The Peruvian dream / Expat in Huaraz (part 20)

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 twentieth version of the Peruvian Dream we have interviewed a very enthusiastic and energetic person from the United States. Although she admitted to be retired, she might be even busier than ever before. If you would like to meet her, your best chance is at Casa de Guías where she can be found from Monday to Friday. You might also take your chances on improving your Spanish a little bit. This is the story of Martha Weston.

1. Who are you?

My name is Martha Weston, and I am originally from Rochester in New Hampshire, in the US. I have two children, Kyle and Juliana, and a grandson called Tyler. In fact, my daughter and grandson came to this area a couple of years ago and had a great time.

2. What’s your profession?

This October, I will be 72 years old. I am a retired teacher, but I teach English in Huaraz, and I am very dedicated and try to do the best I can. I work at Casa de Guías, but I have some private students too. I am recognised by some people because Casa de Guías ran a commercial on local television and people enthusiastically come to me to say that I must teach them English. Additionally, I work for an editorial company in Lima where I do some correction and translation work. This includes correcting children´s books and recording children’s songs and chants.

3. How long have you been living in Huaraz?

I have been living in Huaraz for over four years now, but I have been coming to the Huaraz area for over 20 years. The first ever time I came to Huaraz was back in 1971 as a backpacker! It was the year after the earthquake.

4.  What brought you to Huaraz?

It was a dare. At the time women wouldn’t travel, and I was told that I wasn’t ever going to Peru, and people informed me that I would get killed and that kind of stuff. However, I still went and, being in my 20s, had the best time of my life. In the 1980s, I started bringing high school students to this area, as I was teaching Spanish back then. This is when I started thinking that I could maybe do something here, like helping kids or something. I was getting to know another reality. It´s funny because a while ago I had this discussion with some lady who´s in her 80s, and she said, “You don´t know what my reality is!” And I thought, yes, that´s exactly true.

5. How has your life changed over the years?

Oh my goodness, it´s incredible. You know, when I was in the States, my blood pressure was really high and doctors said, if you don´t slow down, you’ll drop down one day. And I replied, if that´s what it is then that´s what it is. However, maybe a month after my retirement party I said, I love my children and grandson to death, but want to do something. Help people instead of watching stupid TV shows or CNN, and that´s when I decided to move to Peru. I was 68 and you know, I was so excited, and looking back, I think I am in the best shape that I have been in for years. I feel like I am in my 50s again, my blood pressure is down and I am doing things that I really love to do. I am an adventurer, and if I want to travel somewhere, I go. I can work if I want to, and this has changed my mode of thinking. I think I am teaching okay and helping children. Before, my life was tremendously stressful, and for a long time I have been a single mother, running around all the time. Having numerous of jobs, but I wasn’t really happy. Maybe people didn’t think the same way as I did so I am glad I took that decision.

6. What are your favourite hangout spots in Huaraz?

Do you want me to be extremely honest? I have my coffee at Trivio because I like their chocolate cake. I also have coffee at Trece Búhos. I guess the parks are my favourite hangout spots. There is a variety of places I like to go to. I like Manka a lot and Pastelería Kawsay. I try not to go to the same places all the times, but frequently Eddy and I [Martha´s partner Edward] go to Campo Base because it´s around the corner from Casa de Guías. I like to try different places. Honestly, I don’t hang out that much because I still work a lot. In the morning, I have classes, in the afternoon as well and then I am dead tired. Do you want me to be extremely honest? I have my coffee at Trivio because I like their chocolate cake. I also have coffee at Trece Búhos. I guess the parks are my favourite hangout spots. There is a variety of places I like to go to. I like Manka a lot and Pastelería Kawsay. I try not to go to the same places all the times, but frequently Eddy and I [Martha´s partner Edward] go to Campo Base because it´s around the corner from Casa de Guías. I like to try different places. Honestly, I don’t hang out that much because I still work a lot. In the morning, I have classes, in the afternoon as well and then I am dead tired.

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

Definitely my kids, I miss my kids. In terms of products, I was missing cinnamon rolls but Pastelería Kawsay is making them and they are great! Maybe some creams too but I don’t really miss home. I go home maybe once a year to see my kids. Although recently I have decided to meet my kids in different places like in Mexico City, for example. Bringing them to, for example, Argentina. What am I going to do in San Diego? Not that I don’t like San Diego, but there´s nothing for me to do. I still have friends there, but I’d rather visit different and new places to open up my grandson´s eyes. The US with their videogames and phones, there is nothing for me there, except my kids and family.

8. What is it you like most about Huaraz?

That I can see the mountains from my window. I like that very much. I also have a lot of friends here and people that greet me when they walk by. The informality of it, and the fact that I can walk anywhere I want to. I think I like the closeness. Seeing students and former students on the street and having a little chat with them.

