Vanessa Herrick's Report from Peru
Vanessa Herrick
is a Canadian journalist reporting from Lima Peru. You can reach her at
Posted 06.27.10
Lima, Peru



[EDITOR'S NOTE: Vanessa Herrick;s last LCC report was in 2008 from from Pristina, Kosovo, where she wrote for an English-language newspaper. She also reported for a newspaper in Montenegro. Currently based in Montreal, Ms. Herrick is reporting Lima, Peru. Staya tuned...]

LIMA, PERU | I grew up in Montreal, a city notorious for its sports enthusiasm. Canadians are always gripping that Montreal does not deserve a great hockey team like the Canadians because this city is full of rowdy hooligans and petty criminals.

Clearly, these people have never been to a football game in Europe or South America.

It is World Cup 2010, and I find myself here in Lima Peru. Oddly, I was in the middle of the Amazon jungle in Bolivia for World Cup 2006 -- I had to ride on the back of a pick-up truck with friends to a tiny village that had a TV satellite signal to watch the finals. We sat outside on a sun-bleached terrace, drank pitchers of cold beer full of lemon slices, and ate greasy chicken while Italy beat France.

Now I am in this coastal city, in an upscale neighbourhood full of tourists, and I can watch the games on a real TV -- with commentary in Spanish, English, German, and French buzzing around me.

I am not a devotee of football the way I am of hockey. But I love the fans.

The fans that take to the streets singing their anthem after a win, the fans that scream at the top of their lungs at the players on the screen, believing that somehow their passion, energy, and coaching will be transmitted to South Africa. The fans that wear insane outfits and face paint to show their love. They are amazing and they are here in the hundreds, maybe thousands.

And they are everywhere. Everyone wants to know if I am American or English. Canadian is a rather dull nationality to be this week. No team at FIFA -- so we don't really exist right now.

I've been away from South American for three years and was not sure what I would come back to this week. Some things are exactly the same.

Lima is noisy, dirty, and parts are falling to ruin but the city roars with energy and the people are unfailingly friendly and helpful. There are near daily demonstrations against a government that, in the opinion of the majority of Peruvians, is failing to serve its citizens. A government that refuses to address the issue that violence against women has increased 44 percent since 2005. You read that number correctly – 44 percent. A government that ignores a shockingly high rate of HIV in Peruvian youth.

This week President Alan Garcia refused to sign a bill he has long pledged to support. It would grant Peru’s indigenous peoples more of a say in the massively expanding mining and oil drilling industries that are turning the north of Peru into our very own modern day Avatar story.

Despite broad appeal from the International Labour Organization of the United Nations, human rights groups and indigenous organizations, Garcia sent back the law to Congress with his objections just before the deadline late on Monday night.

He said that he cannot allow the interest of some Peruvians to stop economic advancement for the rest of the country.

The government shut down on Tuesday for a two-month break.

One year ago, the tension between indigenous people and the Garcia government led to a long and bloody confrontation at a spot in northern Peru called the Devil's Curve that resulted in more than 30 people dead. There were marches around Peru -- one in Lima 20,000 people strong -- to support the indigenous people.

While Garcia claims he is protecting Peruvians he is also, by default, looking out for foreign investors.

A group of investors that includes Canadian companies. In fact, Canadian companies have recently been accused of wildcat mining, meaning they simply mine or drill wherever they like without troubling themselves with respecting protected land or obtaining required permits from the Peruvian government.

Right now, Canadians are not as popular as we were the last time I was in Peru. Our country is gaining a nasty reputation that no one would be proud of -- and most of us have no idea that it is going on.

I will be spending the next couple of months in Peru looking at development issues and intend to pay particular attention to what Canadian are up to. I know I will find hard-working, big-hearted volunteers working with the street kids, struggling to save the Amazon, educating youth about HIV, and teaching women to protect themselves.

But I will also be looking for the other Canadians, the ones who are here to make money, to use and abandon someone else's resources, to leave a terrible environmental mess for someone else to clean up.