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Beyond Birkie Fever by Walter Rhein

Beyond Birkie Fever

by Walter Rhein

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Update on "Nightmare in Peru"

A couple days ago a story broke out about a group of American tourists who claimed to have been brutally attacked in Peru. I wrote this article in response to their original declaration (you can find a link to their original declaration in my article).

Initially, I thought the story would be picked up by major media, and although it has appeared sporadically, it has not received the attention I thought it would get. Perhaps this is for the best.

Whenever you hear a story like this, your initial reaction should be to have sympathy for those involved. I believe that I expressed that sympathy for the tourists in my original article, and I continue to feel it.

However, I also feel a degree of empathy to the people of Peru who are going to be unfairly cast in a poor light based on this story. As a proponent of Peru, I always have to insist to people that the country is "safe" and I continue to believe it is "safe" when you take the proper precautions. If you came to the US not knowing what a four lane highway was and wandered out into one...the US would seem like a very "dangerous" nation as well.

My original article provoked, at this writing, 46 comments. Some of them, unfortunately, were very racist and anti-Indian, even calling for genocide. I did my best to erase these comments, but it's startling to see what emotions the original story provoked.

As I mentioned before, my initial reaction was sympathy as I believe it should be for anyone hearing a story such as was described in "nightmare in Peru." However, now that a little time has passed, I think it's important to take a less emotional look at the events. The fact is, the initial declaration of the tourists can have an extremely negative effect, not just for the Indians involved in the assault, but others who might not have had anything at all to do with the altercation.

The fact is that we've only heard one side of the story, and even that account was not supported with any photographic or video evidence. Yes, I understand that the tourists lost all of their equipment in the altercation, but they couldn't even get an admitting doctor at the hospital to snap their photo to show what had befallen them? Photos are free these days folks.

Here is an excellent article that goes into some of the socioeconomic ramifications of the events at Pallca. It makes the point that the Americans are the ones who are most quickly able to establish their story online (which means for the world to see), and they therefore tilt the public opinion in their favor.

The truth is that even if you took sworn statements from all three tourists involved, you'd get discrepancies with the events. That's before we even get testimony from the other side. That being the case, it's not so hard to believe we don't know exactly what happened yet. I'm not accusing anyone, I'm just stating a fact.

We do know that some American tourists got into an altercation with some subsistence farmers in Peru. That right there should be an embarrassment to the US. Those of you who are looking in at this story should realize that there are people in the Andes who live distressingly close to death on a daily basis. They don't have the first world problems of stressing out over the fact that there are no black iPhones left at the electronics store. When they worry about something, it's probably because if it doesn't happen, they're going to die.

Nobody should be talking about going into the jungle to "punish these people." Give them a break, they live a harder life than 99% of the people reading this article could ever endure. At least give them the courtesy of allowing a real investigation to take place to see what really happened in Ocongate.

The fact that an investigation hasn't yet happened (or at least no results have been posted anywhere), hasn't stopped the tourists from receiving over $20,000 in donations (the web page can be found in this link--they seem to keep making withdrawals but I've seen it at $20,000, so who knows how much money they've taken out). Something about the fact that the rich tourists can receive $20,000, while the subsistence farmers get nothing seems unfair to me. After all, it wasn't as if the farmers went and started camping on the tourists' land uninvited.

Still, those massive donations pretty much mean that this issue is over and done at least in the court of public opinion, which I think is unfortunate. I still await the results of an inquiry, and am scouring El Comercio daily for news. All I ask is that those of you who are harboring violent thoughts against Peru, please temper them at least until an investigation is allowed to take place.

If you hurt one innocent person in retribution for this event, then you're no better than the ones you claim to be fighting against.

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  1. Dean Charles MarshallJanuary 10, 2013 at 4:03 AM

    Unfortunately lack of any credible substantiation makes the truthfulness of this story questionable. I still contend that people normally do not attack other people unless they're provoked or feel threatened. Tourism is a "double edged sword" in that it can benefit a host country financially through the added exposure, but it can also cause unnecessary stress on local communities ill prepared to cope with an influx of foreigners. Truth is, Peru's not only a "hot" destination spot for tourists, but also a resource rich country that many industrial nations are seeking to exploit to the max. Sadly, the vast majority of tourist and development dollars are not getting into the hands of the average Peruvian, who still live at or below poverty. This is a dangerous precedent with dire consequences. Personally, I think there's much more to worry about in Peru with it's mushrooming cocaine trade and reemergence of the Shining Path terrorist group than there is about some young, itinerant American tourists who were probably at the "wrong place at the wrong time" such that a misunderstanding escalated out of control. The bottom line is, Peru needs to address its abject poverty to where all its citizens can benefit from it's current prosperity and not fall prey to drug trafficking or terrorist insurgency as a "quick fix" remedy for their ills. Now that's just my opinion and I could be wrong, but regardless, have a nice day and love the one you're with.

