My Life in Peru

An Expat Mom Shares Her Experiences with Peruvian Life, Travel and Food

Choleando – Racism in Peru

Posted on | February 24, 2014 | 1 Comment

paisana jacintaRacism in Peru.

Depending on who you talk to, you may be told it barely exists, or that it’s one of the biggest problems the country faces.

I tend to agree with the 2nd school of thought there.



Racism is a bigger problem than hunger? Terrorism? Drug trafficking?

Yes – because the inherent racism in the Peruvian system is part of what defines the way that all those issues are dealt with.

So when I ran across this video on YouTube, it definitely piqued my interest.

Choleando is a documentary on racism in Peru, from Roberto de la Puente.  In it, he shows examples of the type of casual racism that is inherent in society here – from TV shows like “La Paisana Jacinta” to off-the-cuff derogatory statements from politicians.. even the President of the country.

Which makes you wonder – How can the indigenous peoples of Peru get a fair shake from the government when so many of the national leaders believe those people have less value?

I was lucky enough to get to speak with Roberto about the movie and his ideas about racism in Peru:


MLiP: Hi Roberto, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for me. I was wondering, was there a specific event that got you angry enough that you felt the need for this movie? Or was it more a build up of events over time?

Roberto:  I sensed racism all my life. I saw it at school, on the street, on the relationship between family members. The way they look, the way to treat the “other ” people. It was something I did not understand, but I felt it was ” bad “. Years later I began to understand the true dimension of the problem. Perhaps that was one reason why I studied anthropology in college.


MLiP: Do you feel that people in Peru are opening their eyes more to the types of casual racism that happen here?

Roberto: In Peru there is a clear recognition of the existence of racism. Everyone knows that there is racism, and almost everyone can identify their more “subtle ” manifestations . In surveys nearly 80 % recognize that there is racism in Peru . What is new is that in recent years many people protest against this racism. And the protests are public, loudly, in the media.


MLiP: What is your opinion on the recent events during the Peru/Brazil match for the Copa Libertadores?

Roberto: Unfortunate events like that happen all the time. The “animalization” of Afro-Peruvians is something you see everywhere, even in television shows. What is different today is that it is reported. Before it was just “normal”. Nowadays, (there) are still very few Afro-Peruvians with important positions in politics, economics or religion. It’s something that should change soon.


MLiP:  Do you feel that racial relations in Peru are getting better or worse? Are you hopeful for the future?

Roberto:  I think things are changing in my country. More and more Peruvians speak of the problem of racism.Increasingly, authorities and politicians recognize the need to fight discrimination. Racist acts are denounced and rejected publicly on social networks and media. Now the law explicitly condemns racial discrimination: you can go to jail if you discriminate someone else. The most important thing is that people are tired of racism. And now they want to understand racism, its causes and manifestations.

I am quite optimistic.But I think to end racism requires a profound change in my country. Improving public education, respect indigenous peoples, to ensure that access to the labor market is the same for everyone regardless of the phenotype, etc. We are on the right track. But much work still lacking.



I’ve had conversations with Peruvians – people who were well-educated and have jobs of stature – who voiced what to me were absolutely outrageous opinions.  The school director who told me black people were lazy workers, it was simple genetics. Or the English student of mine who warned me against letting our housekeeper sit at the table and eat with my children because she would start getting “uppity”.  I felt the same sense of incredulity and anger when I watched this movie.

If you’ve not seen the movie, I’ve linked it here. It’s in Spanish, but Roberto has made it available with English subtitles. Whether you’ve been in Peru for a long time or have only just arrived, I believe you’ll find it an interesting look at the culture of the country, and you may learn something.

A View of Lima, Peru in the Mid 20th Century

Posted on | February 17, 2014 | 1 Comment

I ran across this video on Youtube, and had to share it. It’s an interesting look back at mid-century Lima. The gentleman who originally posted the video isn’t sure if it’s late 40s or early 50s.

There also is some question as to whether or not the entire video shows Lima (or even Peru, for that matter – one early section is possibly from Quito, Ecuador).

