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.
If you would like a larger file of the above image for a print or use in a publication, just send $10 to my paypal account at firstname.lastname@example.org, and mention the title and date of the post where the image appeared. Be sure to include an email I can contact you with for questions.