I moved away from Peru at a very young age, and found myself in a career in finance that kept me in London. While I was working in the bank, I knew I needed to have a mission in my life. It was not enough just to do deals and make money; I needed a sense of purpose; to do something to add value to the world. Though I left Peru and grew up in another country, I knew I wanted to go back. After Peru stabilised after many years of difficulties, I took the plunge.
When I came back to Peru, one of the things that I was very impressed with and had no idea about was the diversity. The people from Lima didn’t travel very much to the mountains in the past. Now things have changed. A lot of indigenous people have migrated from the mountains to the cities, and the coast has become a cultural melting pot. Now, people who are originally from the coast like me and my family are much more acquainted with other parts of Peru.
What I found unbelievable as I travelled was how alive Andean culture and religion are: all the pre-Spanish beliefs and the ways they worshiped to the gods and the mountains. These rituals are very much alive, and have been integrated with Catholic rituals. When I came back to Peru and put myself in a position to learn, I found this incredible cultural wealth that, until then, I didn’t know existed. It changed my view of everything because I left Peru as a child and I came back an adult with the mindset of a foreign person.
My childhood memories are very much the normal memories that children have. I have very strong ties with my grandparents, so family memories are very strong, and so are food. This is always important to Peruvians – the tastes and smells of delicious food. When I left Peru, I missed that a huge amount; your early childhood is informed by tastes and smells, and food always seems to be what most people are nostalgic for.
The first few tours I organized certainly revolved around Machu Picchu. The people who came years ago wanted to see the Andean way of life, the Inca ruins and mountains; they were fascinated. There weren’t any good restaurants in Cusco – it was more of a backpacker’s haven. But that aside, they were marveled. It was still very untouched and pristine.
Nowadays, people are spending more time in Lima. They used to avoid it because it has a funny climate during certain months of the year – very overcast and grey. It was large, polluted, with heavy traffic, and not very attractive. But it has beautiful museums and very interesting cultural life. The minute the culinary scene hit, people started staying longer in Lima. It’s becoming more of a destination. That’s a big change.
Lima was historically a grand city, with many convents and religious orders, fabulous churches and amazing altars. You can see that when you go, there’s a grand main square, beautiful homes, buildings, and with that comes a lot of colonial and pre-Hispanic art. I think we probably have more museums than most other capital cities in south America. Lima has the oldest bull ring in all the Americas, the oldest university in the Americas.
The essence of historical Lima has been a bit lost as a result of this mass migration. Half a million second, third, and fourth generation Limenos are now co-existing with five million Indians from the Andean communities. They have brought their own customs, food, traditions and clothes, and as a result of this, finding the essence of Lima is a difficult task.
Historically, Lima was a hugely elegant, cultured and sophisticated city with grand aspirations. A creole culture with a European background. The essence of this new hybrid culture is colourful, kitsch, psychedelic; a mixture of everything. The striking colours of Andean clothes feature prominently in this new cultura chicha, and have been adopted into the city’s urban environment.