All the same, it’s interesting to see a few spots that are still recognizable today.

Just How Bad Is Lima Traffic? You Might Be Surprised!

Posted on | February 10, 2014 | 2 Comments

don't_drive_hereWe foreigners in Peru love to talk about how God-awful the traffic is – even though there’s always a few people who try to convince us otherwise.

It’s something I’ve written about here on the blog before – traffic is just cray-cray. I’ve tried to show it with video and pictures, but I don’t think I’ve ever been able to truly express the chaos that is traffic in Lima.

So I was pretty psyched when I found these videos!  Not only is it the first thing I’ve ever seen that really shows what the traffic is like, it was lots of fun to watch. I loved seeing him pass through places that were familiar to me – and seeing a few that weren’t!

The show is called Don’t Drive Here from the Discovery Channel. It’s not just a great look at traffic in Lima, it was also an interesting look at life from the point of view of taxi drivers, combi and bus drivers, ambulance drivers and more.  It was pretty astounding to hear a bus driver say that he didn’t care if a pregnant woman or elderly person was crossing in front of him, he didn’t hit the brakes; they just need to go faster. It’s something that we ‘gringos’ joke about – pretty freaky to hear the dude just say it right out (I hope he was joking… but I’m not so sure!).

I also FINALLY learned what those guys with clipboards that stand on the side of the road are doing – and why the cobradores (bus conductors) pay them.

You can check it out here – you might want to put on your seat belt!

Part 1


Part 2





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The Secret to a Perfect Leche de Tigre

Posted on | February 8, 2014 | 2 Comments

I’ve written about leche de tigre (tiger’s milk) before - I’ve got a recipe for it right here. 

But that’s a recipe from me – a gringa.

For real, authentic Peruvian ceviche, you gotta do it like the Peruvians do.

That’s why I love this video – it may not show you exactly how to make a perfect leche de tigre, but it certainly tells you the secrets behind a good one!

Check it out and enjoy!



Posted on | January 5, 2014 | No Comments

Follow my blog with Bloglovin



It’s just a new way for me to connect with more readers and to find more blogs that I love.

Even if you don’t blog, it’s a great way to keep track of blogs that you like to follow.

New Year’s Eve, Los Olivos, Lima Peru

Posted on | January 2, 2014 | 2 Comments

Hope everyone has had a great New Year!

It was a weird one for me – I spent it all alone.

Well – not completely alone, I had my four dogs and plenty of online conversation :)

My husband worked on the 31st, it’s one of those nights when lots of people are looking for taxis, and there aren’t a lot of taxis out on the streets. I worry about him driving on a night like that, you just know there are a lot more drunk drivers out there – but we’ve got to make that money if we’re gonna get back to the US this year!

I did get up on the roof at midnight to film the fireworks; they were even crazier than Christmas eve! I’m a little jumpy the first couple of minutes, but about 2 minutes in, I get some really good shots.

Oh – and at 5 minutes or so, I get really freaked out and slip up with a little “nsfw” language – sorry! But I tend have an extreme reaction when I see red-hot pieces of metal falling all around me!

On New Years Day, I cooked a big pot of black eyed peas with smoked ribs for seasoning since I don’t have ham hocks. I served it up with cabbage, rice, papas a la huancaina and chuck steak.  I’d have liked to have had pork chops, but I didn’t plan my grocery shopping very well this week, lol. :)

I fixed my husband a big plate full – and all he had to say was “Can I have a fried egg on top?”  Oy, Peruvians! :D  So we had hoppin’ john a la pobre.

All in all, it was really a pretty nice holiday week – and I’m ready to get back to work now.

Here’s wishing all of you all the best in the upcoming year!


Christmas Eve Fireworks in Los Olivos

Posted on | December 25, 2013 | No Comments

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and All That Jazz!

It’s about 3am Christmas morning – and I’ve GOT to share my video from tonight!

