Ceviche is a classic Peruvian dish with simple but decidedly delectable ingredients including raw fish, onion, salt, cilantro and garlic – tantalizingly tossed in lime juice. For David Knight, Intrepid’s Community Based Tourism researcher in Peru, his recent experiences examining local perspectives of tourism impacts in the Sacred Valley town of Chichubamba could well be compared to the preparation of a fine ceviche. David tells us why…
“Now, given the references to my pasty, peeling skin in previous blog posts, you might be inclined to see me as the raw fish in this citrus soup metaphor; and, until recently, I might have been inclined to agree with you. But I learned a new Peruvian phrase yesterday while talking with an Intrepid leader, and it seemed a truer analogy to my experiences thus far.
“You must have felt like el huevo del ceviche (the egg of the ceviche),” she told me. Ceviche doesn’t come with egg, I thought. Of course, that was the point. No matter how badly I’ve wanted to belong, to be ‘local’, to board the train to Machupicchu at 1/5 the price charged to internationals, I will never be seen as a true blue Chichubambino of the Sacred Valley. Let’s be honest:
I’d never feel at home eviscerating a guinea pig, stuffing its intestine with onion, potato and cilantro, frying it up, and then devouring it as I would a batch of chocolate chip cookies!
No, I have been and will continue to be an extraneous element in the exceptional ethnic array of the Peruvian Andes. As Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote: “There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.”
And yet, over the last month, I have been received by the community of Chichubamba as one of their own: invited to plow fields with a yoke of bellowing oxen, sharing childhood memories over a barrel of chicha (corn beer), joining a boy in the town as he shot down pigeons with his sling to feed his cat, braving thorn bushes and precipitous drops with townspeople to reach two Incan towers overlooking the town from 2,200 feet (670 metres) above the valley floor, and helping grind coffee beans for hours on end to separate the seeds from their hard shells.
Many experiences were shared by Intrepid groups, who stopped in the village on their way from Cuzco to Machu Picchu. I would often join them for lunch at one of the homes (the quinoa soup was always outstanding), or I would sit in on one of the workshops offered by members of the Tourism Association (learning to make a ceramic bowl and eating fresh honeycomb from the hive were definitely highlights).
Out of place though I was, these experiences with locals allowed me to better understand their relationship with tourism. The egg began to soak in the citrus, so to speak, and I began to detect the characteristic flavors of tourism in Chichubamba. Although there were only minimal tourism impacts observed at the community level, the fourteen individuals involved in tourism reported tremendous improvements in their quality of life since Intrepid groups began visiting the community five years ago. One individual stated, “Working in our fields, we were able to survive. With tourism, we have been able to improve.”
The Tourism Association is still wrestling with how to distribute tourism benefits equally among its members. This will be an ongoing challenge as members seek to balance personal/family interests with those of the Association and of the community at large. Despite these difficulties, Chichubamba wants to host more Intrepid groups in the coming years.
It is impossible to know what kinds of experiences and findings I will soak up in the next community, Amaru. Regardless of whether ceviche with egg ever catches on, I have to admit: being the egg isn’t all that bad. Here’s to soaking it all in!”
To read more of David Knight’s engaging blog installments click on the responsible travel theme and stay tuned for upcoming news of his community based tourism research and observations of life in Peru.
Follow in David’s footprints and explore this remarkable region on Intrepid tours of Peru.
Photos © David Knight. David joins his little ‘sister’ and ‘brother’ for a guided tour of the town and meeting with the Chichubamba Tourism Association.