In this great future…

you can’t forget your past.

I may fuss about some things in Peru, but at the end of the day I’m very optimistic about the future. What keeps surprising me is how the young population (median age is 26) appears indifferent at times to the recent history of Peru.

Take the post office here in Cuzco, for example. Looks ok from the outside…

Cuzco post office

Cuzco post office

Now inside: “…built by the revolutionary government of the armed forces of Peru. June 1973.”

Gobierno revolucionario de la fuerza armada

Gobierno revolucionario de la fuerza armada

The military government of Velasco Alvarado was later overthrown in another military coup, and in the 1980s followed by the disastrous first term of Alan Garcia, hyperinflation and the terrorism of Sendero Luminoso.

History intrigues me, a lot can be learned from it, but we often don’t. Just in way of one current example, here in Peru those who are considering to allow ex-militants of Sendero Luminoso back into politics should consider the simple wisdom of the late great Bob Marley:

“in this great future, you can’t forget your past…”

They weren’t idle words for Bob Marley… songwriter’s credit (and royalties) for the song “No woman no cry” is given to Vincent Ford, a man who ran a soup kitchen in the ghetto where Marley grew up. It is believed Marley wrote the song to console Mr. Ford’s widow at his death.

Here’s to hoping Peru won’t forget it’s past and the future will be bright.

Peruvian economists

It’s really a shame this should be a headline in Peru’s newspaper of record, El Comercio.

“Economists: continued growth is not possible unless poverty is reduced”.

Peruvian economists

Just saying, that one is right up there with “the sky is blue” and “Bill Gates not hurting for money this week”.

But such is the dilemma that is Peru: for the suits in Lima economic growth has long been detached from quality of life for ordinary Peruvians, especially in the provinces. Take for example this chart from official INEI statistics, during a period where GDP grew at a 9% annual clip.

Peru quality of life

Chullo tip to IKN.

Now I’m not pretending to have an easy solution for the quality of life issues in Peru, but hopefully some of the suits in Lima will start to seriously look beyond the neo-liberal dogma that “what’s good for business is good for everyone”.

I’ll propose a new ideology for economists in Peru: “do what’s good for the people and economic growth will follow”.

  • Stimulate the economy in the provinces
  • Improve the infrastructure in Lima’s slums and in the provinces
  • Respect labor and environmental protections
  • Reduce bureaucracy and hold the bureaucrats accountable
  • ….

The economy in Peru is too dependent on tourism and export of base metals. While those are great sources of revenue, the suits who run Peru should look at adding technology, manufacturing and quality services, the types of employment that would raise the standard of living of the average Peruvian worker.

At the end of the day, the Peruvian economy is the total of what the average Peruvian worker contributes to it, and expects to receive from it. Not in monetary “funny printed paper” terms, but in terms of products and services. It’s a no-brainer, focus on the quality of life of ordinary Peruvians and economic growth must follow.

Abuelo’s birthday

Patricia’s dad, Carlos, celebrated his birthday yesterday. Patricia’s dad and several of his family members played traditional Peruvian folk songs on the guitar, banjo and accordion. We all ate yummie lechon, even Brianna!!!

After a few cervezas papi even danced to traditional Peruvian folk music… bad uncoordinated gringo ;)

Carlos playing guitar

Brianna Nayaraq con su bisabuela

Brianna Nayaraq con su bisabuela

Baby Brianna watching her grandpa play guitar

Funny printed paper

2 cool charts I copied from Rolfe Winkler at Reuters. To illustrate my point that money’s just funny printed paper.

US public debt outstanding

US public debt outstanding

US public debt, doesn’t include unfunded healthcare and Social Security oblications. Original here.

Dow Jones historical chart valued in gold

Dow Jones historical chart valued in gold

Dow Jones historical chart as valued in gold. Original here.

Peruvians should pay attention to these, since Peru historically has very close ties to the US and gold is a major part of Peru’s foreign exports. To stay up to date on all things gold and Peruvian economy, head over to IKN.

11-11-11

91 years ago, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 the Great War ended.

WW1 was supposed to be the war that ended all wars, but of course it only set the stage for WW2, which in turn marked the beginning of the so-called “Cold War” that shaped much of Latin America’s bloody history.

When I was a kid a handful of WW1 veterans in my hometown were still around to hold a memorial every Nov 11. They are long gone… but here’s to hoping young men and women will never again be sent to war by delusional egomaniacs.

Read ‘em and weep

The real-estate classifieds for Cusco, that is. Here’s a few examples:

We’ve started looking to buy a house or apartment in Cusco, because the apartment we’ve been renting is becoming too small, especially since baby got a new swing ;)

Brianna in her new swing

Brianna in her new swing

Real estate here in Cusco is very expensive compared to the rest of Peru, since the area is thriving with so much tourist money. Asking prices for some nice apartments we’ve looked at range from $60,000 to $120,000, and mortgage interest rates range between 9-14%. This in a country where the per capita GDP is $8,500. If I worked full-time at my teaching job, my entire income would be spent on the $500 mortgage payment if we bought a $60,000 apartment with 20% downpayment :(

I’m really on the fence about this… to get a nice place that we can afford we may have to look outside the city. I actually prefer the quiet areas outside the city, but then we’d be further away from family, friends, etc.

