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Archive for December 2008

Cajamarca To Become Peru’s Carnival Capital in 2009

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cajamarcaCajamarca is one of the 24 departments of Peru located in the far north Highlands region (see my earlier post to get a map). In order to promote it as a tourist attraction all throughout the country and around the world, the local government will be registering Cajamarca to be known as “Peru’s Carnival Capital” to the National Institute for the Defense of Competition and Protection of Intellectual Property (Indecopi).

As Andina reports,

One of the most important carnival celebrations is the Cajamarca Carnival, considered one of the country’s most famous festivals during February and March. During the carnival, locals from different parts of the region compete with other neighborhoods in a dance and music contest. Afterward, a parade is organized where all can enjoy the festive music and dances. This celebration lasts for one month with eight main days.

For those who have gone to the Brazilian Carnival, Cajamarca’s carnivals aren’t as big or crazy of a party. Very differently, they are traditionalist and a place where you can enjoy the colorful folkloric dresses and dances that have gone through several generations in history. And most likely, there will be great traditional dishes sold at stands and restaurants nearby.

It is a great target if you are planning to visit Peru between February and March 2009! And if you have several days of stay in Peru, you might want to enjoy a trip driving from Lima to Cajamarca which takes 12-13 hours, but worth making stops along the way to enjoy the local dishes and archaeological sites. And if you don’t have too much time, you can also catch a flight from Lima.

Here is a good video where you can get a glance of the drive from Lima to Cajamarca. You can also watch Cajamarca’s main square, archaeological sites, as well as the “Banos del Inca” which are the saunas used back at the time of the Inca empire as spiritual purifiers for the royalty.

And here is a good map of an illustration of Cajamarca’s tourism sites nearby.

Written by Catherine Castro

December 23, 2008 at 10:55 pm

The Basics: Map of Peru and Initial Common Questions

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As I further talk about different things to do, tips, or news, thought would be helpful to have a map of Peru handy for your reference — particularly if you are not Peruvian and/or not familiar with it. Click here for an easy-to-see map.

Peru is comprised of 24 departments (similar to America’s 50 states) and its neighbor countries include Ecuador and Colombia on the North, Brazil on the East, Bolivia on the South East, Chile on the South, and the Pacific Ocean on the West.

The country is divided into three main regions: the Coast, the Highlands (Andes Mountains), and the Jungle (Amazon). Each of these regions have several types of landscape which explains the many different weathers available in Peru as mentioned on my earlier post.

And click here to access a great website in English if you’d like to learn more about its population, geography, languages, etc. This site should be more accurate than Wikipedia given it is developed by PromPeru, an organization who’s mission is to support tourists.

Here are a few initial questions you might be wondering about if you have never been to Peru:

  • So where’s Macchu Pichu on the map? It is located in the South East of Peru in the department of Cuzco.
  • And where is the city “Pisco” from which the pisco was named after? It is located in the South of Lima in the Coast region in the department of Ica.
  • Where is the ceviche from? It is mainly from the Coast region including all the departments with access to the Pacific Ocean where fresh fish is caught to make the ceviche from.

If you have more questions, send them over to me and I’d be happy to help you out.

Written by Catherine Castro

December 23, 2008 at 2:28 am

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More than 50 Percent of Foreigners Who Visited Peru Since August 2006 Changed Visa Status From Business to Work

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The Immigration and Naturalization Direction (Digemin), a similar organization as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) reported today that more than 25,785 foreigners visited Peru from August 1, 2006 thru December 9, 2008. This group largely consisted of foreigners coming from the U.S., Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Argentina, India, Canada, Brazil and Spain who largely come to Peru interested in knowing the investment opportunities and then return decided to do it.

Out of the 25,785 foreigners, 12,813 foreigners requested their immigration status change from a business to a work visa.

As El Comercio newspaper reports, a representative from Digemin stated (translated to English):

In these past years, Peru has become one of the best options for foreigners given not only by its great tourism attractiveness, but also as a country where important business opportunities exist.”

Written by Catherine Castro

December 23, 2008 at 12:54 am

Pisco Sour: The Perfect Family- and Friends-Gathering Companion for this Holiday Season

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pisco-sour-imageSo now that you know what “pisco” is (if not, you can read my earlier post), and with the upcoming Holiday season and surely many family and friends gatherings, here is a great way how to keep your guests entertained with some good Peruvian pisco sour!

