The Peruvian dream / Expat in Huaraz (part 19)

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.

In our nineteenth version of the Peruvian Dream we have interviewed one of the two Dutch people living in Huaraz. A mere 10 years ago, there were around eight Dutch living in Huaraz (including some long-term volunteers) but at the moment, our editor and our interviewee are the only ones.

1. Who are you?

I am Dirk Wolkers, and I am from the Netherlands. I am 59 years old and have two kids. I was born in Amsterdam and always lived in the area of the river Zaan (Zaanstreek in Dutch).

2. What’s your profession?

In the Netherlands I worked as an IT manager at a big accounting company. Here in Huaraz I make cookies (in Dutch stroopwafels, syrup waffles).

3. How long have you been living in Huaraz?

I have lived in Huaraz now for almost eight years.

4.  What brought you to Huaraz?

Well, I had visited Peru on many occasions prior to my permanent move here. The first time was in 2006. I once met a Dutch guy called Guido who used to live in Huaraz and visited him a couple of times. I did some trekking and things but I had to go back to the Netherlands for work. Eventually I received an email that there would be some work opportunities in Huaraz, so I packed my bags and here I am. I managed California Café in Huaraz.

5. How has your life changed over the years?

Quite a lot to be honest, and in several respects. I believe that I am living a much more basic lifestyle. In the Netherlands, I lived a practical, forward-thinking and efficient life. Here I have found, or maybe I should say searched for a more spiritual lifestyle. You´re living for the day in Peru; you don’t live to work you work to live. I am not materialistic, so I have a lot more freedom.

The stoopwafel business was, and still is, a challenge. I am not a chef, and I know nothing about cooking–– frying an egg is probably the best I can do. This said, however, after managing the restaurant I mentioned before, I wanted to do something for myself, so I brought a waffle iron to make the cookies, and with the help of my Belgian friend Kristof (former owner of restaurant Mi Chef Kristof), we were able to create a waffle. This is still my main source of income. Honestly, without the help of Kristof I wouldn’t have been able to create the product. Kristof is a true artist. It´s not exactly the stroopwafel as people might know it in the Netherlands; however, I am sure that I am the only stroopwafel baker running their business at 3,000 metres above sea level. I am proud of my product, with or without help, it´s a Dutch product and it makes me feel good.

6. What are your favourite hangout spots in Huaraz?

That would be my hammock. I don’t go out that much, but like to drink a coffee at Trece Búhos in the morning, or at Café Andino. When money is running out at the end of the month, I head to the Soledad area. There´s a small café/coffee bar that I like a lot. I believe it´s called Naturandes. They serve coffee with apple pie for as little as 5 soles. Another hangout spot would be the river and bridges over the Rio Quillcay. I love to walk along the boulevard. You won’t find me hanging around the Plaza de Armas, although I like to make a couple of rounds along the main street Luzuriaga. I like the pizzas of Buona Pizza but, like I said before, my hammock is where I like to be the most. I sometimes visit Creperie  Patrick for a coffee and like to chat to Tío Enrique for a momento or so.

7. What is it you miss the most from back home?

I go back once a year to the Netherlands, usually around Christmas to see my kids. My kids are what I miss the most. My oldest son Stefan is 30 years old, and my youngest son Marcel is 28. I don’t miss the Netherlands as a country. I have changed my point of view maybe. It´s a very much a developed country, but I am happy with my life here in Huaraz. In terms of products, I miss liquorice (drop in Dutch), Dutch cheese, typical split pea soup and soused herring.

8. What is it you like most about Huaraz?

I think that what´s especially nice is that you can buy many things from street vendors. I know the municipality tries to prohibit ambulatory sales but I like it. I think it´s typical of Huaraz. I have been to Chachapoyas and there it´s completely forbidden. Here in Huaraz you can see and chat to the campesinos (peasants) trying to make some money selling their vegetables, herbs and fruits. I think it´s also interesting for tourists actually. Huaraz is a commercial city. Previously I said that you won´t find me at the Plaza de Armas, but some development is on its way. It´s a shame that the main square doesn’t have any cafés, restaurants or pubs around it (like Cusco and Arequipa). Luzuriaga itself as a main street is nice to walk through but it needs improving. The best thing about Huaraz is the outskirts. You can make a city as fancy as you wish but it could never beat nature. I adore nature and taking hikes in the surrounding areas of Huaraz. I don’t think Huaraz needs a shopping mall. Huaraz should focus on city development and they should start by shutting off Luzuriaga to traffic and make it accessible for pedestrians. They could open it between 8 and 10 so the shops can be supplied but that´s it. Install places to sit like benches, a lot of plants and trees, and the city will start to look a lot different. This will not only be interesting for tourists, but also for the locals.

