Saturday, March 21, 2009

Karikuy Blog Has Moved

I apologize to all those following the blog through blogspot for the inconvenience and late notice. But we have moved to www.karikuy.org/blog . Our new blog is a much better improvement over this one and features even more content. So get over there right away and see what you have missed. Also make sure you subscribe to get Blog updates. Thanks for all your support and continue to ask you for it at our new and rightful home.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Obama Ignores Peru


While many Americans were caught up in the media frenzy that was the Presidential Campaign of Barack Obama, only a few were really paying attention to the actions of the man who would become President. This side of the equator actions speak louder then words and Barack Obamas support of the new US free trade agreement with Peru has kicked up a hornets nest of problems. Now I do not intend this to be an anti-Obama article, just for my readers to open up their eyes and realize that the actions of men stand as their ultimate legacy, defining them throughout history.

To understand the North American Free Trade Agreement and how it has impacted Latin American Countries, we must first look to our own shores and how it has profoundly impacted Americans in the United States. In Massachusetts alone it is estimated that 100,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in the last decade and 3 million jobs at the national level sent oversees due to NAFTA. Perhaps this "free trade" agreement can hold some responsibility for our current economic crisis, as it seeks to set up trade deals that benefit corporations and profit rather the workers and progress.


NAFTA was created on December 8th, 1993 by the leaders of Canada, Mexico and the United States, it is one of the most powerful, wide-reaching treaties in the world. Its two supplements, the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC) and The North American Agreement on Labour Cooperation (NAALC) make up the bulk of the document. What is wrong with this free trade agreement is that it hurts consumers in countries where NAFTA is in effect and cripples the small farm or manufacturer who has to compete with monopolistic and massive corporations who sell their products cheaply. These same corporations hire cheap labor and despite all the legal paperwork that is supposed to be included in NAALC, companies would rather outsource their labor to cut costs and make more profit. All of this is at the expense of the workers from both countries in agreement, NAFTA in essence is government-directed, government-negotiated trade, which is mercantilism and not free trade.


Real free trade is as easy as cutting tariffs on imports and exports, doing away with the International Trade Commission and a host of other restrictions that seem to favor monopolistic corporations instead of the start up small business owner, manufacturer, farmer etc. In all Obamas speeches about "Joe the Plumber" and "Main Street" and how he was going to try to work on the economy, Barack Obama did not at all seem to mention his opinions on NAFTA, an agreement that if dissected would reveal to be a major contributor to the United States current economic depression. Or did he? On February 24th, 2008 while campaigning in Ohio, Obama said "I don't think NAFTA has been good for Americans, and I never have," So why skip a very important vote in the senate and not vote against an agreement that would damage so many economically in both the United States and Peru?

We can all hope that his skipped vote wasn't politically motivated, after all it is Republicans who overwhelmingly vote for these trade deals to pass anyway, I am sure the trade deal had very strong support amongst liberals and Senator Obama would just vote among party lines. In fact the Peru deal was approved by an overwhelming vote of 285 in favor to 132 against. But its most striking aspect was that 109 Democrats voted yes and 116 voted no. So what was the President-elects motivation behind skipping the vote for the NAFTA agreement with Peru after publicly supporting it along with Hillary Clinton? It's safe to assume that he didn't want to be labeled a flip flopper and lose his support among the majority of South Americans that few NAFTA dis favorably, however in a vote that gained very little media attention in the United States, would it really have been too much for Obama to stand by his principles and vote against the trade deal? Would it have been too much for him to accept Peru's invitations to the APEC Summit being hosted in Lima to discuss economic cooperation? Hey and what about the Peruvian hairless "Machu Picchu " that was offered to him and his family as the new White House Dog?


In a open letter to Obama from the Latin American Studies Association, they describe to the new President that "Latin Americans have often viewed the United States not as a friend but as an oppressor, the guarantor of an international economic system that works against them, rather than for them-- the very antithesis of hope and change." and that "While anti-American feelings run deep, history demonstrates that these feelings can change. In the 1930s, after two decades of conflict with the region, the United States swore off intervention and adopted a Good Neighbor Policy. Not coincidentally, it as the most harmonious time in the history of U.S.-Latin American relations. In the 1940s, every country in the region became our ally in World War Two. It can happen again."

