It has been written, in the many versions of the history of Peru, about the way the natives first encountered the Spaniards. The traditional story states that the year was 1526 when they first made direct contact with each other. In the beginning, the Peruvians were more than fascinated with the strangers and their rare clothing, so they received them with a warm welcome. But then things changed…
I was born in the mountains near the Andes, and everything I knew I learned from the people around me: family, friends at school, people from my neighborhood. We moved a lot while I was growing up, but always within the same city, Huancayo. When I was 12, my family decided go to “La Selva Alta” , or the high jungle, to a town called Oxapampa. This town was originally inhabited by an indigenous people called the Yaneshas, who later shared their land with Austrian and German settlers in what eventually became the towns Pozuzo and Oxapampa.
For the first time I encountered a different world, not only the geography but also the people. For the first time I realized I was different from everybody else around me, and the same fascination that my ancestors felt overcame me as well. It was a strange attraction to something new, but at the same time a fear of the unknown. I learned that people are different, and sometimes because of those differences you may find yourself in trouble. I yearned to move back to my hometown for many years, but much like the Incas upon the arrival of the Spaniards, going back to simpler times wasn’t an option.
I remember listening to stories from school about the Spaniards’ arrival in Peru when I was younger, and I could not help but feel a little sadness for the past. However later in life I learned to forgive, and I learned that tolerance for what is unfamiliar comes and goes on both sides. I learned that we all were strangers at some point in time, in some places in our lives. In a way, the more we travel, the more we meet different people, the more the world opens up and the differences start to disappear. It is true that what makes us unique as humans are our cultural expressions, our history, and what we are capable of, no matter where or when. I would like to think that there was a time when my Peruvian ancestors were as at peace with their strange new visitors as I am today with the world….