Huanuco is located in the stunning sierras and is poorest district of Peru and if that is any indication, and it probably shouldn’t be, the folks there are the friendliest I’ve met so far.
They had one fairly uninteresting tourist site, The Temple of the Crossed Hands, where I met some French tourists. We both told eachother that we were the first other tourists we had found in weeks. Most of the tourists I meet are French. Apparently there are different trails. The most famous to me is the Gringo Trail but I somehow can’t find it. I can only seem to find the French Trail and sometimes wander onto the British, Israeli, and South American Trails, the latter which is made up of, well, South Americans. I am startled at how few tourists there are in Northern Peru.
My second evening I sat down in a local bar,bought a large beer, and determined to finish my night alone and friendless in a foreign city. But the world saved me from myself, as it is apt to do these days. After no more than five minutes the neighboring table motioned for me to come over. They were a linguistics teacher and his son in law and they were drunk:
“Are you alone? How hard it is to be alone! How solitary! You must drink with us! We are from Huanuco. My parents were from Huanuco. Their parents were from Huanuco! We are Huanuceños and! And you are just a traveller. But we are friends now! Friends for life. Where are you from my little son? Oh, California? And my listtle son, you are far from home but you are not alone anymore, you are surrounded by friends! Why tomorrow you must lunch with us! We are having a lunch with the whole family! Yes! You understand me. You know how to swim? Good! For we shall go to a swimming pool too, my little son, my friend for life. How old are you? 25? That is the same as my son! Oh what a pity, I have not seen him for three months. He is in Lima to work. There is no work here in Huanuco. **slams fist on table** How Sad! How sad this country is! We are nothing! Our government, they take everything! How we do live!!!
And he was right: life is hard for Huanuceños. When I first arrived in Huanuco I noticed that all the police car windshields were covered in steel wire to protect it from stones and all the police wore a form of riot gear.
I asked a local kid why and he said it was because of protests. I asked why there were protests and he just looked at me and said: “Because of everything.” That was the most I could get out of him. The more I discuss politics here, the more I am reminded of my conversation on the boat about military governments.
Peruvians feel as if they are at a dead end. To give a sense of what kind of trouble they are in, they want their old President Fujimori back. He has a few obstacles in running for election as he fled back to his home country of Japan after stealing tens of millions of dollars near the end of his last term. Most of his cabinet is in prison. But still you see a large amount of “Fujimori in 2006” campaign signs up and their is a startling amount of popular support. Peruvians tell me that “In Fujimori’s time he built roads and he built colleges. The country worked!” I was also told other facts, that all the money he stole came from illegal narcotrafficking and not from the state funds at all. I pointed out that Peruvians always complain that they have poor candidates, that their governers are thieves and then they all rally round a known thief! But life is complicated here. Here the tracks of power run deep and those who have it are not likely to give it up anytime soon.
But if there’s anything these people know, it’s how to welcome guests. It seemed like every shop I entered the owners would offer me their home phone numbers in case I needed anything or ran into trouble. When it came time to leave I was scared to go into a bar because I didn’t feel like making new friends right before leaving and though I was hungry I felt bad about buying food because they would always serve me too much, even for 2 sols, they would give me a multicourse meal that I could never finish.
Such are the fears I wish to have.