By Mary Ann Vaccarello
What is Peru? How big is it? What is the population? Is it a good neighbor? Mercy College’s crowded Rotunda of students, faculty, and others learned much when a couple of guests made a visit to the campus.
Two ambassadors from the United Nations visited Mercy on last semester to discuss Peruvian aspects and diplomacy. Ambassador Gonzalo Gutierrez, the Permanent Representative of Peru to the UN was interviewed by Ambassador Ahmad Kamal, the founding president of the Ambassador’s Club at the UN and former Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN Institute for Training and Research.
On geographical terms, Peru is the third largest country of South America, lies on the Pacific Ocean and has four fifths of the world’s different climates, in which there are desserts, mountains, tropical forests. The capital is the city of Lima and holds one third of the nation’s population of 28 million people. The Andes run north and south of the boot-shaped country and is surrounded by parts of Chile, Brazil, Ecuador and Columbia. Additionally, Peru established full independence from Spain in 1834.
Peru is a peaceful country that hasn’t had any disputes with its neighbors for the past 50 years. However, it is the largest producer for coca that makes cocaine, in which drug traffickers are
destroying the climate by tearing down trees in tropical forests and leaving bare patches behind, says Gutierrez. For the past four or five a lot of governmental funds were contributed towards fighting drug trafficking in hopes to mend social issues and environmental issues, but funding has dropped recently.
One student asked which country is the biggest investor for Peru’s fight against drug trafficking, in which it faces a lot of discrimination and deemed as a futile. Gutierrez replied with that the United Kingdom and Spain contributed the most
Kamal commented on Peru’s economic growth and how potatoes were first discovered in the Andes, then became popular in Europe, then onto Peru’s reputation as the fifth largest producer of gold. Like Chile, Peru is very active in mining for minerals like copper and lead. The country has been trying to diversify itself in its production of organic fruits, vegetables and spices. Paprika is a common spice that can be found in Peru, but that wasn’t until the Spaniards succeeded in growing the chilies needed for the making the spice.
The ambassador listed countries that were involved in investing through the internet, radio, and television, such Australia, Canada, South Africa, the US and Spain’s telephoning services.
African and Chinese cultures vary throughout the nation, in which music and food has been implemented. Thousands of tourists who come to visit Machu Pichu, one of the Seven Wonders
of the World, also get to experience fused cultures of international influences. African music is common, creating an African-Peruvian atmosphere as Gutierrez puts it and Chinese restaurants are called “chifas,” where they have Chinese-Peruvian cuisines.
There was a Peruvian terrorist group called the Shining Path led by Abimael Guzman that developed in the 1980s that caused the country tremendous stress.
“This group created a national crisis for almost 12 years,” said Gutierrez. He disagreed with Peru’s political elites and tried to establish a communist society through ruthless violence and follow the same example as the Chinese.
Guzman was arrested in 1992 and is still incarcerated today.
Prof. Jude Aguwa asked Gutierrez on the subject of religion and the country’s view on abortion. Peru is a Catholic nation with a constitution that deems it as a non-religious state. Abortion is only granted on selective terms; if the baby or the mother, or both, are at risk from the birth then it is granted. Same-sex marriage isn’t prevented by religious views and is legal there and other Latin American countries like Argentina.