In one word, how would you describe your experience in Perú?
Mea-Lynn: Connection. This trip provided an opportunity for me to engage with peers that I had not met before. Ten days on a trip with 25 students is enough to build some meaningful connections. We spent plenty of hours on the bus going from one location to another, which led to us singing together, playing games, and bonding over meaningful conversations. Cindy Minn, a first-year MBA student, was my roommate for 10 days and she is now one of my closest friends at SOM. Professor Canales was very intentional about building relationships with students and encouraged us to make the best out of this experience. It was lovely to spend so much time with friends outside of an academic setting.
What was the most surprising part of the trip?
Luke: When we visited the art studios of Ishmael Randall Weeks, I was able to speak to Matteo, the ceramics specialist and a recent college graduate. After telling him our itinerary, he made a comment about how we were only talking to the “elite” of Perú. This led to a short but impactful conversation about how his experiences as a ”normal” Peruvian citizen are vastly different from the lives of the people with whom we spoke most—specifically with regards to politics. Nearly every speaker we spoke with was highly critical of President Castillo. While Matteo acknowledged the president’s flaws, he believed that people elected Castillo because he spoke more to the experiences of normal Peruvians, who are less concerned about Perú’s standing in the world and more about how they will feed their families. It was a unique perspective that I greatly cherished, and I wish we had more opportunities to speak to other Peruvians like Matteo.
Machu Picchu must have been cool!
Luke: Machu Picchu is truly stunning—no wonder people consider it a wonder of the world! Learning about the Inca civilization (and the other cultures that contributed to their success) by walking the site and admiring the architecture gave me a real sense of the Inca’s technological prowess and deep-held connection to the environment. I still can’t believe they were able to move tons of stones in place so precisely that no cement was needed—all without modern-day tools or even pulleys!
What did you think of Peruvian cuisine?
Mea-Lynn: The food in Perú was amazing! I knew that there were strong Japanese and Chinese influences in the cuisine given the immigration patterns, so I was excited to try this fusion in cuisines. A small group of us went to Osaka, in San Isidro, and it was the best sushi that I have ever had in my life. We also had a group dinner at Organika, a restaurant in Cusco, that was incredible. Something unique about the local cuisine is that the portions are much larger than they are in the United States, and a large portion of the meal consists of carbs such as potatoes and corn. A traditional lunch would be ceviche as appetizer, lomo saltado (steak, fries, rice, egg, and veggies) as main dish, and suspiro de limeña (sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and egg) as dessert.
After this trip, what do you think are Perú’s biggest strengths for future business opportunities and growth?
Luke: We had the opportunities to meet with Peruvian entrepreneurs, and through the experience I saw their inspiring motivation and dedication. Although the consumer market opportunity as traditionally defined is relatively small in Perú, I believe that Peruvian entrepreneurs are well-positioned to improve areas where the country already succeeds (e.g., mining, agriculture) and expand products and services into other markets in Latin America for cross-border growth.
What is one thing you wish you could learn more about Perú?
Mea-Lynn: The racial dynamics in Perú are complex and reflect widely differing views depending on whom you ask. I spoke to one tour guide in Cusco, who shared that there has been a movement to reclaim Andean pride. Indigenous populations make up about 40% of the population in Perú and the vast majority of them identify as Quechua, the descendants of the Incas. The culture and community is constantly under threat, and there’s a concerted effort to preserve the community norms and language. However, in another conversation with a local Peruvian in Lima, they said that racism in Perú does not exist because everyone in Perú is mixed. He claims it is hard to differentiate by race, but that socio-economic background is the main way by which discrimination presents itself. I would like to learn more about these various perspectives and engage with academics in the field to truly understand the variance in people’s experiences.