This is our first Christmas living in Los Olivos. Before, we lived in Miraflores, where things are a little more genteel. There were fireworks and rockets, but nothing like the people do here in Los Olivos! It was pure insanity for about 15 minutes. Just check out the video – it starts getting really crazy about 4 or 5 minutes in:  (you might want to make sure your volume isn’t up too high!)


What’s really crazy – supposedly, fireworks were outlawed this year!

Apparently, no one thought to enforce it… ;)

Hope your holidays are awesome!



Crime on our Street, Part 2

Posted on | December 12, 2013 | 3 Comments

car mirrorsIn case you missed it, yesterday I told the story of how the mirrors were stolen from our car – ripped off by a couple of punks in broad daylight, right in front of our house.  (If you want more detail, you can read the story here)

But now – there’s more to the story! We actually got our mirrors back!

How that happened is a somewhat complicated tale.

It all started when my husband went to the police to make file a theft report (a denuncia in Spanish) immediately after the incident.  He talked to the police about what a rip off it was, that they take the parts to the auto repair places and sell them to others as “used”.  The Hubs aske “If I should happen to find someone selling my mirrors, what should I do?”

This is where it first starts getting a little… well, Peruvian.

The cop suggests that  - for a small “propina” – he would be happy to come and help out.  In other words, slip him some cash and he’ll do his job.

This is where basically, Peruvians are stuck between a rock and a hard place.  You have – as I see it – three choices in this scenario.

1 – Pay $600 to get new mirrors installed.
2 – Pay around 600 soles (about $200 or so)  for used stolen mirrors.
3 – Pay the cop his bribe – 200 soles (about $70) and get your mirrors back.
If you think like me, none of these options seems particularly fair to the victim of the crime, but at least with the last one, you can get a small modicum of justice if you can bust the dude trying to sell you stolen merchandise. So the Hubs paid the cop his bribe, and went off looking for his mirrors.

He went to Av. Canada, Block 4, where there are some shady auto repair places, and talked to a guy about getting the mirrors installed.  The guy says “I can get you used mirrors, but it won’t be until later today.  My husband goes back later in the day, and sure enough, the guy has the mirrors.


The hubs says they very obviously matched up to the marks left behind on the car, and there was no doubt that they were our mirrors.

He tells the guy – look, I’m busy this evening and don’t have time for installation, can I come back tomorrow? An appointment is made, an electrician will be there to reconnect them (they’re power mirrors).

The Hubs then calls the cop and tells him what’s going down. The cop says – OK, I’ll be close by at that time, give me a call when they are almost done with the installation.

So that’s what happens – My husband goes back for his appointment, they start the installation, attach the mirrors – and while the electrician is hooking up the wiring, my husband sends message to the cop.

Seconds later, here come two cops – (our cop brought his buddy) and they are not playing games. They went in full bad ass mode, so much my husband said it made him feel a little nervous even!

“Hey M***rF***r, what are you doing? Trying to sell a man his own mirrors? Do you know who this is?”

Haha – the cops begin telling the mechanic dude that my husband is the Police Coronel’s brother!

They had the mechanic and the electrician up against the wall, frisking them (they let the electrician go, they quickly realized he had nothing to do with the scam). There were threats of closing down the business, confiscating all his merchandise, taking him to jail.

The mechanic actually began crying – “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt anyone, I’ve got children, please don’t put me in jail”.

And this is where it gets even MORE ULTRA-PERU.

The cops let the mechanic call some friends who came and gave him money and HE PAID ANOTHER BRIBE to the cops – my husband isn’t sure, but believes it was 2000 soles (around $700) to not take him to jail!

And the cops pretend that they’re doing everyone a big favor… although this is exactly the reason this crap continues to happen unabated.

They did threaten the mechanic – he refused to give up the names of the punks who stole the mirror, because he was afraid of what they might do to him if he ratted – but the police told him that if anyone came by and bothered our car again, he would be held responsible for it and they would make sure he was closed down.

My husband said that they were really hard on the mechanic (as well they should be), grabbing him by the scruff of his shirt and shaking him, and screaming in his face, making a very big scene that everyone would notice.

