Last month I went skiing to Austria with my husband and his friends. It was a lot of fun and I had a good time. It was also interesting because it reminded me (once more!) of how Peru is perceived in this part of the world. There was a little conversation that went something like this:
- Friend of husband to everyone: So is everyone okay with the attitude?
- Me (and everyone else too): Yeah… / It’s not so high! (it was about 1500 meters above sea level)
- Friend of husband specifically to me: Ah, but for you, it must be okay even at higher attitudes, wouldn’t it?
- Me: Uh? I don’t know. I mean… When we went hiking in Peru last year I didn’t feel so bad until we reached an elevation of 3500 meters. But you never know… (I wanted to continue with an anecdote of me feeling bad at a lower attitude but I was interrupted).
- Friend of husband: Yeah, I mean, it must be different for you because you are used to it.
- Me: Me? I was born and raised in Lima, the city, not the region.
- Other people: Oh, so Lima is not in the mountains? / Oh, I thought Lima was hilly or something.
- Me: No, Lima, the city, is a coastal desert, a coastal city. No high elevations.
- Again the original friend: But anyways you must have the genes for it, I think.
- Me: Genes?
- Friend: I mean, from your ancestors…
- Me: Well, I don’t think genes play a role here. It’s about adaptation. People who were born in the highlands and then live for a long period on the coast can also be affected by altitude sickness when they go back to visit their families.
That was the end of the conversation. I convinced them with my argument about adaptation but then I kept thinking about my ancestors, who were they really? All my four grandparents were born in Peru. The parents of my grandparents were Italian, Spanish and Peruvian. Regarding the Peruvian ones, I have no idea of where exactly they come from. These ancestors could be from the highlands, but they are as likely to be from the jungle or from the coast!
Peruvian highlands are a beautiful place, and I used to enjoy visiting new towns and hiking. But to think of Peru as mountains alone is reductionist for a country with such cultural and natural variety.
In my next post, some pictures of ALL the Peruvian regions. For now, some of my last hiking trip in Peru (yes, this was a mountainous area 🙂 ). The place is called Marcahuasi and it belongs to Lima (the region, not the city).