A Kaleidoscope of Peru

A Kaleidoscope of Peru

Second year MAIS student Austin Frenes was part of the inaugural HNC-in-the-World experiential learning trip. He and several other classmates visited Peru with HNC Co-Director Adam Webb during the 2022 spring break.  To watch a full discussion on the impact of this trip from all the participants, follow this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mggcATD5XFw&t=388s

During spring break, I had the opportunity to go on the first ever “HNC-in-the-world” experiential learning trip to Peru. We looked at Chinese influence in Peru and heard a variety of perspectives across topics such as immigration, mining, labor rights, and international trade. 

My journey to Peru had a rather rocky start with an overnight flight out of Los Angeles, very little sleep, and an 8-hour layover in Bogota, Colombia. Luckily, fellow HNC student Rebecca Ash-Cervantes was on the same flight as me and hatched a plan to experience Bogota during the layover. We went to a scenic mountain area called Monseratte that was at an elevation of over 10,000 feet. I tried Colombian tamales and took some amazing photos, and although it was the literal and figurative high point en route to Peru, it was not the absolute highest point we would find ourselves at during this trip, again, both literally and figuratively.  

We arrived in Peru in the evening. It was dark outside, and as we exited the airport we found ourselves engulfed in a scattered crowd of people and constantly approached by tenacious taxi drivers in business suits. Luckily, Co-Director Webb was kind enough to pick us up, although we had to shake off multiple offers before finding him. I had met Rebecca before in Los Angeles and Co-Director Webb in Bologna, but I had not yet met any of the other classmates on the trip in person. The first night I got to meet Marco at the hotel, and over the next day or so everyone else trickled in. I even got to meet Zhang Naiqian for the first time after peer-reviewing her papers for nearly a year and half. 

Apart from researching Chinese influence in Peru, there were several other things that drew me to attend this trip. Growing up, I had a couple of close friends who are Peruvian-American, and they often exposed me to Peruvian food. I wanted to try dishes like “Lomo Saltado” and “Tallarín con Pollo” in Peru and explore other aspects of Peruvian cuisine. Those two dishes in particular are the most clear and well-known examples of Chinese influence on Peruvian cuisine, the former being a stir fry dish with beef, onions, and fried potatoes, and the latter being a noodle dish similar to what we know in the United States as “Chicken Chow Mein.” What was amazing to me about Peruvian food is that it integrates Chinese, indigenous, Spanish, and African techniques and flavors to create something truly unique. 

Being a Latino-American with indigenous Californian and indigenous Mexican ancestry, and also having majored in Linguistics during undergrad, I was also hugely interested in exploring the indigenous aspects of Peru. I was amazed by our visit to the “Larco Museum” that boasts one of the largest collections of pre-Columbian artifacts in the world. Rebecca took a group of us to a unique bookstore in Lima where I was able to purchase a book on learning Quechua, the most spoken indigenous language in Peru and the lingua franca of the former Inca Empire. I also scored a copy of The Little Prince in Quechua and a book on Andean linguistics. In some of the meetings we had with an NGO and activists, we also learned about the various ways indigenous communities have been impacted by Chinese mining operations in Peru. 

In my opinion, the literal and figurative highpoint of the trip was our excursion to the town of Morococha. It took us several hours of driving on a winding road going from Lima to 15,000 feet above sea level in the Andes to reach the town. We packed plenty of snacks for the ride and listened to Andes highland music on the car radio. When we arrived in Morococha, it was evident that we were not at sea level Posted on September 14, 2023  |  Johns Hopkins University