So… in a screwy Peruvian way, justice has somewhat been served. The cops made more cash out of the deal – in 1 day – than they normally make in a week or two (remember, it’s split between two cops). So nice little Christmas bonus for them.

We got our mirrors back, minus the 200 soles to the cop and the 2 days of lost work for my husband dealing with it.

The crooked mechanic got his sh*t served to him, and lost not only the money he bribed the cops with, but the money he paid to the original thieves and the electrician who did the installing.  Hopefully, it will teach him a lesson.

The guys that ripped off our mirrors? They don’t care, they got their money. But with a little luck, maybe the mechanic is scared enough that he won’t be buying anymore “used” parts.

And in Peru, life goes on.










PS:  I do earn money as a blogger – simply by blogging about the things that go on in my life.  I believe that every person has a story to share, and blogging is a great way to share it. If you’ve been thinking about having your own blog, click below to watch the video that shows how you can get started (and maybe make some money too)!


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Crime On Our Street in Lima Peru

Posted on | December 11, 2013 | 3 Comments

Gates and Fences for SafetyI’ve been living in Lima for nearly 10 years now, since early 2004.

When I first moved here, I was terrified to go out on the street on my own. We lived in a poor part of Lima, in Surquillo – in an area the locals call “Little Chicago” because of its high crime rate.

But as I got accustomed to the area, I stopped being afraid. I realized that as long as I’m careful, take a few precautions, and keep my wits about me out in the street, I could significantly lower the odds of being a victim of crime.

And for nearly ten years, it’s been fine! Even though reports are showing that crime is actually on the rise in Lima, I’ve never run into a problem -

Until yesterday.

Yesterday during our lunch, we heard the car alarm start sounding off.  Now, this on its own isn’t a reason for panic; it could have been something as simple as a large truck passing by or a kid bumping the car as he walked by.

See, we don’t have a garage, and have to park our car on the street in front of the house.  We’ve not worried too much about it, because our street is pretty busy during the day – there are usually lots of our neighbors out walking to the bodega or taking care of their little ‘lawns’.  And at night, the gates on our street are closed and we have a night watchman.

But this time, there was something more to the alarm – as my husband reached for his key fob to turn it off, we heard a loud cracking noise. My husband jumped up and ran – there were two young men ripping the mirrors off the car!

The Hubs took off down the stairs to try and catch them – but going down 3 flights of stairs took him long enough that it gave them the time they needed to run off around the corner, where they had a car and a motorcycle waiting, which took off in opposite directions.

We did manage to get a partial license plate number from the car, a black Chevrolet.

It’s a crappy thing to have to go through two weeks before Christmas – especially when the mirrors cost $300 each to replace. So, looks like the clothes we bought last weekend will be the only Christmas presents the boys get this year.  I don’t know if the thieves think about things like that – or if they even care.

Now, we bought our specific model of car – a Toyota Avensis – particularly because it’s not a very popular model here in Lima.  The more popular a car is, the more frequently it’s a victim of parts theft – there’s a booming black market trade in “used parts” – which here in Lima, means stolen parts.

The Hubs says that most likely, someone with an Avensis had their mirrors stolen, and went to the body shop to get new ones.  The parts guy gave them the price for  new ($300 each), and then said, but I can get you a really good price on used, it’ll just take me a couple days to get them in.  In other words, give me a little time to send my guys out to rip off someone else’s mirrors to replace yours.

Now our mirrors are most likely being attached to that guys car, leaving us in the same bind as him – pay the high price of new (which is what we’ll do), or go the “used parts” route, and pretend we don’t know we’re buying stolen merchandise.

It’s a vicious cycle that goes around and around all over the country, and it’s just one more symptom of what happens when the laws are not written to protect the victim, when the police are too easy bribed to look the other way.

So what’s the take away from this story?

Don’t let stories of crime scare you away from Peru.  While violent crime has increased, it’s still not the norm for the average person.