Farm workers and manufacturers are bracing themselves in cities and rural communities throughout Peru. For the past couple of months Peruvians were told that the economic depression from the US would not impact them too severely, that our trade relations were deeply rooted worldwide and that our financial institutions independent. All of the rhetoric was taken lightheartedly as the reality of the signing of the new free trade agreement began to emerge. Foremost is the unjust competition between Peruvian agricultural products and North American products which are subsidized by the US government, unlike the agricultural products of Peru. If that wasn't enough new labor laws introduced by the agreement fail to address many key labor issues such as overtime, pay and social security. It is expected that a privatized social security system similar to the proposal by President Bush will be implemented in Peru. The main beneficiary seems to be Citibank, the largest shareholder in ProFuturo AFP, a company authorized to compete against Peru's national social security system.

Protest against free trade deal in Lima

American mining companies who have made billions in profit in the last 30 years continue to abuse worker rights and continue to offer low wages to their workers , many of whom suffer from fatigue and bronchial infections. And whats on the horizon? What can Peruvians and Latin Americans alike look forward to in the future due to the new free trade agreement? Likely more American corporations who have just been handed the paperwork to let them consume foreign resources while maneuvering around labor and environmental laws. We can only hope the new American President stops ignoring his neighbors and his own citizens and draft a new real free trade agreement.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Virgen de la Candelaria Festival Set to Begin



Every year beginning on the first of February, Puno; the Folkloric Capital of Peru, explodes in celebrations to the Virgen de la Candelaria. The Virgin is the patron saint of Puno, and la Candelaria translates to the presentation of her son Jesus. The festival lasts for many days and can be seen as a prelude to Carnival which is celebrated throughout Peru in February.


This year this festival begins on Sunday, February 1st, lasting approximately 18 days the festival will exhibit more then 200 groups of musicians and dancers from the many areas of Peru. An expected 40,000 tourists will be on hand to experience the parades, processions, heavy drinking and fireworks.


The history of the festival is said to be linked to the Pre-Hispanic agricultural cycles of sowing and harvesting. Both Aymara and Quechua cultures celebrate the festival which also attract Christians and Pagans alike. The worship of the Virgin is also attributed to mining in the region. The dance of the demons called Diabladas, which is the main dance of the festival, is said to have been created by a group of miners trapped in a mine who in their fear and desperation gave their souls to the Virgen de la Candelaria.


The festival has two main phases. The first is described as el Dia Principal, the principal day, in which a procession carries the statue of the Virgen around the city, while dancers in lavish costumes dance around the main square to join the parade. The dancers, by group, pause in front of the cathedral to be blessed with holy water, after which they are cooled with water thrown from nearby houses.

The second phase occurs on the Sunday after February second, called the Octava. On this day, El Sugundo Gran Dia, translated into the Second Great Day, costumed groups from the surrounding areas of Puno dance day and night in religious fervor and competitive spirit.

As the festival whanes it is not uncommon to see water fights erupt throughout the city as Carnival in Peru begins. So if your in the area please make sure to check out Puno and all the colorful festivities that surround La Virgen de la Candelaria Festival. Puno is an 8 hour bus ride south from Cusco.

What the...? must be Punos version of the Yeti.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Karikuy Volunteer Program In Detail

If you haven't already checked out the Perupedia project web site please head over to www.karikuy.org/perupedia. You can find more information on the volunteer program and an application form you can fill out if your interested in joining the program. I will now go ahead and explain the program in detail, including your jobs as a volunteer, the meal plan, boarding and explain a basic day in the life as a volunteer in Peru.

Volunteering Information:
-Free Room and Board
- $22 a week meal plan
-Monday through Friday workweek (3 day weekend can be set up for excursions)
-8 hours of work (10am to 8pm lax hours with meal breaks)
-Discounted tours for weekend travel
-Holidays off
-Stress free environment

Work Expected
-Information gathering
-Essay writing
-Web site layout
-Photo editing
-Blogging
-Video editing (not part of job requirement)
-Minor Maintenance (mostly personal cleaning, painting, etc.)


