I just read this incredibly terrifying blog entry about this couple and a sisters' experience getting attacked by a village called Pallcca outside of Ocongate on the way to Cusco. Now, while I am horrified by these people getting attacked by the villagers with rocks, whips and hands, I have to wonder why. Of course, they say that they weren't doing anything but drinking some beers on the side of the road because they didn't want to drive at night. The weird thing is that the villagers that first came to see what was up told them they could stay the night there but then more and more people came and they started asking for documents. The group felt uncomfortable so they decided to try and leave. That might have really started things off for the villagers. I don't know if I would have wanted to stay either given that they were demanding documents. Now, I think that it is very possible that the villagers saw what these travelers had. They had a camper and lots of equipment and I imagine, pretty nice clothing in comparison to what the villagers had. Does that mean they deserved to be attacked? Of course not, but when you are traveling from North America to South America via car, you have to be incredibly careful. Also, campers are unheard of here. We saw one in Cusco not too long ago and Marco was surprised by it. I don't know if he had ever seen one before. Needless to say, as a villager in the high sierra, seeing a camper would be a big deal.
Peru is not perfect by any means nor is any other country for that matter, but it has seen a lot of growth economically in the past 10 years and with the growth of capitalism, the richer become richer and the poorer become poorer. This is bound to cause a ton of resentment among the people who are most affected by lack of work and poverty, especially in the mountains. From what I have seen, the poorest people are the ones I have seen in the sierra. There have been more and more tourists flowing in and out of Peru and it keeps growing every year. A victim mentality is what many Peruvians have, especially those who are poor. This idea that things are happening to them because of others around them causes them to not take responsibility a lot of the time and in this case do something horrific and then try and pass it off as a car accident. It also makes it difficult for them to overcome poverty. It is amazing what a positive attitude can do for a person and everyone around them. Undoubtedly after years and years of feeling like the victims resentment forms and then anger. Emotions are scary things sometimes and given that the villagers from this event probably don't have a ton of interaction with tourists, they used this couple to unleash the wrath and anger that they had been feeling for quite some time. Granted, this is all my opinion but I feel like this is a logical possibility. I will never condone what they did but trying to understand it will only bring us one step close to finding a solution to the problem.
Unfortunately, I have read some really angry responses to this story and while it is understandable, it by no means should keep people from traveling to Peru. People just need to be aware of their surroundings and smart about how they carry themselves and what they carry. Being a victim of a pick-pocketing incident the other day reminded me that I need to be aware of my surroundings and do everything I can to eliminate unwanted situations. I think everyone has the right to feel safe but its not going to happen, especially when you are traveling or living in a place that is known to have petty crime and issues with stealing. What many people don't know is that Peruvians rob each other and every Peruvian I have asked about being robbed has had it happen at least once. Of course, gringos are targeted more than Peruvians but that doesn't mean they don't lose their stuff. Marco's wallet was stolen on a bus while he was in high school. It's infuriating. I know! Before we go about ranting that we shouldn't have to deal with this and it's unfair...etc. We (as gringos especially) have to remember that we are privileged. As much as we might have it rough in the States or be getting by from paycheck to paycheck, if you are traveling, you are privileged. There is no debating it. Others see that and feel resentment and jealousy. They want what we have and can you blame them? No one should have to deal with being robbed and especially not being mugged and beaten but we need to take a look at ourselves and decide, am I going to play the victim or am I going to get smart? There is no way to change the color of my skin, my eyes, or my hair, but I can change how I go about taking care of my possessions. If I play the victim I will become one of them and that is not what I want. The high road is my choice.
In the case of this couple and sister I completely agree with taking legal action and doing everything possible to get some justice because that is beyond just being pick-pocketed. Violence needs to be punished. My only worry is that if people from the village are charged and maybe put into jail, will it not just cause more resentment and violence from them in the future? Maybe, but this couple and their sister deserve some peace of mind.
Some other responses to Nightmare in Peru are here and here.
There is also an ongoing thread about it on the Expats in Peru facebook page. I highly recommend reading through it if you are interested. People have some very valid points. They also have some incredibly helpful tips for travelers!