Responsible travel in the Andes: Promoting Andean culture and traditions


Let’s face it, when foreigners think of Peru, they don’t immediately associate it with a bustling megacity such as Lima or the lush wilderness of the Amazon jungle. It’s the Andes and it’s colorful and rich culture and traditions. It’s then not a surprise that tourists want to learn about and experience this culture when they’re visiting Peru. Tourism means (or at least should mean) more income for the Andean region but an increased influx of foreign tourists could also mean a threat to the culture. Therefore responsible travel in the Andes is inextricably linked to the preservation of Andean indigenous traditions and culture. One NGO who is dedicated to the promotion of indigenous traditions in Peru and especially in the Andes region is Saphichay We had a talk with the founder Paloma Abregu about their work and the link with tourism.

Which aspects of Andean traditions/culture is Saphichay focusing on and why?

Currently, we are focusing on agriculture, food, music and cosmology. Agriculture and food is fundamental to who we are it’s our earth and our food, it’s what keeps our physical bodies and environment healthy and alive. Music and cosmology is our spirit, another fundamental element to our existence.

Can you tell us a bit more about your past project on Andean architecture? Why is it important to maintain these traditions?

First of all traditional architecture is inherently sustainable in all aspects – environmentally and economically. We felt it was important to make sure that our soon to be architects were exposed to our/ their architectural foundations. It is important to know how to build with your surrounding elements and even more important to respect those that continue to hold and practice these techniques. I would love to see more young architects designing with this knowledge in mind, which is why we designed and offered a course in traditional architecture.

_(Photo courtesy of Saphichay)_

Can you tell me a bit more about your current project on Andean agriculture/crops? Why is it important to maintain these traditions?

We are currently developing a project with the community Quilcas, a community within Huancayo that is about 40 min from the city of Huancayo. This is an agricultural community that continues to farm traditionally as well as grows traditional crops such as potatoes. Native potatoes are something that is slowly being lost due to many factors, one being economic sustainability.
We are working with them to develop a biodiversity route’ which means we would take tourists of any kind that are interested in agriculture, native communities, environmental sustainability etc. This community are the guardians of native seeds, knowledge and practices making them very important people in regards to keeping both our environment and our identity alive.

Do you think tourism and traveling can play a positive role in maintaining and promoting indigenous culture in the Andes?

If delicately and respectfully done then yes!

Can it also have a bad influence?

Yes, a lack of cultural awareness can lead to negative experiences for many people and mostly for those that we work with.

_(Photo: Natalie Lefevre)_

What should be taken into account according to you to make sure tourism has a positive impact and to make it responsible?

Helping the visitors have a deep understanding of cultural respect, cultural appropriation, neocolonialism, racism, inequality, historical trauma and oppression.

Tourism and travelers can make a positive change in the promotion of indigenous traditions and the preservation of Andean culture when they travel in a responsible and sustainable way with respect for the local culture and especially of the, sometimes striking, differences that inevitably will pop up during their stay. A good start is an open mind and a willingness to learn more about another culture and to not judge if you do not agree with a tradition or custom. It is important to prepare in advance and try to find information on the local culture so you know the do’s and don’ts.

_This article was written by_ Natalie Lefevre _, founder of Alternative Peru. Alternative Peru organizes authentic day-tours that aim to show a different side of Lima and other responsible travel options in Peru, including an ecological stay in the Iquitos area. For more information visit_ www.alternativeperu.org _or email info@alternativeperu.org._Tourism means (or at least should mean) more income for the Andean region but an increased influx of foreign tourists could also mean a threat to the culture. How can we prevent this from happening?