The Peruvian dream / Expat in Huaraz (part 21)

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 twenty-first version of the Peruvian Dream we have interviewed an American
who has been living continually in Carhuaz since 1998, but first visited the area
in 1984 as an undergraduate student. Our interviewee kindly invites readers to get in touch with her or to visit her ranch La Casa de Pocha in Carhuaz.

1. Who are you?

I was born in Indiana, named Patricia Jean Hammer, and grew up in Evanston,Illinois. My father was a clinical psychologist on the psych ward of the Veterans Hospital downtown Chicago for 25 years. My mother was a primary school teacher and counselor, who was enthralled by history and had really wanted to be an archaeologist. My parents met at Queens College in the 1940s, both third generation New Yorkers.

2. What’s your profession and how old are you Patricia?

I came into the world in 1956, a good year for chevys, studied music, English and Spanish literature for several years until I discovered anthropology, which appily combined all my interests with the additional element of international travel. I am an applied medical anthropologist, as well as a university professor. I teach social policy in the graduate school at the local state university (UNASAM) in Huaraz. I also direct a field training school for international students in Carhuaz.

3. How long have you been living in Carhuaz?

I’ve been living continually in Carhuaz since 1998, but first visited in 1984 as an undergraduate student. In 2000 I joined with Peru’s forerunner Ecologist, Pocha Barreto, to found the civic association, The Center for Social Well Being (www. to teach and orient students and the general public on themes of Andean ecology, society, culture and the environment. We receive students and visitors for intensive seminars, as well as interested local community members who are particularly interested in regaining organic farming practices and learning about alternative energy, how to minimize contamination of the environment.

4. What brought you to the Carhuaz area?

The truth is that the mountains beckoned me here…Initially I came to Peru from the University of California, San Diego, to study Spanish Literature and Anthropology. Before arriving I did some reading of Andean ethnographies, saw the photos of the magnificent mountain peaks of the Cordillera Blanca and was instantly inspired to find my way here. On my first day of Anthropology class in Lima with Prof. Juan Ossio (Peru’s first Minister of Culture), I told him I’d like to know this region to have my first attempt at field observations.

He carefully explained to me the need to have preliminary contacts in order to be introduced to highland communities and therefore put me in touch with a group of British and US linguists studying the amazing variations of Huaylas Quechua language. I had just arrived in Peru, and within 10 days I was up here and delivered to the community of Shilla, nestled along the road up to the Quebrada Ulta, under the vast presence of Peru’s highest peak, Huascarán.

5. How has your life changed over the years?

Well, life certainly is change, that’s an invariable constant. Although I initially began
my field research in Carhuaz, it took me more than a decade to be able to establish
myself here. In the late 1980s the Sierra was unsafe, seized with civil strife, so I ended up doing my doctoral field work in Bolivia. As I was writing up my dissertation, I was contacted by a Peruvian feminist organization, Movimiento Manuela Ramos, who hired me as a consultant to develop a community participatory research instrument to explore women’s reproductive and sexual health. That began a series of consultancies for me throughout the country, but it took a while for me to actually settle here in Carhuaz. The Callejón de Huaylas is not one of the poorer regions of Peru and many of my initials jobs were in Ayacucho, Huancavelica, Puno, Cuzco, parts of the lowland jungle, etc.

Living in Carhuaz at La Casa de Pocha I’ve been able to dedicate my efforts to local issues, and teach at the UNASAM, where I learn a great amount from my students – who are all professionals responsible for implementing government social programs, some have even been town mayors.

6. What are your favourite hangout spots?

Well, when I do have down time the best place is around the ranch, doing yoga or
dancing in the yoga salon, reading in the library, relaxing in the sauna, followed by a
swim in the pool, or really just hanging out in one of the hammocks. Carhuaz, certainly in and around the plaza which is filled with flowers, palm trees and ice cream shops, is a great place to run into old friends and catch up. The extraordinary
local market is also a wonderful place to spend time and learn about agrobiodiversity – the incredible range of varieties of fruits, vegetables and root
crops for sale and trade. The sellers enjoy conversing about medicinal and fortifying
properties of herbs and foods from local farms. Traditional food and limitless native
ingredients are a real draw for me, I can’t imagine living any place without year
round papaya, avocados, all the kinds of passion fruit, and of course – the
stimulating coca leaf and cacao.

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

The only thing I occasionally miss is… Mexican food! I also miss seeing friends
and family. I was last back in the North- West US in 2016 and it was nice to see
how my siblings and nieces and nephews are creating their lifestyles in that strange,
too often, violent society.

