Karencita de Perú

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As I walk around the streets of Lima one of the most obvious differences from what I had grown accustomed to in Vancouver is the architecture and the way buildings are constructed.  Apart from the fact that Lima is a much more historic city than Vancouver and many of the buildings are hundreds of years older, there are two principal differences that stand out to me.  As well, there are a few other interesting things that aren’t commonly seen in Canada.

First, the majority of the buildings in Lima have flat roofs as opposed to peaked roofs, as is common in Vancouver and most other parts of Canada.  This is because having a sloped roof to ensure that the snow and rain-water run off  isn’t a concern in Lima.  Lima is in the midst of a coastal desert and gets an average of 13mm of rain per year.  Vancouver has an average annual rainfall of 1117 mm!!

Another reason that homes in Lima are built with flat roofs is that they are often added on to after the original construction.  As children grow up and start to have families of their own, it is common to expand the family home so that the new couple can live with the parents, but have their own space in the house.   Lima is densely populated and there is no room to build to the side, front or back of the house, so they build up, adding subsequent floors as more space is needed.  This practice of adding additional floors to a house leads to one of the things that isn’t often seen in Canada which is that a lot of houses appear unfinished.  They commonly have pieces of re-bar sticking out of the roof  in preparation for the future construction.

The other major difference is in the construction materials used.  In Lima buildings are constructed with concrete, cinder block, brick and re-bar.  In Western Canada the most common building material for individual homes is wood.  Again, this is due to geographic location.  In Western Canada there is an abundance of wood so lumber construction makes sense.  Conversely, there are no forests immediately surrounding Lima and no lumber industry to speak of in Peru.

In a country where central heating and air conditioning are very rare, concrete construction has the benefit of good insulation.  In Canada apartment building are often constructed on the outside with concrete but the inner walls are still made of lumber and dry wall.  In Peru, even the inner walls are concrete.  This is good for sound proofing, but it does make hanging pictures a bit of a challenge.

Apart from the differences in architecture and building materials, I have seen some other things that have caught my attention.   One of those is the electrical wires in the street.  Lima has very few underground cables.  The majority are  above ground, attached to poles, as is common in the older neighborhoods of Vancouver.   However, what you won’t often see in Vancouver is the tangles mess or archaic cables that you will find here.  It is really quite a frightening sight.

Another thing that is more commonly seen here than in Vancouver is abandoned buildings or buildings where the construction has never been completed.  In some cases these partially constructed buildings sit empty, deteriorating from disuse.  But there is one building which always makes me wonder how it is possible that people can be living there.  It is in the heart of Miraflores, one of the nicest districts in Lima, on Avenida Benavides, a main street.  The building is obviously unfinished yet it is inhabited by many people.  Imagine trying to get an occupancy permit in a building like this in Canada!

The final thing that I have seen numerous times that always grabs my attention is a difference in construction techniques.  It is common to see wooden poles used as supports during the construction process.  In Canada supports are generally made of metal so the image of what looks like a bunch of sticks holding up pounds of heavy concrete somehow doesn’t seem very safe to me, although I’m sure they know what they are doing!


Yesterday was election day here in Peru.  Today many people are very worried.

The new President has not been elected yet.  The way the electoral system works here in Peru is that if there is no majority winner after the first vote is goes to a ‘segunda vuelta’ or a run-off.  The two candidates who received the most votes in the first round go head-to-head in the second round and voters must choose one of them.  The next phase of the election process will take place on June 5th.

The results of the first vote, for many, have led to the worst possible outcome.  As of approximately 5:30pm on April 11th about 87% of the votes have been counted.  The leader, with 31.37% of the votes is Ollanta Humala of the party Gana Peru.  Next, is Keiko Fujimori from Fuerza 2011 with 23.223% of the vote.  The early results showed Keiko and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (PPK) neck and neck, but as more votes from the rural areas have come in the advantage has swung in Keiko’s favor.  Currently PPK is in third place with 19.225%.

What this means is that the run-off will be between Humala Ollanta and Keiko Fujimori.  In polls done prior to the election, close to 50% of the population said they would never vote for either of these candidates.  Now they will be forced to choose between two undesirable options or to leave their ballot blank.

