It took me close to 20 years to come to this mystic land of llamas and icy peaks that hem in the land, of soft-spoken people so very proud of their Inca ancestry; of food so varied, so fine, flavor so delicate, the only thing that comes close to it is
the genteel demeanor of the people.
And, in the west, the obscene fertility of the Amazon rainforest.
Perú reminds me of México in a dèja vu so violent it might give me vertigo if it weren't so pleasant.
There's the obvious ways: the people--the amabilidad, the attitude towards service, the discreet efficiency, the respectfulness.
The variety of the food. Ingredients are different, as are the end results (there's no anticuchos in México, or quínua, and Perú doesn't use tortillas or other products of maíz nixtamalizado), but the similarity is in the style. The use of sauces, for example.
|Anticuchos. Note the yellow sauce on the right?|
That's huancaína, and it's de-li-cious.
The variety in climate and regions is another obvious similarity: few countries have the range of climates Mexico has--from unblemished Caribbean beaches of powder-fine sand to high plateaus to forests to rainforest to deserts and dry-as-dust sierras. Well, Perú has them all--except the Caribbean beaches, but I hear the ones in the north might give Aruba a run for her money.
|Cañon del Colca: a single location, three (sometimes four)|
Both countries had a sophisticated culture thriving at the time of the Spanish arrival, which--in both cases--the Spanish sought to eradicate. They murdered the royalty and religious leaders, the scribes, the elite that held the keys to the culture's knowledge accrued over centuries, and they enslaved the rest under the guise of catechism. This segment of the population survived because they were quick to understand life depended on obedience, on--at least the appearance of--submission.
|Quipú, the Inca writing system. First on the Spanish|
murdering agenda: kill the scribes, the only ones that
could interpret them.
And I found it in Perú as well. Though Perú seems to be handling it much, much better. The economy is solid, social conscience is strong, national identity--thanks in perhaps large, perhaps small, part to Gastón Acurio and his cuisine magic--seems on the rise, but at the same time I perceived a strong sense of tolerance towards diversity. That is crucial in countries like Perú and México, where the endemic population is so incredibly diverse.
There's a sense of mystery to Perú that enchants. A feeling of magic that seeps under your skin. I know some people who've been to Perú and fallen in love--now I understand why.