8. What is it you like most about Huaraz and Carhuaz?

About Carhuaz – I appreciate the small town atmosphere, to be able to drop in on
friends and acquaintances informally and converse. Carhuacinos are enthusiastic
and proud of their heritage, not embarrassed to speak Quechua and analyze
cultural traditions and concepts. The tranquility and lack of traffic is a blessing,
too. Also, the temperate climate – at 2600 above sea-level (8900 feet) we have
all kinds of luscious fruit trees in our garden such as chirimoya, lucma, all kinds of
citrus – oranges, tangerines, lemons and limes, even avocado and banana trees! It
is remarkably warmer here than in Huaraz. And of course we have incomparable
views of the snow peaks Hualcán, Huascarán and the Cordillera Blanca looking
south. The water quality is outstanding, too. On the other hand, I don’t tolerate
Huaraz at all – too noisy, disordered, lack of greenery, lack of personality, and a bit
too cold which goes with the markedly higher altitude.

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

Unfortunately, it’s unorganised and unreliable. It has taken me several decades
to find consistently reliable guides (of all kinds), or legitimate transport companies.

As far as lodging and food there are few places to recommend throughout both
the Callejón de Huaylas and the Valley of Conchucos, which is a shame. Of
course, I’m biased and live at La Casa de Pocha just above Carhuaz, which I consider
the only authentic EcoLodge in the country – a completely organic ranch for
nearly 40 years, all built with materials on site – wood and adobe (hundreds of trees
planted by Pocha), the farm is run on alternative energy systems, is perfectly peaceful and situated with stunning views of the mountains and River Chucchun.

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

Some of the nicest things to do in the Callejón are hikes and visits to the various
hot springs, and high mountain lakes, each with different mineral and healing quality to revitalize the soul and body. Archaeological sites are always captivating,
particularly Chavin, Wilcahuaín as well as some of the lesser known places such
as Honcopampa, which should be visited with an informed guide; archaeologist Steven Wegner is the expert and can be located through the Regional Museum on
the plaza of Huaraz.

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

I would take the opportunity to demonstrate all that is possible to get done with
accountability, what they call “transparency” here, referring to the absence of corruption. I would work to include the participation of citizens every step of the way which is both challenging and rewarding. Notions of inclusion and transparency would reign, and I would like to show how much could be accomplished on the truly existing Provincial budget of Carhuaz, focusing on
the “how” – the methodology of open community consensus in establishing priorities for the town. I’d probably be assassinated or run out of town immediately.

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

Rather, I would say that I’m living the Peruvian “reality.” When you first enter an
unknown sphere everything seems exotic and enchanting, or strange and baffling.
However, as time goes on you engage with the ongoing required and desired
circumstances and become part of it all, or in some cases a counter voice to accepted
conditions. I like to point out that if you take the freedom to simply do what
you are interested in or compelled to do and do it well, people will seek you out and
find a useful place for you in society. Basically, that’s what occurred here in La Casa
de Pocha – often people were knocking on the gate curious about alternative energy,
living and lifestyles or requesting help with their field research, so we created
the Center for Social Well Being to hold classes and respond to expressed needs. Similarly, I teach at the university in Huaraz because in 2004 a committee
of students sought me out and invited me to dictate classes on Social Policy in the
graduate school. What I like about Peru is the value on human interaction, face to
face communication, respect and consideration. What I find to be a “dream” or really a “fiction” is the overall modern world and society in countries in the northern
hemisphere that are so far removed from nature and have lost the richness of social
and environmental relationships.

13. How do you see your future in Peru?

Well, here at La Casa de Pocha we’re maturing towards a transition and looking
for people who appreciate an organic, chemical free environment in a setting of rural tranquility. More and more young people are dropping in to lend a hand with
daily chores on the ranch, and we’re hoping some will stay on to create an Intentional Community and continue with the endeavors that we’ve set in motion over the years – the lodge, gardens, orchards, community work and field training. As well as simply enjoying the place – sauna, yoga room, swimming pools, chimney and billiard lounge, etc. We’re open to selling parcels of land to conscientious groups or individuals seeking peace with the earth, or perhaps creating a land trust to conserve the ecological ranch. As for myself personally, you’ll continue to see me around here for many years to come, donned in one of my many Andean hats, woven poncho and wooden walking stick, greeting everyone in Quechua and paying loving tribute to the mountain spirits who after all, summoned me here in the first place.

Feel free to get in touch if you’d like to visit us:; or visit the website.

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