to Sunday visits, but visits of a couple of weeks or more. The agencies, unfortunately, do whatever they like but don’t support tourism. I believe that there are more than 400 complaints made by tourists and those complaints don’t help at all, on the contrary, this will cost us another 1,000 tourists.

10. What sites or activities do you recommend (or not) to our readers?

Like mentioned in this paper, people should avoid the Rataquenua cross and the hike from the thermal springs in Monterrey to Wilcahuain and vice versa. Also, I would not recommend tourists to walk too much in the dark or at night. Take a secure taxi recommended by your hotel or hostel owners. In terms of sites, there are so many places, especially in the Cordillera Negra, with views towards the Cordillera Blanca. Apart from the three classical tours (Llanganuco, Chavín de Huantar and Pastoruri) there are many other places that should be developed. Like the Conchucos Valley, the Conococha area, the forest of Puyas past Punta Callán, the Centro Poblado de Huinchus that offers a great lookout on the Cañón del Pato. There are many places tourists don’t know about yet.

11. If you were to become the Mayor of Huaraz one day, what would you do or change?

Well (while laughing)… I would never want to become the mayor of Huaraz but let´s imagine that I am the mayor. I would put order and change the traffic system. I would also make people to finish their houses because that looks terrible with those unfinished roofs and bars sticking out. When there is time and money, I would also invest in one regional bus terminal. Now, every bus has its own terminal and thieves and touts can easily hang around those places without being bothered. I would also pave the roads to Llanganuco and to Pitec but this could be done in coordination with other mayors. Many years ago, I started up a project with former Mayor Lombardo Mautino to make Huaraz more livable and likeable. The idea was to set up some form of a contest where different neighbourhoods could win money when they presented the cleanest streets of Huaraz or the neighbourhood with most flowers on the balconies. Neighbourhoods can be rewarded with, I don’t know, S/. 80,000 as a first prize and this money can be reinvested in the neighbourhood to improve it even more. Unfortunately, nowadays we have to leave the city and go to the countryside to see flowers and trees.

12. Are you living the Peruvian dream (explain)?

Yes, absolutely. Peru is like the bank of goodness. Peru is a country that has everything and is advancing every day more and more. Peru offers unlimited possibilities to everyone. Some people immigrate to Peru when they are over 60 years old, but imagine what your possibilities are when you´re only 25 years of age. I am living my Peruvian dream!

13. How do you see your future in Peru?

I will not leave Peru anymore. I will work until I feel motivated and still like to work with the tourism entities. I am pleased to live the rest of my life in Peru.

Also read our previous editions of The Peruvian Dream:

Part 13 with Charlie Good from England

Part 12 with Christian Maier from Switzerland

Part 11 with Steven Wegner from the USA

Part 10 with Heinrich Bosshard from Switzerland

Part 9 with Aritza Monasterio from Basque Country

Part 8 with Bruno Reviron from France

Part 7 with Fabio Venturi from Italy

Part 6 with Marie Timmermans from Belgium

Part 5 with Mario Holenstein from Switzerland

Part 4 with Diana Morris from Canada

Part 3 with Danaan Lahey from the USA

Part 2 with Patrick Bertrand from France

Part 1 with Sabine Honing from The Netherlands

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