  2. Usually I only get minor annoyance from your Peruvian writing, but today really pissed me off. Everyone knows that it is the white iphones that sell out. Check your facts.

  3. I talked with my wife about this (she's Peruvian) and we both feel the same way. These are people who have had to deal in their lifetime with Sendero, the military, etc coming in and taking what they want, punishing people, even killing them. They live a hard life and if their animals or crops die or are damaged they won't have enough food for the year. The government won't help them out, there are no corner stores with credit, the agencies who are supposed to help are corrupt and the money doesn't go where it should.

    Without knowing all of the details and only from what we have heard from here and a few other places we feel that if these campers had gone into the town and spoken with a few people and asked permission then none of this would likely have happened. When you live such a hard life and strangers pull up outside of your town and don't talk with you then of course it would seem suspicious. I've seen a few reports from Peruvian tv where people gather together and assault a person because they believe that they are guilty.

    That's not a comdemnation, it just seems to be how Peruvian people can be, quick to anger over a perceived injustice and quick to react. They are not alone in the world in this aspect. The problem is sometimes it's an innocent person caught up in the middle of it. Perhaps a little simple communication could have prevented this from happening. It's hard to say, difficult to speculate without any real news or information.

    All I can say is that I am planning on going to Peru in the summer and will be trying to travel like a Peruvian does and see places like Marcahuasi. Hopefully some of my wife's family will come with me and I won't have any problems. If not at least I might find some backpackers to travel along with but I will learn some lessons from this incident and make sure I'm alert at all times.

    Things like this will not deter me from seeing Peru, I've been filled with wanderlust ever since I first went there almost 5 years ago. It is sad to see the horrible comments from people about exterminating Indians and so forth. I have lived in Oklahoma for more than 10 years and I have known and worked with many American Indians. Some are good, some are bad, same as any other group of people. Just because somebody is different doesn't mean they have to change. Maybe you have to adapt to them especially in their country. Okay not maybe, you should. Too many Americans just can't be bothered with that though.

  4. You had me going there for a second Fact Checker! Haha!

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  6. As I mentioned before, I'll reserve judgement until the facts are in. I have found Peruvian Indians to be on the whole kind and gentle, and I find it difficult to believe that those tourists are not somehow at fault, especially since I, unfortunately, have witnessed tourists acting in very arrogant and disrespectful ways towards the locals.

  7. your own blog[
    Friday, June 12, 2009
    Bagua Protests in the Ovalo de Miraflores, Lima Peru

    These natives attacked police. They are in the middle of nowhere. The tourists were probably playing with a chicken, cui or pig and the natives thought they were going to steal them and cook them. The natives are lucky they did not use their RV as a ramrod and run them over.

    Team Tourists!

  8. The last time that I went to visit Macchu Picchu, I was waiting at the base of the mountain for the bus to take me up to the ruins. While waiting there, a cute little 5 year old Indian girl was standing among a group of Australian tourists trying to sell some handicrafts. On the back of her hands were written the prices that she was to ask for the items. When one of the blond haired blue eyed ass-hole Australians took note of the fact that the child wouldn't bargain down below the prices written in on her fingers, he became enraged and started to belittle and hurl insults at the child. I had the honer of calling the guy some curses in Spanish, then insulted him in Engish and told him to please get the fuck out of Peru and return to his island paradise in Australia.The coward said nothing and just walked away. I've seen scenes repeated like this many times instigated by arrogant and stupid tourists.

    Sorry, but I find it difficult to believe that those unfortunate tourists were a complete bunch of innocents. I'll reserve judgement until all the facts are in.


    time will tell the tale...........

  10. Thanks Team Tourists for the update. I still think that the issue is still far from clear, and will still take a wait and see attitude. I well remember The Bay of Tonkin incident in the 1960s that led to the USAs tragic involvement in Vietnam. At the time,most everybody, including many of the country's most eminent politicians believed it to be true, Only with the passage of time did we sadly discover that the whole incident was based on a pack of lies, a fabrication and a ruse to justify US military involvement in Vietnam. I'm not going to say that those tourists are a bunch of liars, but I think that well need more time to sort out all the facts needed come to a more realistic conclusion on what really happened.