For those not familiar with Peruvian politics you may be wondering why this is such a bad thing.   Basically, the feeling of many is that they must now choose between Ollanta, a violent, militant admirer of Hugo Chavez and Keiko, the 36-year old,  inexperienced daughter of Alberto Fujimori, who is currently imprisoned for human rights abuses.  The following CNN report sums of the results nicely.  http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/americas/04/11/peru.elections/index.html

How could this happen?  Peru has experienced a lot of growth over the past few years and it’s economy is currently one of the best in South America.   It is the fastest growing economy in Latin America and that growth is projected to continue at 7% in the next year.  While many people have benefited from this economic growth and conditions have improved, there is still a large part of the population, mostly rural, that are living in poverty.   Keiko and Ollanta are the furthest left on the political spectrum of the five candidates that were running for President.  They focussed their campaigns on the poor and rural population, making promises that they are going to help improve their conditions.  Many of these people have little education and feel that they have been ignored or forgotten by previous, more right-leaning leaders.  So, for them, the promises of Keiko and Ollanta are enticing and they are either willing to overlook the negatives or don’t understand the implications of what having either of these two as President could mean for the future economic and political stability of the country.

Another factor that lead to this result is that the vote on the right got split between three candidates instead of just two on the left.   Talking to many people before the election many were undecided between PPK, ex-President Alejandro Toledo and former mayor of Lima Luis Castañeda.  All three candidates proposed sound economic platforms that would have likely ensure continued economic growth and political stability.  Castañeda ended up with only 10% of the vote.  If his vote had gone to either PPK or Toledo , who finished with 15% of the vote,  either one would have ended up in second place, beating out Keiko.

So now the country’s future is uncertain.  Foreigners in Peru are especially worried, more so if Ollanta becomes the eventual President.  Here is the question posed in Facebook by Ben Jonjak of Expatriates in Peru, “I’m curious as to the opinions expats have over the election. Are any of you scared by the possibility of Fujimori or Humala as president? Is this fear great enough that you’re considering leaving Peru? Let me know so I can post your comments (anonymously) and let other expats know your thoughts.”  It will be interesting to see the reaction from within the country as well as internationally once the final result is determined.

At 12:01am on Friday April 8th, the Ley Seca begins here in Peru.   This is the Dry Law that says that no alcohol can be sold prior to Sunday’s Presidential election.  Ironically, one of Peru’s leading grocery chains had a big sale on alcohol today and the place was packed.

I have to say that one of the things that has struck me most about the Peruvian election campaign is that it is very colorful, both figuratively and literally.  Each party has colors to represent it that are very bright and definitely call attention.  In addition, the ballots marked by the voters for President and Vice President  not only contain each candidate’s photo but also the symbol that represents the party.  Voters will also be electing members of congress.  Each person running for congress is represented by a number.  Voters can just mark an ‘X’ on the symbol of the party they want to elect the congressman or woman from or they can write the numbers of two specific individuals who are running for congress, as long as they are from the same party.

So, when they make their important civic decision on Sunday, what options do Peruvians have to choose from?  Five hopeful candidates are running for the post of President. Let’s take a brief look at each candidate, their parties, their symbols and their colors.

Alejandro Toledo – Alianza Perú Posible

Party colors:  yellow & green

Slogan: “What I did well I will do better”

Toledo served as President of Peru from 2001 – 2006.  He has a Ph.D in Economics of Human Resources. He is most well-known for his opposition again former President Alberto Fujimori. Toledo portrays himself as a center-leftist, promising voters not only economic development but also social development.

Keiko Fujimori – Fuerza 2011

Party Colors:  Orange & White

Slogan: Keiko Presidente

As the name suggests, Keiko Fujimori is the daughter of imprisoned Peruvian ex-President Alberto Fujimori.  She is the only female candidate and the youngest at age 35.  She has an MBA and is a Congresswoman in the current government.   She is a spokeswoman for the poor and underprivileged and is mostly supported by the rural population.  Here campaign has been surrounded by the controversy that, if elected, many think she will pardon her father. 

Luis Castañeda Lossio – Solidaridad Nacional

Party Colors:  Yellow

Slogan:  Para que todos vivamos mejor (So that we all live better)

Castañedo, often referred to as Lucho, is the former mayor of the City of Lima.  His term ended in late 2010.  As mayor he completed many works projects the most visible being the Metropolitano bus system.  His support is concentrated mainly in Lima and has waned off in the last weeks of the campaign.