OK great! so lets say you have made the decision to become a volunteer, you fly out to Peru (you pay your own round trip airfare of course) and land at Jorge Chavez International Airport. You'll find me at the airport waiting to greet you and help you change any currency, just as I would any of my customers who come to Peru on one of our tours. Here's where your adventure volunteering in Peru begins. First stop is the bed and breakfast where I will show you around the house and how to use the facilities. I give you the rest of the day off to settle down and take you on a tour of the surrounding area. If it's a weekend we'll go out so you can experience Lima to see what you have gotten yourself into ha ha no joke really your going to have a lot of fun.

On your first workday you get up pretty much the time your use to, just remember you are expected to put in a good 8 hours a day into the project. I will discuss where we're at in the project and give you a starting point from which to begin. For example I could say we need to catalog and write about popular hotels in Puno, you will then get on your laptop (required) and look up the top reviewed hotels in Puno and write a good description for each with location information, current prices and contact info. You have various options in obtaining this information, you can look on the web or call the hotels personally if well versed in Spanish and ask them yourself. This is what we mean when we say the project is looking for good information gatherers.

So back to explaining your day to day as a volunteer. After a breakfast consisting of some fresh bread, eggs, oatmeal, coffee and all that good stuff you head to work. At around 1pm lunch is served, lunch being the most heavy and important meal of the day in Peru, the meal is a bowl of soup and a main course accompanied by some freshly made juice, tea or more coffee. These meal are about an hour long usually depending on how fast you eat and then it's back to work. Dinner is a lighter meal consisting of either the soup or main course from earlier in the day, if your hungry your free to have both. After dinner the clock is at about 8pm and you have an hour or so to wrap up and save any writing you have been working on. The work day normally doesn't last any later then 9 although you are free to work longer if you wish. From the time you stop working until the time you go to sleep you can surf the web, watch TV or movie, and even go out, although I caution anyone from going out at night alone. That's your average work day summed up in a nutshell.

It's also very important to me to hear what you have to say about your experiences in Peru, for that reason I will reserve one day of the week for the volunteer to write a blog about a certain subject that relates to them and their time in the country. These blogs will be posted on a new site and not on this personal blog. That platform, which will debut as soon as our first volunteers join us with the project, will be hosted on the Karikuy web site using Wordpress. This special blogging day will be Fridays unless I specify otherwise or there is a more important topic that needs finishing.

On the weekends you have the opportunity to travel throughout Peru, I would recommend visiting Cusco and Machu Picchu. For longer planned trips I am more then glad to give you a 3 day weekend and even a 4 day weekend depending on the location and the circumstances. I will also honor Birthdays and other Holidays that may be personal or religious. Depending on where you wish to visit, know that you will receive the lowest possible price Karikuy can get you for your travels. All we ask is that while you are away you always carry a notepad with you to jot down information on locations, transportation, prices and news. All this gathered information is extremely valuable in order to help the Perupedia project grow. When possible and if you request I can accompany you on some tours, giving you my expertise on certain locations and helping you with your information gathering.

I have described your work on the project above as information gathering, however at any time and depending on your qualities I could ask you to put a short video together, or to help with the layout of the Perupedia site and edit other sections. Remember that the Perupedia project is very open ended and that there will be other volunteers working from their own homes uploading information into the site from around the world. One of your jobs will be to review these additions and check for errors or misinformation. On occasion I may even ask you to clean your room ha ha if your not too neat that is, or maybe to help me paint a part of the Bed and Breakfast and do repairs, all of these being minor physical work. I hope I have given you a good picture of how volunteers can expect to spend their days in the country. I also want to add that parties and social events are very common so as to not make the program seem uneventful. Peruvians love to dance and have a good time and I am certain you will too.

Peru is a great place to volunteer and I really hope to have a great time with some of you who qualify for this project. Although this isn't your more traditional Peruvian volunteer program, please understand that you are doing a great service to people around the world who wish to know more about Peru , its culture and people. This ultimate reference of Peru will have it's place on the Internet as the most thorough database on Peru and has the opportunity of becoming a focal point on attracting more attention to the social and political issues that affect the country. Depending on the success of this project (which is entirely up to the volunteers, I could never do it all myself) I will choose to open similar projects for other South American countries that would have volunteers be boarded abroad as well. For now I will take it one step at a time and invite you to come to Peru to get to know the country and then share it with the world.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Perupedia Project



Today I want to explain one of our most ambitious projects, Perupedia. My goal for this project, for which I will be looking for volunteers, is to gather as much information as we can about Peru and its culture. The layout of this project will use the powerful open source Twiki program to collect data not just from me and my volunteers but from anyone willing to contribute to the project. You may ask "Why not just go to wikipedia for the information?", the answer is that although Wikipedia is great for general reference, it is not as in depth as it should be about certain topics. This project will gather information regarding current news, articles, blogs, video and music media, travel and general information about Peru. It will include sections that go far beyond Peru @ Wikipedia.