  11. One of the articles team tourist posted actually cites comments on a news article. Pardon me, but who gives a crap what the comments say? We have no idea what the qualifications of those people are, or even their education or intelligence level.

    Why are people debating that an official inquiry has to be made and we should withhold judgement until we hear it? We clearly don't have enough information right now. Heck, even a video testimony from the tourists themselves would hold more weight than a blog post.

    Right now...all we have is a blog post. As a blogger, I hope the people of the world are smarter than to take everything they read on the cybersphere as absolute truth.

  12. I suppose I don't have much to say that hasn't been said already. However, this incident and the reporting of it have been bouncing around my head since I first read it. The story we were giving did not add up to me. They still don't. It goes against everything I have experienced in Peru. I've been in poor neighborhoods of Lima and somewhat rural areas of other districts. I have made foolish tourist mistakes. I hope one day we will hear the other side of the story,but I doubt that will ever happen. Maybe i will come up with a story of how I was robbed when I run out of money on my next Andean trip... first I was robbed of my Oakley C six sunglasses, a NEMO Isopod, and a Yuki expedition jacket. Also, I had to have a self-righteous bug removed from my posterior. It was large and required stitching after removal... I will follow up with a Tilted (read:onesided) account soon for you to donate money... Thank you..

  13. Probably about 99% of peruvians doesnt know about this incident, as it hasnt even been in a printed edition of any big newspaper, only in their webs, plus living in peru, I havent hesar anything about it from peruvians.

    So no, there wouldnt be any further investigation

  14. Its an elaborated scam, nothing happened, newspapers in cuzco didnt reported anything about it

  15. This is 100% true. My cousin is Meghan one of the girls that it happened to. The money they received was from family and friends so if you don't know the facts please do not post comments. Jed had to get six root canals and still has blurred vision. They are very nice people who love the outdoors and this was an unprovoked attack on innocent people.

    1. Where are the pictures of your friends injuries? Unprovoked....does not sound like it. Maybe your friends are indeed injured but perhaps not in the way they explained. If you were not there, then how would you know?

  16. If this is true why are there no pictures of their injuries. No news stories in any of the media. Your friends are awfully quiet after receiving $ 30000. Total scam.

  17. First of all I never said they were friends they are family and they will be doing interviews when they get back to the States they are going to be on the Today Show and you will see their injuries. Family has seen their injuries through Skype so just because you haven't doesn't make it not true.

  18. I'm sick of bullying anonymous posts like the above that show up every time somebody asks for proof. I'll believe they'll be on the "Today Show" when I see it.

    I'll say it again, show me the proof and I'll publish it, otherwise shut up.

    1. Walter I guess you will have to wait and see then. No one is going to change your mind but I can promise you that this happened. You have no proof it did not happen so maybe you should not make comments about something or someone that you know nothing about. You are being a hypocrite. Wait and see my friend is all I can tell you.

    2. Yes my mind can be changed...with evidence! Bullying me and calling me names is not going to work.

      My position has always been to express sympathy to the people who claim to be victims, and await the other side of the story.

      However, this legion of "anonymous" people who comment on every story regarding this incident and berate people who don't accept it without asking any more questions is highly suspicious. If your story is true, you aren't doing your friends any favors. At this point, thanks largely to your efforts, the whole thing looks like a scam which you are a part of.

  19. Walter all I can tell u is that this is true. They have received 100 stitches and Jed has had 6 root canals due to teeth knocked out which have had to be corrected cause they were fixed incorrectly. They are not going public until they leave Peru so u will have to wait and see I guess. I know it sounds like a scam it isn't just trust me. I'm not trying to change people's mind I am only sticking up for family. All I can tell u that it is true so please wait and you will see the whole story.

  20. Well...send me a receipt for the dental work then...PROOF!

  21. Walter the Today Show interview will be air this week. I don't know what day yet but when I find out I will post it. They will show pictures taken from the police so hopefully this will be enough proof for you.

    1. Look...if you have PROOF then publish it, otherwise quit wasting time with empty BS promises. Also, I see the donation fund for your friends is still open. Until I see proof, I'm going to assume you're just trying to generate sympathy and scam people into giving them donations. Put up or shut up.

  22. Walter the story just aired 15 minutes ago on the Today Show. There is your Proof!!!