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Thursday, September 20

Message from the sky?

New York Times
In Peru, a Crater and Questions - The Lede - Breaking News

On Saturday night, a fiery object fell from the sky. Stunned residents said they tracked it to a fresh hole in the earth that was more than 60 feet wide, 15 feet deep, filled with boiling water and steaming with noxious fumes, according to a statement from the Health Ministry.

This blog news item has a lot of links to news sources to try to piece together what's happening. The event actually took place in the vast expanses of Puno, which expolains why early reporting is so sketchy and quality witnesses are rare.

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Friday, August 17

Earthquake relief

For anyone wanting to make a donation to assist in the relief of victims of the August 15 earthquake, I suggest that you go to Oxfam America. I know several people in the organization and that they do good work in Peru. There are other good organizations for relief work, like Catholic Relief. Cash is always the best option because contributions in used clothing and other items are just not convenient for immediate relief.

As far as I know, my wife's family are all safe and sound. They are only affected by the social and economic whiplash that's surging out of the earthquake.

Monday, June 25

Give Cameron Diaz a break Cameron Diaz says sorry for Mao bag

The voice of Princess Fiona in the animated ?Shrek? films visited the Incan city of Machu Picchu in Peru?s Andes on Friday carrying an olive green bag emblazoned with a red star and the words ?Serve the People? printed in Chinese, perhaps Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong?s most famous political slogan.

The bags are marketed as fashion accessories in some world capitals, but in Peru the slogan evokes memories of the Maoist Shining Path insurgency that fought the government in the 1980s and early 1990s in a bloody conflict that left nearly 70,000 people dead.

How was Cameron Diaz supposed to know the meaning of the Chinese characters printed on her bag? Just because Mao said something does not make it wrong. John F. Kennedy said essentially the same thing. The dust got kicked up because she's a high-profile foreigner visiting the country and is under close scrutiny.


Wednesday, June 20

A shot that was heard through history

New York Times Earliest Gunshot Victim in New World Is Reported

Digging in an Inca cemetery in the suburbs of Lima, they came on well-preserved remains of an individual with holes less than an inch in diameter in the back and front of the skull. Forensic scientists in Connecticut said the position of the round holes and some minuscule iron particles showed that the person most likely was shot and killed by a Spanish musket ball.

Also see Washington Post Inca Skull Rewrites History of Conquest and the photo feature. NOVA/National Geographic will be airing a feature on June 26.

Thursday, June 7

Fujimori, come home!

Living in Peru Peru's Fujimori one step closer to extradition -- it's not the final verdict, but the first clue as to which direction the Chilean judicial system is leaning:

Chilean Supreme Court Prosecutor Monica Maldonado has officially recommended the extradition of Peru's former president, Alberto Fujimori, citing 10 different charges of corruption and human rights violations.

The charges stem from the Barrios Altos and La Cantuta massacres which Peruvian officials say were orchestrated by top Fujimori aids such as former spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos.


Sunday, June 3

Only mention the words Machu Picchu and it's news

New York Times: The Other Machu Picchu is a story about a place that is not Machu Picchu, called Choquequirao, but nearby in the Cusco region.

In Cuzco before the trip, Pedro Tacca, the director of patrimony for the National Cultural Institute, had spoken to me about the importance of preserving communities like Cachora and the other towns near Choquequirao as tourism to the site grows. He said Peru is trying to control growth and access to Cachora to keep it from becoming another Aguas Calientes, the town closest to Machu Picchu, which is made up entirely of tourist shops, restaurants and hostels, with a railroad track ? where the tourists arrive ? instead of a main street. ?It?s a community without personality,? he said, ?horrible in contrast to majestic and beautiful Machu Picchu.?

When I was in Peru, I really did not exploit the tourism angle enough. I felt that it was a well-trodden path that had already been covered a lot. Now I wish I had taken the opportunity. Of course, during much of my later years in Peru, it was not safe to travel outside the main cities.

Tuesday, May 8

Suspension bridges in the Andes

New York Times: How the Inca Leapt Canyons The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has students do research on ancient technologies:

In the case of the Peruvian bridges, the builders relied on a technology well suited to the problem and their resources. The Spanish themselves demonstrated how appropriate the Peruvian technique was.