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

Well, to start, I would like to make clear that tourists should stop bargaining. I believe it´s insulting. The guides, for example, work so hard, but before they set off, they have to haggle with tourists that are always looking for the cheapest deal. I can understand it in one sense, as they are probably travelling for a longer time; however, they should respect the people that are here and are trying to make a living. Tourists should enjoy their stay trying to get to know the locals. That upsets me, maybe they don’t realise, how insulting this can be. People should read more about the country they´re coming to. On the other hand, Peruvians shouldn’t take advantage of the situation either. It´s fun time for both. It´s embarrassing to me and I don´t like their attitude sometimes.

The second point is that times have changed; it´s not like the 80s anymore. It´s a different generation and this might be the mentality. In order to get more tourism, they should start changing some things around here. Another thing I’d like to mention is the great number of new hotels, how do people finance these buildings? Where are they coming from, I would like to know that. There is too much competition and there´s no regulation. Moreover, let me add that the tour guides need to learn English! Some tourists will tip a good guide that speaks their language.

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

Well this is not in Huaraz, but I like Chachapoyas in the north. And also the Gocta Falls [Spanish: Catarata del Gocta], just the trip there is great, and Lunahuaná, a small village in the Cañete Province. They have great food there, and people should hire a 4 x 4 vehicle and visit the vineyards too. That´s really cool. I would recommend the off-the-beaten-tracks. I know everybody goes to Cusco and Puno, but what about the road that goes towards Chacas? I believe Iquitos has changed a lot, but a trip on the Amazon is awesome. People should be adventurous and look for less-visited places, experience the Peruvian culture and enjoy it. Locally, and it makes me sad sharing this, the Huayhuash. Do you remember Victorino Bacilio Huaranga, the 75-year-old guide that got killed in May last year when he suffered a deadly fall? He once invited me to Pueblo Viejo in Huayhuash. He wanted to take me there, but the Huayhuash in general is exhilarating.

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

You mean, without paying everyone off [laughing]? I would be very truthful and completely honest about what I will do or change. To start, I would clean up the main street Luzuriaga. This street is really disgusting. It has potholes all over the place. What is the problem with the current mayor? Another problem to address would be the stray dogs. I don’t mean by killing them but they´re suffering a lot. People buy little puppies on the street but after a while they stop taking care of them. It´s horrendous, these poor and hungry dogs are just walking about on the streets. It seems that people don’t care about anything! I would focus on education too; give the indigenous people a chance. Teachers should be more dedicated, not teaching for money, but teaching to offer chances and possibilities. If they´re not, they shouldn’t teach!

Another point I’d like to mention are the discothèques. Oh my God! Is there really nothing else these youngsters can do these days besides getting drunk? There is one below my apartment, and all I see is people getting drunk and fighting with each other. There should be some control of these enterprises. Two months ago a young kid was killed by his best friend, just a block from where I live. Thanks to a new ordinance, at three o´clock the noise stops and it´s forbidden to sell alcohol. Thank God, I can sleep now from three in the morning. Let´s hope it stays that way. You know, I am an old lady and I need to sleep. It´s like a demon possesses them and they get crazy. I have talked to some of them actually and have asked them, why they keep going to those places. This was an engineer who was missing a couple of teeth but said he goes there every night, every night! I was wondering when he studied and worked. Another interesting thing in Huaraz is the huge number of chicken places; people only seem to copy each other. There are already 42 chicken restaurants and they just opened up another one, same with the karaoke. It makes me cry, they should do something positive, instead of opening up another gambling place.

There should be more activities in the Cultural Centre too, involve the students, the youngsters so they could do some acting and get involved. Something that could get them on the right path and help them with their careers. Youngsters should focus on one decent career, not having a ton of them and not doing anything good. There isn’t even a cinema in Huaraz. Have you noticed that in three years you can become a doctor in Peru? In the States it takes forever to get that degree, here people look at the Internet for three years and they´re doctors!

Maybe more athletics at school would be something to wish for, more sports I think. Being the mayor of Huaraz I would start with a think tank and try to involve youngsters. Not just deciding what would be a good thing according to my point of view, but include them in the decision making. What would help the community? I would bring in some student leaders and get them involved. They are very savvy and smart so that´s what I would do.

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

Am I living the dream? I think, ever since I was a little kid, I have always been a dreamer. I wanted to become a missionary at one point, but… I think… I don’t´ know. I like the exoticness of Peru and South America. It´s fun for me. I don’t know if it´s a dream or not but I believe it´s a pretty ending of a happy life for me. My dream has always been helping other people and that´s what I am doing. Caring for and loving people is important to me. I don’t want to be selfish and teach them American values. I want them to be able to realise their own dreams. It´s not so much about my dreams, that´s what I feel in my heart.

13. How do you see your future in Peru?

Doing what I am doing now, you know, being retired is so exiting. I am doing more and more things; the world is so open for me. I am not restrained by anyone or anything and can do what I really like to do. As long as my health holds up, I want to keep learning new things. You know, I don’t see myself as old. I don’t have an old mentality, and, honestly, I believe that Peruvians who are retired should help other people. They should not sit down and start thinking; OK, I am dead already. They should do something positive and help others, come on! You don’t always have to be paid for it. There has to be a dialogue going. I love it here, I like the people here a lot; I like Huaraz.

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