The Peruvian Mother

“I believe in the future
we shall suffer no more
maybe not in my lifetime
but in yours I feel sure”

Brilliant lyrics by Paul Simon that could have been written about the Peruvian mother.

Disclaimer: this post is NOT about the mother of my baby goose 🙂

Juan Carlos, a teacher I used to work with here in Cuzco, once told me the only reason comedians use a Jewish mother stereotype is because they’ve never met a Peruvian mother. He should know. Juan Carlos is in his fifties and still lives at home with his parents, who still treat him like a little kid. One example he gave me is that his father still comes in his room every morning just before dawn and places a glass of fresh made juice next to his bed for when he wakes up. On occasions after a night of drinking and womanizing Juan Carlos just barely manages to sneak in bed before his father brings him his morning juice.

Not meaning to stereotype, I’d have to agree with Juan Carlos. I think it’s safe to say culture has a profound impact us as individuals and the Peruvian mother is one example of that. Peruvian mothers are typically very strong persons, totally preoccupied with the well-being of their children. They can also be quite overprotective and overbearing, treating their children like babies long after they become adults.

An example I witnessed: I know a couple of kids in their early 20s who live with their mother. One day the mother decided to travel out of town for 3 days and in her absence she had made arrangements for the 2 kids to eat lunch at a neighbor, so they wouldn’t have to cook or provide lunch themselves. All that may be reasonable enough but on the morning after the mother was supposed to return home, an aunt of the 2 kids called in a hysterical panic to their older sister (who lives a block away, is married to a gringo and has a young baby).


The problem was that the mother had planned to be gone for 2 or 3 days, but due to some unexpected issue she was coming back a half a day later than planned. The huge panic was that no plans had been made for the 2 younger siblings to get breakfast (since the mother was expected to be back) so their mother had called her sister (the aunt) and instructed her to call her oldest daughter (who lives a block away, is married to a gringo and has a young baby) and tell the oldest sister to provide breakfast for her 2 twenty-something siblings.

Complete lunacy, the thought that 2 perfectly healthy twenty-somethings would need help to make breakfast for one day.

Peruvian mothers want nothing but the best for their children. It’s very understandable with some of the difficult times that Peru saw in the last part of the 20th century that those mothers who were young then would want a better life for their children now.

You can’t argue with the love and devotion of the Peruvian mother. They cook great meals for their kids, dress them and wrap them in blankets to protect against the cold, they work hard to send their children to the best schools, etc. etc. etc. That’s very admirable but has the potential for some unwanted results.

The 2 twenty-something siblings I talked about have no ambition, nada, zilch, nothing. They are spoiled not in materialistic ways but they expect mom to do anything and everything. They watch TV most of the day, ask mom for money to go to the internet cafe and check facebook, etc. They take a few courses here or there but don’t put anything to use. They don’t have a great deal of self-confidence or self-esteem because they have rarely accomplished anything on their own, they’ve never had to. They’re not bad kids, but like all of us they are to some degree a product of their environment.

Another side-effect of the Peruvian mother’s love for her children is the proliferation of education. Now we generally think of education as a good thing, but I disagree when education in itself has become the end goal, not a means to an end. I admire people who are true academics and they may be the exception to this, but in general I believe education should be a means to an end. I think it’s silly that in the industrialized world a university degree has largely become a prerequisite for any and every job. MBA’s throwing darts at the wall are no more valuable than a farmer, carpenter or school bus driver.

In Peru education is everywhere. When I used to teach ESL in Cuzco, parents would come to me all the time telling me about how good they’d want their kids to do. Parents were sending their kids to 2 or 3 institutes to learn foreign languages, sending them to university prep schools, other institutes, anything from speed-reading to computing to Italian or Japanese.

Trouble is, most of the institutes are strictly for-profit organizations that churn out students with fancy certificates and little practical knowledge. In Cuzco, good bad or indifferent doesn’t seem to matter when it comes to education. The Peruvian mother just wants her children to keep studying, even if it keeps them from being productive, entering the workforce or venturing out in the real world.

OK, rant over. Patricia is not an overbearing and overprotective Peruvian mother in the sense that I’ve just described. Check back in 11 years or so when our Brianna becomes a teenager to see if that’s changed 😉

6 thoughts on “The Peruvian Mother

  1. THat may be true, but you can not overgeneralize Ward. I have 2 kids who are teenagers and know how to do theri things by themselves and are fighting for getting what they wantt without our help. Maybe you are talking about peruvian mothers with a campesino background??

  2. Thanks for commenting Fanny! It’s just my own impression and I agree that generalizations are tricky. Good for you on having your kids be able to get what they want on their own!

    Take care and hope to see you around town soon!

  3. Peruvian mothers are crazy. Anyone agree they only show you their angry side?
    *Is completely yelling and disciplining you*
    *friend comes in/interrupts*
    Mom: “oh hi! chu want jugo or anyting?”

    lol it depends on the class/way the mom was raised up in for the child to be helpless.

  4. Pingback: Peru is nuts about education « Life in Peru

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