Our new volunteer program which I will go over in more detail tomorrow will be vitally helpful in building the Perupedia site. I encourage all of you to visit www.karikuy.org/perupedia to visit the landing page and read more about the project. The new landing page includes a volunteer application form for those interested in coming to Peru and helping out. A reason I will keep this post short is because you can find a lot of useful information on that page regarding the project.

So when can you expect to see Perupedia begin to add content? I would say as early as the first week in February. Right now I'm in charge of the huge task of not just installing a massive database addition to the web site but also to begin going over volunteer application forms which I have already received many inquiries about. I guess the free room and board, as well as the cheap meal plan has been very well received and that's a great thing for the project! Although I must stress that I can only have a maximum of 2 volunteers at a time helping me on the project for now. So If you are interested please fill out the application form, if you are interested in working on the project at home you can email me at jctello@karikuy.org.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Karikuy Christmas, better late then never.

When we think of Christmas and the holidays, the majority of us envision a house full of relatives on a cold and snowy morning. As kids we would try to get some if any sleep the night before, our minds occupied by what could be under the tree. Heck even at 20 I was a bit restless thinking of what high tech toys I would receive or even accept from myself. These traditional scenes of Christmas have very little in common to how it is celebrated in Peru. And although I have always celebrated the holidays with a mix of both the Peruvian and American versions of Christmas, this year I was able to celebrate it in Peru among my family and friends with all the excitement which is Christmas in Peru.

The Plaza de Armas of Lima, light shows and other activities are common leading up to Christmas night.

To begin I must explain that Christmas in Peru is celebrated at exactly 12:00am on January 25th. The family begins arriving around 11pm on the 24th. Traditionally turkey or ham is prepared as the main Christmas meal. There is a calm leading up to midnight, family members greet each other as they begin to arrive. Salsa music begins to echo through the house, the artists singing their own creative mix of holiday songs, a favorite of mine being "Aires de Navidad" by Hector Lavoe. Five minutes to 12 and you can begin to hear the first firecrackers exploding throughout the neighborhood, and although it might seem outrages to us westerners it is common to see 5 year olds throwing firecrackers into the air as the streets explode at the strike of 12.


And so the celebration that is Christmas begins in a country where 89% of the population is Christian. The thunderous applause of a Christian nation can seem overwhelming as the firework tribute to the birth of Jesus lasts approximately half an hour at its peak. Fireworks are continuously heard through the evening of the 25th. Shortly afterward hugs and kisses and the customary "Feliz Navidad" as family members gather around a nativity scene, the children tare into their gifts, as it is only them who receive them. It seems older folk are left to break open the champagne or wine bottles and toast the night away. At the nativity scene (which all families construct and try so hard to out do one another with) the family gathers as a baby Jesus is brought out to take his place as the focal point of the midnight celebration. The Christmas meal is then served to a hungry family which is used to eating supper around 7pm. Depending on the circumstances Christmas parties can last throughout the night. It is also customary to leave your door open as your neighbors and friends pop in to say hello and receive their slice of Panetone (sweet bread) and hot chocolate, preferably beer or wine is handed out.

The Nativity Scene or "Nacimiento" every family creates their own version.

Family dinner after midnight, tired and full. More wine please!

The day of the 25th is spent lazily toasting to the day, remember that it is summer in Peru and the temperature is a lovely 70 degrees, perfect for going to the beach or playing a game of volleyball or futbolito (futsal) with the neighbors. As for me, I believe I was up till about 7 am having a few beers with my cousins. Christmas in Peru is very much different then from American traditions. Celebrating both versions I can say that the traditional South American Christmas is a little more lively then its northern counterpart. As an example you might find it rare to find a night club open and packed on Christmas night as opposed to in Peru where they are open until the last clients leave, usually around 8 - 9 am.