Ollanta Humala – Gana Perú

Party Colors:  Red & White

Slogan:  Honestidad para hacer la diferencia (Honesty to make the difference)

Ollanta is one of the most controversial of the candidates due to his ties to Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.   Ollanta served in the Peruvian army and achieved the rank Lieutenant Colonel.  He is leftist leaning but has moved his policies closer to the center to gain more support from voters.  Ollanta was ahead in the final poll published prior to the election, but according to the poll, would lose against all candidates in the likely event of a run-off.

Pedro Pablo Kuczynski – Alianza por el Gran Cambio

Colors: multiple

Slogan: “PPKuy sabe cómo hacerlo” (PPKuy knows how to do it)

Kuczynski, most commonly referred to as PPK, served as Minister of Energy and Mining, of the Economy and President of the Council of Ministers in Toledos government.  He is an economist and has a sound reputation for conventional economics.   During the campaign, PPK became known for his mascot, PPKuy, a human-sized guinea pig character that has been the success of his campaign and has turned into a promotional sensation.  PPK has been the only candidate to honestly say that there are limits to what the government can spend to solve some of the countries problems such as poverty and underpaid teachers and police.

On Sunday April 10, 2011 Peruvians will go to the polls to elect a new President.  As a Canadian living in Peru it has been interesting to watch the campaign process and compare elections here to those in Canada.  Here are some of the major differences about the system of government and the election process.

Political System

Peru is a Constitutional Republic unlike Canada which is a Parliamentary Democracy.  This means that in Peru, like in the US, the public votes directly for the leader of the country, the President.  In Canada we do not get to vote directly for the leader, the Prime Minister.   Canadians vote for their local Member of Parliament (MP) only.

Peru has three levels of government.

1.  The Executive –  The powers of the executive are held by the President who performs the duties of the Head of State.  The President conducts government policies supported by a cabinet of 15 ministers, who he appoints.

2.  The Legislative – The National Congress, made up of 120 members, is responsible for representing the collective opinion of the nation.  It’s main duties are:

  • Representation of the people,
  • Making of the laws that rule the country
  • Oversight of the other branches of government
  • In charge of the final amendment of the Constitution

3.  The Judicial – headed by the Supreme Court of Justice which has jurisdiction over the entire nation. The judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the National Council of the Judiciary.

Canada also has 3 levels of government – the monarchy, the Senate and the House of Commons; however it could be argued that only one of these, the House of Commons, really has any power.

Mandatory Vote

It is obligatory to vote in Peru.  If Peruvians don’t vote they will be fined.  Interestingly, the amount of the fine varies depending on where you live.  If you live in a district considered “not poor” the fine is currently 72 soles (approx. $25).  If you live in a district considered “not extremely poor” the current fine is 36 soles ($12.50).  Finally, if you live in a district considered “poor” the fine is only 18 soles ($6.25).

Even Peruvians living abroad must vote.   A watched a program on TV the other day about the election campaign in New York, USA.  There is a large population of Peruvians there.  Each party has a campaign headquarters and there are the same election signs that you see on the streets or Lima in the streets of New York in the neighborhoods where the majority of the Peruvian population lives.

Election Process

Peru has fixed elections every 5 years.  In contrast, the Canadian system has non- fixed election dates and elections can be called or forced at any time.  This means that the upcoming Canadian Federal Election of May 2nd will be the 5th time that voters have had to go to the polls since the year 2000.  It is interesting that Peruvians and Canadians will both be voting for a new government less than a month apart.

Elections in Peru are always on a Sunday whereas in Canada they usually fall on a Monday.

Every election needs people to collect and count the ballots on voting day.   The organization that runs the voting process in Peru is called ONPE (Oficina Nacional de Procesos Electorals).   Citizens are appointed to be Miembros de  Mesa (Members of  Table), an obligatory duty.  If you do not comply you will be fined.  My husband had the (mis)fortune of being selected to be a Miembro de Mesa.  He had to attend a 2.5 hour training class last Sunday and will be expected to work the polls from 7:30am until all the ballots are counted on April 10th.  The polls close here at 4pm and it is hoped that the votes would be counted by 7:30pm.  There is no pay for giving up your time as it is considered a civic duty.  They don’t even provide food to the workers.