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

It´s a pity Huaraz hasn’t developed its tourism sector. Culturally speaking, I think no one has a clue what´s going on. Same case with its history. I know there´s a museum near the Plaza de Armas but I believe the lack of promotion is why almost no one goes there. This is a difficult question actually. I never use the local tour agencies because I prefer to organize everything on my own. There are many agencies in Huaraz but they´re not paying enough attention to their customers. Tourism is an important sector for a city such as Huaraz, although it´s only for a couple of months. I believe to have read or heard once that Huaraz 30 years ago used to be the third most popular city in terms of tourists´ visits and now it´s like number 46, something has gone wrong. Something must be done because the potential is there. I think the lack of promotion is key. Huaraz is not a pretty city to hangout in. If someone were to ask me, hey I have a day off, what would you recommend me to do, I wouldn’t know where to send them. Go for a coffee is what I would say.

There is also a lack of city development in terms of opportunities. Most tourism entrepreneurs are making their money thanks to the beauty around us such as the mountains. However, they could offer something together within the city, something cultural or historical. The mountains are here, so they could start focusing on the city. Although I have to say that the access roads to the most popular sites are terrible. These should be improved but without harming nature.

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

Wow! It depends a lot on what you want and what you can do. I like hiking a lot but as I am getting older, I have to listen to my body. I feel that some things aren’t possible anymore. To start, it´s important for tourists to get very well informed before heading off. When people like to do mountaineering, they have loads of easy or difficult options in this area. Laguna 69 has become the most popular day hike during the past five years, but expect many tourists on the trail. If tourists prefer a quieter trail, I could recommend going to Lake Shallap, which is a bit lower compared to 69 but still 4,250 metres above sea level. I believe Rataquenua is one of the places where tourists should be careful, but when doing it as a group it should be OK. In general, it´s dangerous doing hikes in the mountains, rock falls are a big problem. Laguna Churup is steep but a nice hike. Also nice and nearby are the Willcahuaín Ruins, ending the hike at Laguna Ahuac (4,560 m), which offers a nice overview of Huaraz. A night trip to Punta Callán maybe also interesting. Make sure to bring breakfast and a juice so you can enjoy the sunrise. I understand that the District of Independencia (crossing one of the bridges in town and heading north) has opened a couple of new trails in the Cordillera Negra. And, I almost forget, for sure the Huayhuash circuit.

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

Well, part of my answer I have already given, as I would develop the city centre by shutting off the main street. It bothers me that cars seem to be so important in Huaraz. Cars are nothing more than just human tools. These should be subservient. I would try to convert the Plaza de Armas into an entertainment area, with more restaurants and there should be music too. Its appearance now is far too business focused, with many banks and financial institutions. Green would be the keyword of my campaign. Many parks in and around the city have been upgraded or improved, but what you see is only concrete and hardly any flowers, plants or trees. I would focus on maintenance as well; for example, the pedestrian crossings in Huaraz are hardly visible and this creates unsafe situations. Every driver in town should have to retake the exam for their driver’s license and get a special course dedicated to respecting other traffic participants. It makes me sad seeing the elderly and children that are scared to cross the street because they fear cars.

I would focus on tourism as well. I believe the town council can´t be bothered with tourism at the moment. Another thing that I would do different is the treatment of street vendors. True, this is an important topic and source of income, but I believe it´s rude and incorrect to pick people off the street, as they are doing now. Finally, I would try to control the growth of buildings. Locals are building higher and higher and this kills the city image.

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

I am not living the Peruvian dream, but you could say that I am living my dream. I finally ended up in Peru, but this could easily have been any other country in the world. I have a lot of freedom and don’t have the obligation to work from 9 to 5 every day. Not having to worry about insurances, car or a broken TV is priceless. I determine my life; no one else is in charge.

13. How do you see your future in Peru?

Look, this is one of the things I have learned not to speculate on. There´s a song by Nicaraguan singer Luis Enrique called Yo no sé mañana (English: I don’t know tomorrow). This is exactly how I try to live my life. To answer your question, I haven’t got a clue. If I die tomorrow, I die. End of story.

Where can people buy your stoopwafels Dirk?

Well at many places in town, actually. My galletas are available in two sizes, small and big. People should go to Don Queso, Market Ortiz, Rosa Rosita, Albergue Churup, Chilli Heaven, Buona Pizza, Hotel Santa Cruz and Tío Enrique. People could also contact me on Facebook.

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