New Years on the other hand is very similar to festivities worldwide as it is primarily an adult celebration and is centered around parties. At 12 fireworks once again fill the streets with the only difference in customs being that in Peru you gather up all your old clothes to create an effigy and burn it at 12am. In a way you are burning past burdens and the old year away and bringing in the new. Now had I brought more clothes in from the states I would have probably contributed to this truly unique Peruvian custom.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The State of Karikuy

So how has to worldwide recession affected Karikuy, and what is being done to promote and grow the organization? To answer those questions I will first describe the situation Karikuy finds itself in at the moment.

A year ago as the organization went public and saw its first couple of clients arrive in Peru, the economic landscape was much different then we see it today. There was talk of recession as financial institutions reported on their negative earnings, and for the most part people could sense what was about to happen but wasn't of immediate concern to them. Today as news of the worsening situation is almost inescapable, Karikuy has seen it's clientele cut almost in half.


uncertain future? not really, I don't believe in trying, only doing.

Although many would say that it is probably the worst time to even think about starting a company, let alone an organization that makes very little profit, I differ. Yes it's harder to attract customers then it was a year ago, but you can't fight an economic depression through stagnation and ceasing to create jobs and business. Are their risks? of coarse but through smart investing and managing anything can be overcome. The fact that Karikuy offers tours of Peru at very low prices can also only help in attracting customers who don't have to much capital to spend.

New sunrise, new opportunities.

So what is the state of Karikuy at this moment? It is stable and healthy, all is going according to plan, our goals are still very much the same, and our determination is even stronger. The drop off in customers is expected but not detrimental to our success. In February we will begin advertising on the Internet for budget oriented customers. We have a February sale in effect that slashes $100 off all of our tours in February with the exception of The Backpacker. February is normally a slow month for tourism in Peru as the Inca Trail is closed and the height of the rainy season hits eastern Peru and the highlands. However I encourage all travelers to take the opportunity to visit Peru in February, the New Inca Trail is available and it is summer on the coast with the month long Carnival taking place throughout Peru.

I will also be traveling to Cusco in late February to interview new guides to follow our commitment to offer the highest quality service for your buck. In order to bring you even lower prices Karikuy is planning of starting a Merchandise for Cut in Price service where you would bring certain electronics like laptops or game consoles to Peru, where these items are rare and expensive, to be sold to us at a profit. With the Merchandise for Cut in Price service you could see up to $300 cut off the price of many of our tours. That's a lot of money saved just for bringing in a product as a personal item.

We are always thinking of lowering our prices for our customers, however sometimes we need your help in doing so. the Merchandise for Cut in Price will be optional and if you may have any doubts know that according to customs law you are allowed to bring in several personal items without being taxed at the airport, 1 camera, 1 video camera, 1 laptop etc. Again more information about this service will be available in the coming weeks.

Hard at work; volunteers can expect to be hunched over their laptops at the Bed & Breakfast pictured above.

Finally I want to write a little about our new volunteer program. This program is made available to anybody of any age who wants to spend some time in Lima working on our Perupedia project. this is a very affordable if not the most affordable volunteer program I have seen on the Internet. It includes free room and board and a cheap $70 a month or $22 a week meal plan that includes breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Karikuy Bed & Breakfast. Your job Monday through Friday would be to gather information on certain areas in Peru and present them in a neat format to post on the Perupedia website. For an example pick up a Frommer's or Lonely Planet guide book for a similar layout. This project will be exclusively on the Internet and free to anybody who wishes to know about all things Peru, travel, news, sports etc. On the weekends you are free to travel throughout Peru and see the country, three day weekends are available too if necessary. Or if your a workaholic like me then your free to keep working on the projects or even travel and work on the project gathering information from place to place. More detailed information on the volunteer program will be available later this week.

To conclude this post I want to assure our past customers and our future customers that Karikuy is healthy and we continue to offer our services to those looking for a truly authentic experience in Peru. Later in the week I will explain how the economic crisis has had very little impact on the Peruvian economy itself so far, well that's excluding the tourism industry. Karikuy will always be as strong as its supporters, this is an organization of people and not so much capital. We will ride out the crisis one smile at a time and one adventure after the next.