In Canada elections are managed by Elections Canada.   Citizens are hired for a number of positions leading up to the election and on election day.  A poll clerk,  work at a polling stations handling the ballots and directly voters to the appropriate voting booth is paid $168.26 for the day.

Next time I’ll talk a little about the candidates, the parties and the key issues in the election campaign.

This is a continuation of my recent post https://karencitadeperu.wordpress.com/2011/04/02/the-life-of-the-rich-and-not-famous/.   The first part explained why I had the good fortune to live the “life of the rich” for a weekend and focused on the Miraflores Park Hotel.  However, also included in my prize from Groupon were 2 dinners and a lunch in some of Lima’s finest restaurants.

The first night we went to La Rosa Nautica.   This restaurant is consistently ranked among the top choices for fine dining in Lima and I have wanted to go there since my first visit to Peru.  I have heard many differing opinions about the place from people who have been there, but I wanted to form my own opinion.

The evening started with getting picked up at the hotel and being driven to the restaurant, along with our personal photographer.  Before we even entered the restaurant there were a ton of great photo opportunities.  The location and architecture of La Rosa Nautica is one of the most charming things about it.  It is a Victorian-style building located at the end of a pier above the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean.   To get to the entrance of the restaurant you walk along a lovely pier, which is adorned with gazebos and shops.

When we arrived at the restaurant, to my surprise, we were ushered to a private room, with a single table just for us!  The room was nicely decorated with windows that open to the ocean below.  We had two waiters just to serve us.  If we even looked in their direction they asked us if there was something we needed.  Needless to say, the service was outstanding; however, my experience doesn’t really allow me to judge the service under normal circumstance, when we aren’t being treated like “VIPs”.

Of course, the most important thing about a restaurant is the food.   To start, we had a seafood platter that included parmesan scallops and ceviche – two of my favorite seafood dishes in Peru.  It was delicious.  For the main course, I had chicken in an ‘agridulce salsa de sauco‘ (sweet & sour elderberry sauce) served with puré (mashed potatoes).  Luis had a white fish (can’t remember the name) served with roasted baby potatoes and vegetables.  For dessert we tried the creme bruleé and lucuma-mousse filled crepe with chocolate sauce.  The food was nicely presented and pleasing, although I have to honestly say it was not the best meal I have had in my life.

What made La Rosa Nautica special for me was the ambiance and the service and that alone is enough to go back for.

The next day, after our private half-day city tour, we were taken to Brujas de Cachiche for lunch.  This was my second visit to this restaurant.  The restaurant is located in Miraflores on the Ovalo Bolognesi in an interesting, old wooden building.  What’s interesting about the architecture of the building is that it has a peaked roof, something that is very rare in Lima, where the majority of roof-tops are flat.  We didn’t have a private room this time and were seated in the main dining area, which is glassed-in patio that has been added to the main structure.  It is bright and airy, with an elegant yet casual feel.  Apart from the main dining area where we ate, there are other rooms for private parties and the AQUELARRE Bar.  Attached to Brujas de Cachiche is the popular Bar Huaringas.

The service in Brujas de Cachiche is very good, but it couldn’t compare to our personalized service the night before.   However, where Brujas stands out is in its food.  The menu is vast and offers an abundance of typical dishes from all regions of Peru.   I started with Tuna Causa and Luis had Anticuchos.  For the main course, I had one of my favorite Peruvian dishes, Ají de Gallina.  However, my favorite part of the meal was the dessert… Suspiro a la Limeña.   This is a traditional Peruvian dessert which is basically a base of manjar blanco (otherwise known as dulce de leche) topped with meringue.    Warning:  this dessert is extremely sweet and rich, so it may not be to ‘ taste, but I love it!!

Our last meal was a dinner show at Junius in the Double Tree Hotel in Miraflores.  The dinner consisted of a buffet of typical Peruvian dishes.   The food was good and there was a nice selection of cold dishes, hot dishes and desserts.  However, the real reason to go to Junius is for the live folklore dance show.  The show begins at 8pm, and features traditional dances from all regions of Peru, the Coast, the Sierra and the Selva.  The costumes are colorful, the music is excellent and the dancing is fantastic.  The show demonstrates the profound depth of Peruvian culture with its Incan, Spanish and African influences.

