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Latin America Team Dispatch

Why in the World Should We Be In Peru?!?

After missing in action for eleven days, losing our luggage, and barely slinking by the Colombian checkpoints, the team finally made it to Peru. Why, you may ask, so much effort and risk to get here? After all, there are so many countries in South America, some that are larger or more in the limelight. And so many other continents as well? Again the question - Why Peru? Well, in case you are wondering, here is our five-point checklist to why Peru is one the most fascinating and important countries, not only to the Americas, but to modern civilization as well.

1- Maybe you've heard of them? The Mighty Incas!
Believe it or not, the famous Inca Empire ruled for less than 100 years, from around 1435 AD to approximately 1530 AD. Yet their territorial rule included the area stretching from southern Colombia to central Chile, encompassing also the Andean regions of Bolivia and northern Argentina. One of the most visited archeological sites left behind by the Incas is Machu Picchu, also known as the Lost City of the Incas. This site was discovered in 1911 by an American historian named Hiram Bingham. And later this month it will be visited by... us!

2 - Nature In Extreme
The vast Amazon Basin, parts of which are some of the least accessible places in the world, begins in Peru. The Amazon is home to jaguars, spectacled bears and tapirs, and over 1700 bird species. Yet, despite the wealth of wildlife and vegetation, the Amazon is slowly being demised by economic development, such as farming, grazing and logging. Some of our team members will be reporting to us soon from the conservation groups in Peru to explain to us the effect this has on the future. But that's not all. The largest lake in South America, Lake Titicaca, lies between Peru and Bolivia. The second largest range of mountains in the world, the Andes, runs down the middle of Peru. Meanwhile most of the coast is one big desert, with rolling dunes along much of it.

3- Guerrillas (not to be confused with 'gorillas')
Peru has seen its grave share of guerrilla warfare within its boundaries. The Maoist group Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) waged a terrorist campaign against the central government from 1980 until the early 1990's, claiming 23,000 lives. In 1992, though, the founder and leader, Abimael Guzmán, was captured, improving the political situation. Also, some of the political problems have improved with the election of Alberto Fujimori, who defeated former UN Secretary General, Javier Pérez de Cuellar, in 1995. We'll take you to the university where this movement was founded and explore the repercussions today.

4- Drugs
Drug trafficking is a a big-time industry in Peru. The coca plant, which is used to manufacture cocaine, grows in abundance in Peru and supplies a major portion of Peru's export. While the income is unreported, sources say that the revenue from the export of coca is roughly comparable in value to all legal exports combined. The Sendero Luminoso was reportedly linked to a major drug cartel in Peru. The US has a lot of agents down here trying to control the industry. We'll see what different people think of all this and where it's all going.

5- Independence!
Independence is kind of important, right? Well two of the most decisive battles between the Spanish and the revolutionaries that would eventually kick the Spanish out in the 1800s were fought at Junín and at Ayacucho in Peru. We'll take you to the battlefields and the little building that still stands where the Spanish signed their surrender.

So there you go, five good reasons why it was important for the Team to get to Peru. And if none of these explanations satisfies your question of why we should go, then this age old answer should just about do it. Why Peru? Well... Why not?!?

The Team

Abeja - An Offering to the Odyssey Reading Gods and Goddesses
Abeja - Raiders of the Lost Sandcastles
Kevin - Ancient Peruvian Fashion 101: Gold T-Shirts, and Three-Inch Earlobes
Monica - Inspector Monica Cracks the Case
Making a Difference- Violence in 'Peaceful Communities'
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