In terms of real-estate value, I’m worried that much of the increase in Cusco in the past years is speculative and that prices appear to be wildly out of line with personal incomes. On the other hand, I think long-term demographics, conservative lending standards and the mountainous terrain could put a floor under real-estate prices in Cusco, plus we’d be buying something to live in, not as an investment to “flip” in a few months or years.

So if any readers have a rich aunt or uncle… tell ‘em to help out a poor gringo in Cusco ;)

Bad dog

Hopefully by the time you read this our dogs will still be alive. Not kidding, yesterday a lady threatened to poison our dogs – and dog poisoning is common here in Peru, as Barb can attest to firsthand.

Now to put the story in context, our dogs are not aggressive, but they are dominant and protective, which is something many Peruvians are not used to. Dogs here in Cusco tend to be skittish, since most roam free in the streets – either as strays or just because their owners allow them – and many people treat the dogs bad, throw rocks at them, etc. The stray/loose dogs also tend to get into fights, as I wrote about earlier.

Our dogs are inside the house most of the time, but occasionally they are out in our front yard, which is fenced in and has a hedge along the inside of the fence. When they’re outside the dogs sometimes bark at people walking by, and sometimes spook them pretty bad. Part of the blame is on me for what happened last night: there are 2 openings in the hedge where the dogs could stick their head through the fence. The dogs have never hurt anyone, nor would they, but I should have put something up to prevent the dumbasses from scaring the passers by.

So while I was cooking dinner last night the dogs started to bark. Usually they only bark for a few seconds and the people in the street simply walk by. But last night the barking went on so I stepped outside to see a lady with 2 young kids standing by our fence fussing at the dogs. As soon as I stepped outside, she said “Sir, I’m going to poison your dogs!”

No could you please put your dogs inside, or your dogs scared my kids, nothing like that. Just “I’m going to poison your dogs”. Right in front of her kids…

So I replied “if you poison my dogs you’re going to jail”. To which she said “you’ll never find me, you don’t even know who I am….” teaching her kids the invaluable ethical concept that it’s not a crime unless you get caught.

At this point I wasn’t mad yet, I just told her not to worry about the dogs, they are inside a fence and won’t hurt anyone. But she kept fussing and yelling and when she finally walked down the street she yelled again that she would poison my dogs.

At that point I did lose my temper and yelled back in my best worst Spanglish exactly what I thought about her sex habits and ancestry.

Ten minutes later a knock on the door. You guessed it, the poison lady was back with a policeman in tow. To set the stage a bit more, our apartment is literally across the street from a police office, at least 50 policemen walk by our house every day, and no one has ever complained.

Patricia answered the door and I missed the first part of the conversation since I was in the kitchen, but by the time I walked out the policeman was visibly annoyed at the poison lady who just kept arguing despite the fact that Patricia was apologetic and promised to put up a better fence. The policeman agreed that just putting up a wire to keep the dogs away from the openings in the hedge would be a good idea…

At the end of the day there are a lot of problems with dogs in Peru: stray dogs, aggressive dogs that run loose, many dogs that don’t get rabies shots, etc. The policeman agreed that a gringo with 2 dogs inside a fenced yard really isn’t a problem, but the poison lady kept saying no one should have dogs like ours, she was going to poison them (right in front of the policeman), etc. etc. The policeman finally nudged her down the road and said good riddens.

So this morning I put up a new fence on the inside of the yard, so the dogs will stay away from people walking by… It looks a little redneck for the time being, but as soon as I buy a few extra posts it will do the job. Next up, reseed the grass before rainseason :)

Manchita checking out the new fence

Manchita checking out the new fence

Halloween in Cusco

A few pictures of Halloween at the Plaza de Armas in Cusco, Peru:

Now I have to admit, I used to not like Halloween, thought it was a good day to lock the doors, turn the lights off and let the dogs out. But that was long ago, now Halloween is one of my favorite holidays.

I don’t think Halloween is as big an event in Peru as in the US. In regular neighborhoods, you don’t see many kids dressed up, and in typical Peruvian fashion (better later than earlier) most kids are buying masks in the afternoon on Oct 31 – not like in the States where Wal-Mart is full of Halloween costumes for the entire month of October.

We went to the Plaza de Armas last night to check out the crowd and hand out candy. Peruvian kids don’t really go “trick-or-treating” like in the US, they just sort of walk up to you with a little plastic pumpkin and say “Halloween”. Patricia had warned me that we’d be mobbed as soon as kids noticed we had candy, and sure enough, we practically got run over by happy little ones, and sometimes their moms as well. One kid tried to come back a few times, and when Patricia noticed he said “that wasn’t me, that was my twin”. One day I’ll do a post on little white lies in Peru, they’re out of control at times and usually so obvious it’s plain funny.

Anyway, got of on a tangent… For those of you who get into folk legends, some Belgian scholars believe the origin of Halloween has to do with a Dutch folk song, Lied van Heer Halewijn

“Heer Halewyn zong een liedekyn,
Al wie dat hoorde wou by hem zyn.

En dat vernam een koningskind,
Die was zoo schoon en zoo bemind.

Zy ging al voor haer vader staen:
“Och vader, mag ik naer Halewyn gaen?”

“Och neen gy, dochter, neen gy niet!
Die derwaert gaen en keeren niet

…”

Find the complete lyrics here. But if you’re looking at me to sing the song, you’ll need to wait until I’m seriously inebriated :)