For me, the outstanding performance of the night was the Scissor Dance.    This dance comes from the South Andes region of Peru.  It features male dancers who hold two loose scissor shears in their hands which clash together in a hypnotic rhythm while they are dancing.  The dancers, accompanied by melodies of violin and harp, dance in turns in a sort of competition.  When it is the turn of the dancer, he tries to outdo the steps of the previous dancer.  As the dance progresses, the difficulty increases with each “round” as the dancers display their strength, acrobatics, flexibility and imagination.   It is definitely something that all visitors to Peru should see.

After a lengthy absence  from writing my blog, I am back.  Thanks to all my friends and family who have told me they miss reading my blog posts and that they find them interesting.  It’s nice to hear positive feedback.

Now, on to today’s post.  I recently had the very good fortune to win a contest here in Peru.  Many of you have probably heard of Groupon and may have even used it in your own cities.  I have been using Groupon for a while here in Lima and have gotten some great deals on restaurant meals, massages and even a Brazilian hair straightening treatment.  A few months ago I entered the “Verano Groupon” contest on-line (verano means summer in Spanish) and then promptly forgot about it until I received a phone call one day from someone saying they were calling from Groupon and that I had won a prize.  I was at first skeptical as there are a lot of scams in Peru, but after I did a little bit of investigation it turned out to be legit.   So I went down to the Groupon offices here in Lima to collect my prize… an all expenses-paid, luxury weekend for two in Lima.  Given that I already live in Lima it wasn’t as if I had won a luxury vacation to some exotic destination, but it did include 2 nights at the best hotel in town, meals at some of the finest restaurants, a private city tour, entry to 2 discotheques and a personal photographer to accompany us during all the planned outings.  Needless to say, I was very excited.

Last weekend we enjoyed our prize.  It started by getting picked up at home, which is only about 8 blocks from the hotel, and being driven to the Miraflores Park Hotel.  This is the best hotel in Lima and is part of the prestigious Orient-Express hotel chain.  From the moment I arrived it was very obvious why this is a 5-star hotel.  The facilities are lovely and the service is outstanding.  I often complain that it is hard to get good customer service in Lima, but I guess if you are willing to pay enough you can find it.

Apart from its luxury and good service, one of the most outstanding features of the Miraflores Park Hotel is its location.  As the name implies, it is located in the Miraflores district of Lima beside a park located on the Malecón de la Reserva.  The views from the 11th floor, where the pool and buffet breakfast are located, are fantastic on a clear day.  It’s a shame that Miraflores is often engulfed in a heavy fog or mist; however,  we were lucky enough to catch a few rays of sunshine lounging by the pool during our stay.

One of the things I liked most about the hotel was the lobby.  It is very large, with an extremely high ceiling and when you enter you are greeting by the most pleasant scent.  The Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde cocktail bar, found in the lobby, is very quaint.  If you want to enjoy a drink or just relax in a more spacious environment, there is a lovely seating area in the lobby which is richly decorated with books and interesting pieces of art.

I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to stay in such a luxurious hotel.  However, given the exorbitant prices of the rooms, I don’t think I’ll be staying at the Miraflores Park Hotel again anytime soon, as much as I would love to be able to.

Next time I’ll talk about the 3 restaurants we visited: La Rosa Nautica, Brujas de Cachiche and Junius.

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is on fire!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 4,700 times in 2010. That’s about 11 full 747s.


In 2010, there were 56 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 402 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 454mb. That’s about 1 pictures per day.

The busiest day of the year was October 4th with 104 views. The most popular post that day was Elections in Peru – Elecciones en el Perú.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, mail.live.com, healthfitnesstherapy.com, digg.com, and karencitadeperu.tumblr.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for machu picchu, inca kola, navidad en peru, we run lima 10k, and sangucherias.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Elections in Peru – Elecciones en el Perú October 2010


Sandwich Shops – Sangucherías September 2010
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Gamarra Shopping Center – Gamarra Centro Comercial June 2010


Machu Picchu – Part 1 August 2010


About Karen April 2010
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Keeping my friends, family and co-workers up to date on my life and adventures in Perú!

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Miraflores in Lima Perú