Dr. Ochsendorf, a specialist in early architecture and engineering, said the colonial government tried many times to erect European arch bridges across the canyons, and each attempt ended in fiasco until iron and steel were applied to bridge building. The Peruvians, knowing nothing of the arch or iron metallurgy, instead relied on what they knew best, fibers from cotton, grasses and saplings, and llama and alpaca wool.

Also see the video (41 minutes) of John A.Ochsendorf's presentation, Engineering in the Andes Mountains, at the Library of Congress in 2005.

Monday, March 26

La Oroya still stinks up the place

Environmental News Service Polluting U.S. Owned Smelter in Peru Brought Before OAS: The La Oroya metallurgical complex has been around for almost a century and little has been done to keep it from poisoning the environment both in the area and downstream, either when it was run by the state or private enterprise.

The environmental and human rights groups point out that recent monitoring of air quality performed by Doe Run itself shows that daily average sulfur dioxide levels are between 80 and 300 times the maximum level permitted by the World Health Organization, the public health and environmental groups say.

Monday, March 5

The Inca khipu challenge

Wired 15.01: Untangling the Mystery of the Inca

Yet, if centuries of scholarship are to be believed, the Inca, whose rule began 2,000 years after Homer, never figured out how to write. It's an enigma known as the Inca paradox, and for nearly 500 years it has stood as one of the great historical puzzles of the Americas. But now a Harvard anthropologist named Gary Urton may be close to untangling the mystery.

His quest revolves around strange, once-colorful bundles of knotted strings called khipu (pronounced KEY-poo). The Spanish invaders noticed the khipu soon after arriving but never understood their significance ? or how they worked.

This is the most complete, non-academic explanation of Gary Urton's research into the mysteries of the Inca record-keeping system. These artefacts are fascinating, but on a completely different paradigm than anything created by the Western mind.

Thursday, January 4

A fish tale and coca

Christian Science Montior In Peru, a move to get farmers to trade in fish rather than coca: A new initiative to convince coca growers that there are better things to do with their time, like saving endangered species:

A throwback to prehistoric times, with armored scales and a flat head, the paiches must come to the surface to breathe, making them easy targets for harpoon fishermen. But overfishing to meet demand for their delicious, flaky, boneless meat is wiping out paiche populations, and is now spurring efforts to save the fish, including a fish-farm venture that aims to provide local coca leaf growers with an alternative livelihood that does not fuel the illicit drug trade.

Hopefully, this government program will not disappear when US AID changes its managers or the Peruvian government decides to control fish prices. The big problem will be how to prevent spoilage once harvested.

Friday, August 11

Living in Peru : your everyday companion

Living in Peru : your everyday companion is a relatively recent web site. It comes news items, features, a directory, classified ads, and a lot of other stuff about Peru, in other words, a?Guide for foreigners living in Peru.? I will be adding it to La Lista. It's all in English. Maybe, I should just shut down this site now -- just kidding.

Friday, August 4

Gorriti returns to his inspiration

Index for Free Expression Peru: Abimael Guzmán, once more on trial for crimes against humanity: "If there is one thing that is remarkable about the senderista uprising, it is the huge disparity between the paucity of their means and their ambitious aims; between the rude and remote scenes of their battles and their objective of global conquest. For a long time it seemed like a demented rebellion that few understood and even fewer knew how to combat. This is why it was so dangerous and advanced so much in a few short years." Gustavo Gorriti writes an extended article about Abimael Guzman and Sendero. On the occassion of Chairman Gonzalo's second trial, he looks back on the past 30 years and singles out the most remarkable characteristics of Sendero's birth, expansion and defeat.

Monday, May 8

Alan with a 14 point lead

In the first opinion polls of the presidential run-off race, Alan Garcia has 57 percent and Ollanta Humala has 43 percent, according to the Apoyo polling agency. Humala is much stronger in provinces than in Lima. In a telling sidelight, 14 percent of those interviewed said that they would vote black or invalid, while 7 percent did not express a preference. Those votes may hide additional votes for Humala. See this El Comercio story for details. In English, Bloomberg , MercoPress and Indian Country Today.

The second round will be held on June 4.

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