Today is a very important day for all those who love Peru. It was barely 20 years ago that the country was in a brutal hangover from one of the most destructive epochs in its history. Tens of thousands of Peruvians were murdered, its cities rocked by daily bombings and its economy in collapse, all in the name of political ideology on both the left and right.
Well today, its capital of Lima, crowded with informal taxis, shanty towns on the hills, young surfers along its coastline, an expanding middle class at its universities and the ever growing wealth of its elites, now has something to celebrate together, as one Peru. Today Peruvians delight in the crowning of three of their restaurants into the World’s Top 50 Restaurants on June 1st, 2015.
For countries like France, Spain and the United States, this would be yet one more feather in the hat as evidence of their cultures influence and domination of recent centuries. Yet for Peru this is very different. This is a country that reveres those who boost it into international acclaim. To give you a sense of this, players from their silver medal female Olympic volleyball team (highest finish in the Olympics history for Peru) later became senators, leaders and national heroes similar to how Americans revered Apollo astronauts.
For students of history, they know that Peru’s greatness and influence on mankind go far beyond its national Volleyball team of 1988. During the renaissance, when Europeans discovered what is now called Peru in 1526, it sparked great tales of riches and opportunity, bringing waves of migrations from all corners of the earth. Going back even further by a few thousand years, the people who inhabited the lands of modern day Peru domesticated the potato. This nutrient rich innovation allowed for cities in Europe to increase their population density and thus play a major role in Europe’s early industrialization.
Looking forward, the cultural and biological equity of Peru’s diverse people and plants of its coasts, Andes, and the Amazon, will play a critical role in helping the world mitigate climate change as well as understand how early man evolved.
Today though, Peru can claim that they have again returned to the world stage. They have done so through the efforts of a few young and dedicated bands of chefs who are changing not just the culinary world, but giving Peruvians of all classes and colors an idea of national unity, a model of integration in a country with people that range from Quechua speaking potato farmers to young urbanites sporting the latest brands. This integration by way of the food chain gives respect to its indigenous potato farmer and the lowly fisherman….it provides a way for the millions of optimistic mestizo youth, with no family connections or privileged private education, to see a path for social mobility working within the gastronomic clusters of it capital….and the elites, who instead of mimicking the fashions and influences of world centers, are learning to appreciate and understand the deep history of their country through food.
This change came about not through World Bank loans, foreign NGO’s, nor one autocratic leader. It was the efforts of young Peruvians from all stripes that found by working in a kitchen one could be proud of their identity, their history, and their compatriots. Millions of Peruvians along the entire food chain as a whole have given Peru a model in which to evolve more equally, more proud and more Peruvian!
Congratulations Peru, the sun of the world is once again gleaming upon your land!
Credit to Catherine Lindblom and Tomas Sobek for the images used to illustrate this blog.