Merry Christmas

Brianna: “I want Santa Claus to bring me everything I like (in the commercials) on Disney Junior.”
Me: “Isn’t that a lot?”
Brianna: “Santa Claus can borrow my suitcase if he needs one, so he can bring everything I like from the North Pole.”


A Merry Christmas to all, from cold and rainy Cusco.

Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town

We’ve done this here before but I see absolutely no reason to break a good habit. Merry Christmas to all, Feliz Navidad a todos!


Another one of my favorite Christmas songs: Joan Jett’s live punk-rock style rendition of Little Drummer Boy. Goes to show girls don’t just do soft and mushy.

Merry Christmas – part 2

So many great Christmas songs… One of my favorites is this one from Freddie Mercury and Queen. If you think of the great front-men of rock, people tend to name names like Robert Plant or Steven Tyler or Mick Jagger, but when you look at Freddie Mercury’s live performances – whether you like his style or not – he’s just an incredible performer with few if any equals. R.I.P. Farrokh Bulsara.

Merry Christmas to all!!

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all!

We have our Paneton and hot cocoa ready, and surprisingly our Christmas tree has actually managed to stay upright until now… with our wild little baby goose I had given it about 60/40 odds of being knocked over before today, but I’m glad to be wrong on that prediction.

We will spend Christmas Eve together with family in the Peruvian tradition. We’ll stay up through the night, exchange gifts and eat dinner at midnight.

We decided to skip the nativity scene in our home this year, because said little baby goose doesn’t yet know the difference between toys and nativity scene, so it would just end up strewn all over the floor with the rest of our worldly belongings 😦

I’ll leave you with a picture of the typical Andean Baby Jesus figure, which shows the strong influence of the native Quechua culture on the Christian religion. Just beautiful.

Typical Andean baby Jesus figure

Typical Andean baby Jesus figure

Merry Christmas!

Best charitable giving in Peru

DISCLAIMER: no offense is intended

Earlier this year one of our best friends in the US asked me if I knew of any good charities in Peru. He had set aside some cash and was looking for a good way to make a donation. Patricia and I have talked about charitable giving in Peru, and since the holidays will be upon us in a few months I decided to write this post as food for thought, so to speak.

If you want to make a charitable contribution in Peru, or a corporate charitable event, what do you do?

In a nutshell, after spending time in Peru I no longer believe in the US/European concept of charitable giving. Big charities, churches and NGOs may have good intentions but often appear culturally disconnected at best or self-serving at worst, with charitable giving an extension of foreign policy or corporate strategy.

Look beyond the idea of selecting a better charity. While writing a check to your favorite charity is certainly a very kind and honorable thing to do, sealing that envelope as you’re sitting safely behind a desk only reinforces ideas that you are already comfortable with: that the big white man can make everything all better for little brown people, that countries like Peru need the US to improve their way of life.

Only, it hasn’t worked in the past 500 years or so and it won’t work any time soon.

No offense, Peruvians LOVE gringos, but we gringos typically go down to Latin America with preconceived notions of how our money, influence and business will make life better, which is practically akin to the Prime Minister of India coming down to Texas and “saving” all the ranchers there by educating them on how sacreligious it is to eat steak.

If you’re already convinced that Latin America needs the US, you will by definition be insensitive to its real needs.

I experienced a great way to do charitable giving in Peru during Christmas of 2007: the office where Patricia worked took a trip to a poor, rural village and handed out Christmas presents to the kids there, served hot cocoa and Panettone (pictures below). In my opinion, the only way to do charitable giving in Peru is to fly down to Peru and do something nice yourself. Take a bus to a small rural town, hand out some toys to kids who have none, or build a library or a medical clinic if you have the resources. You know that warm fuzzy feeling you get when your kids open their presents on Christmas day? A US company or philanthropist can easily fly down to Peru and get the same warm fuzzy feeling 100 times over 2 weeks before Christmas, then go home and do it all over again.

Don’t take my word for it, come see for yourself.



Schoolkids in rural Peru

Schoolkids in rural Peru

Poor rural children in Peru

Poor rural children in Peru

Handing out Christmas gifts

Handing out Christmas gifts

Christmas in Peru

This year was my second Christmas in Peru. Like in the US and Europe Christmas here in Peru is a time for family and celebrating the birth of Christ Jesus. Of course Christmas in Peru also means food, gifts, fireworks and watching “Home Alone” 1, 2 and 3 for the 23rd time.

One interesting aspect of celebrating Christmas in Peru is how the traditional Andean religion and culture has blended with Christianity. For example, church altars are often adorned in gold (a throwback to the Inca’s time) and a very typical Peruvian “baby Jesus” figure is used in nativity scenes.

Typical Peruvian baby Jesus figures, Niños

Typical Peruvian 'baby Jesus' figures, known as 'Niños'.

Peruvians celebrate Christmas eve (“la Noche Buena”) with a dinner, followed by an exchange of gifts and fireworks at midnight. The traditional Christmas meal is turkey, and in the weeks leading up to Christmas the typical treat is hot chocolate with a sweet bread called “Panettone”.

I’ve noticed a lot of “Santa” images and figures, but Peruvian Santas don’t seem to follow the US tradition of putting gifts under the tree at night – gifts are simply exchanged between family and friends on Christmas eve. Unlike in the US, Christmas shopping in Peru is typically done only in the last week or even last few days before Christmas.

Last minute Christmas shopping at the Plaza de Armas in Cusco, Peru.

Last minute Christmas shopping at the Plaza de Armas in Cusco, Peru.

Overall we had a great Christmas, wishing everyone all the best.

Ward Welvaert