In late August, I took part in a wonderful travel to Peru with some of my Chicago Booth classmates. This kind of travels organized by the Business School is called “Random Walk”.
A number of local porters was helping us with our luggage in the Inca Trail. This article reproduces my conversations with one of them, whom we will call “Luis”.
“Luis: the future is tourism”
Globthink: Hola Luis!
Globthink: Where are you from?
Luis: We are from Misminay
Globthink: Ahhh, tell me about Misminay? How many inhabitants are there? What do people there do?
Luis: Well… It is a small village. A lot of people people, especially the elderly and women, work on agriculture. But men, especially the young, are now working in tourism carrying baggages in the Andes as I am doing.
Globthink: Why did people change from agriculture to tourism?
Luis: We used to be very poor. If you grow vegetables you have money once a year but if you work in tourism you have money every month.
Globthink: When did tourism start here?
Luis: Around 15 years ago more or less. We used to be much more poor before. Now it is better.
Globthink: So how much does a normal porter earn on average right now?
Luis: Around 900 Soles. That is much, much more than as a peasant.
[Globthink note: 300 USD]
Globthink: So what do you think of toursim in Machupichu and the Inca Trail?
Luis: Tourism is the future.
Globthink: Hey Luis, yesterday in the mountains, I saw children coming from School. Where is that school?
Luis: Well, it depends. Most villages do not have a school. Many children have to walk to the train station and then go to a school in a bigger village.
Globthink: But Luis, when I saw those children we were around two hours away from the station. Do you mean those children walk two hours across the mountains everyday to go to the school and two hours to come back?
Globthink: Waaaahhhh! What do children learn in the school?
Luis: Everything: mathematics, Spanish…
Globthink: Do they also learn Quechua?
[Globthink note: Quechua is Luis' native language, the language that was spoken by the Inca before the Conquistadores arrived in the XVI century]
Luis: Yes. They do.
[Globthink note: this is true for some village school but is not the case for bigger cities like Cusco where the vehicular language is only Spanish]
Globthink: Do you think it is important that children learn Quechua?
Luis: Yes, it is. But they should also learn English, French, German… There are many tourists
Globthink: Luis, can you read?
Luis: Not much
Globthink: Changing the topic, what does the Goverment for native Peruvians in the Andes?
Luis: Not much
Globthink: But I was told you have a now a school in Misminay. You did not have one before. Who built the school then?
Luis: The State
[Globthink note: Luis contradicts his previous statement. Obviously the debate about how much the State should intervene in native communities is a complicate one. Too much intervention may destroy local culture. Too little will leave native Peruvians poor and excluded from the society]
Globthink: So, Luis, what do native Peruvians want to do? Do they usually prefer to migrate to the cities to be “more integrated” into the Peruvian society? Or do they prefer to stay in the villages and have a “more traditional” way of living?
Luis: We want to stay in our villages
Globthink: Luis, do you know who was Che Guevera?
Globthink: Che Gevara was a guy who travelled a lot in Latin America. He was even here, in Machupicchu. In his travels he discovered the situation of the poor of America and decided to work for the rights of people like you. A friend of him, called Fidel Castro, and he made a revolution in Cuba. They conquered the Goverment but their revolution did not work well and degraded soon into tyranny and oppression.
Luis: Men are too greedy.
Globthink: That’s exactly want happened.
[ Luis changes the topic. He seems not interested in politics]
Luis: How is Spain?
Globthink: Spain is very different from here. Spain is very flat. Most people live in the cities. Now we have a lot of Latin Americans living in Spain. There are many Peruvians also and… well… Now it is maybe easier for immigrants in Spain because they can talk with their families on the Internet. So they may not feel nostalgic.
Luis: What is the Internet?
Globthink: Well, the Internet is just like a phone. It is just that you read instead of listening and you write instead of talking. And it is cheaper.
Luis: I see.
Globthink: Luis, coming to such a beautiful place and enjoying the landscape and fresh air of the Andes is already great. But been able of doing it with good food, tents, gas bottles, coffee in the morning and everything you and other porters carry for us is absolutely wonderful. In my name and in that of my classmates, I want to thank you for everything you are doing for us. Thank you so much.
[Globthink note: Luis smiles and looks downwards]
Luis: Thank you!
Image: the image belongs to one of the classmates who travelled with me to Peru.