Keep a close eye on your belongings. Don’t ride in a car with your purse on your lap or in the seat beside you. If you’re shopping, put packages in the trunk.  Also, if you’re shopping, don’t take your chances with a random taxi off the street – call for a licensed cab, or hire a driver for the day. (Contact me if you like, this is what my husband does for a living)

If you own a car, be prepared for parts theft – we’ve been lucky that we’ve avoided it for so long, honestly.  Don’t think that because you live in Miraflores or San Borja that you don’t have to worry about it – where do you think the thieves go looking for the nice cars? They sure aren’t looking in La Victoria or San Juan de Lurigancho.

And whatever you do – don’t be like my husband! Don’t go off chasing punks that are stealing your stuff – he could have been knifed or shot.  I was more upset about that than I was about the actual theft.  Always remember that your items can be replaced, but you’ve only got one life.

Take care of yourself first.


Edit – Just for fun, I want to add a poll here -


And please, feel free to expand upon your answer in the comments below. I’d especially be interested in knowing how long you’ve lived in Peru (even if you’ve never been a crime victim), and where the crime took place.

For the purposes of this poll, being forced to drink a Pilsen Callao is not a crime :D











PS:  I do earn money as a blogger – simply by blogging about the things that go on in my life.  I believe that every person has a story to share, and blogging is a great way to share it. If you’ve been thinking about having your own blog, click below to watch the video that shows how you can get started (and maybe make some money too)!


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Coca and the Sacred Plant Museum in Cusco

Posted on | October 23, 2013 | 1 Comment

sacred plant museo

(This is a guest post from Maureen Santucci)


Many of us have gone through our entire lives without giving much thought to where the coca in cocaine and Coca Cola comes from. It can then come as a surprise when arriving in Peru to find out that the country is one of the leading producers of the coca leaf, the plant that is involved in the creation of both of those products.

Even more surprising may be that you will find coca tea offered to you everywhere you turn upon arriving in Cusco. The tea is used to help with the symptoms of altitude sickness and it does indeed work.

It’s a bit of an issue in Peru as many other countries feel that growing of the plant should be outlawed because of its illicit uses. However, chewing the leaves has been a custom over many centuries. To do away with it would ignore the place it has in the culture, both traditionally as well as nutritionally, as the plant contains a great many nutrients.

A great way to learn more about this plant, its history and characteristics is by visiting the Sacred Plant Museum in Cusco. There you will find answers to questions you didn’t even know to ask.

The museum also has exhibits that explain the history and uses of other medicinal plants such as Ayahuasca and San Pedro. Both of these have psychotropic properties that can easily be lumped into the same category as recreational drugs. Here, however, both these plants are legal but not for use in a casual way.

Still other plants are used for their medicinal properties, some of which come from the Andes while others are more common to the jungle.

Using plants for their medicinal properties is well accepted everywhere, of course, and many pharmaceutical drugs have their roots in these cures, such as cocaine itself which originally was used by medical professionals.

Other uses such as for expanding the senses, cleansing or fortune-telling may seem more outlandish at first glance. As with any customs, however, it’s important to do some research into understanding them before dismissing them as mere superstition. Whether you support the usage or not, knowing more can help you understand the culture at a deeper level.

The museum is dedicated to providing information about these subjects in an informative and objective way. It is an academic project, rather than attempting to take sides and preach to people with any agenda, either for or against. Rather, the idea is for visitors to understand the real background of the plants and their place in the history of the culture.

If you find yourself with a free hour in Cusco, wander over to the Sacred Plant Museum, just off the Plaza Regocijo. Take a stroll through the exhibit rooms and stop in the patio restaurant for a coffee, herbal tea or snack. It’s a lovely way to spend a bit of time learning about the Peruvian culture of the past and today.

Originally from the US, Maureen Santucci now calls the ancient Peruvian capital of Cusco home, where she has lived for almost 5 years, working as a travel consultant as well as writing for Fodors Travel Guide. This article was written on behalf of Aracari Travel, providers of custom luxury itineraries all over Peru.

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    I got tired of life happening while I made other plans, so I quit my job and came to Peru. I live here with my Peruvian husband, two sons, three dogs and various other family members, depending on the weather.

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