This recipe comes from a site recommended by my friend Renzo Palacios, a contributor on matters of pisco for my blog. In this English site, you can get a lot of the basic information by clicking the yellow icons on the bottom, including: what is pisco, how it is made, the fine crystal glass designed by the Austrian house Riedel with an ideal form to correctly appreciate its taste best, how to recognize a good pisco, etc.

So here is an easy-to-make recipe pulled from this site, with some tips when preparing it:

  • 3 oz. pure pisco
  • 1 oz. lemon juice
  • 1 oz sugar syrup
  • 1 egg white
  • ice cubes (just a few enough to cool it)
  • angostura bitter

In a blender, mix the egg white and lemon juice. Add the sugar syrup, the ice cubes, and pisco. Mix again. Pour into a cocktail glass or champagne flute, and add drops of angostura bitter on top in the middle.

And here are some TIPS:

  • The secret of a good tasting pisco sour (besides using a good pisco) is the shaking of its egg whites. The more air the egg whites get when shaking, the better it will taste. That’s why many people prefer preparing it on a cocktail shaker instead of a blender.
  • Here are some fine old-renowned pisco brands you might want to try asking at your local specialty liqueur store: Ocucaje, Santiago Queirolo, or Tacama. The best type for pisco sours is the pisco coming from Quebranta grapes (read label). If you don’t find it, you can try any other brand out there, but make sure you get a Peruvian-made brand to get good quality results – and get the real pisco, not a different type of grape-made liqueur.
  • The angostura bitter will come in a bottle similar to wine or smaller. The liquid is browned-colored. You might be able to find it at a specialty liqueur store. All you will need is 2-3 drops of it in the middle of the pisco sour at the end (I personally prefer just the bitter versus adding also the cinnamon).
  • Don’t try using regular or powdered sugar instead of the sugar syrup. You will get a totally different taste.
  • Don’t replace lemon for lime. The taste of the pisco sour is great when you bring the acidity of the lemon into the mix.

If you don’t know where to get pisco or angostura bitter, you might want to check out a specialty liqueur store in your city. In the Washington DC area, I love buying my supplies at the Wine Specialist located at 2115 M Street NW (www.winespecialist.com). You can order the angostura bitter if they don’t have it on stock.

There are several ways to make a pisco sour (some change the proportions), but this one I found to be the easiest one to make.

Pisco Sour is not the only drink you can make from pisco. So make sure you stock up on those precious pisco bottles and stay tuned for more pisco-based recipes later on!

Let me know how you did! It will be a great way to rehearse for the upcoming “Pisco Sour Day” in early February!

Salud!

Written by Catherine Castro

December 22, 2008 at 12:49 pm

Peru-China Free Trade Agreement to be Signed on March 2009

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China's President Hu Jintao with Peru's President Alan Garcia (Reuters)

China's President Hu Jintao with Peru's President Alan Garcia (Reuters)

As the local newspaper El Comercio reports, Peru and China are expected to finalize and sign a Free Trade Agreement on March 2009, and should become effective the second half of 2009.

This FTA should be the second most important agreement for Peru following the one signed with the U.S. which is already bringing mutual benefits particularly as a way to fight against the current economic crisis.

China and Peru would agree to a goal of zero tariffs on 90 percent of all goods traded between the two countries, including for example electronics, home appliances, machinery, vehicle motors, chemical, vegetables and fruits by China, and fish flour, mining, fruits by Peru.

Click here to read a Wall Street Journal article title “China’s Latin American Tango”.

Additionally, an FTA between Peru and Canada is also in the works and pending approval, as El Comercio also reports.

Written by Catherine Castro

December 21, 2008 at 1:37 am

Physician from Wisconsin Brings Health Services to Peruvians in Amazon Since 1990

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smithIt is so inspiring when I read stories on experiences foreigners have when they visit Peru but end up actually moving over there captured by its culture, its forest, its food, or any other of its wonders. This is similar to the story from my earlier post on a man from Arkansas who after his trip to the Peruvian Amazon ended up changing his life to take the job of his dreams: become a canoe guide on the Mississippi River.

Click here to read this story I found in a Wisconsin local newspaper The Eagle on Dr. Linnea Smith, a medical practitioner from Wisconsin who ends up leaving her family medical practice in Prairie du Sac to take her doctoring deep in the Amazon rainforest in Peru, and thought to share it with you all.

The story is about how in an adventure of finding out where her plants came from, Dr. Smith decided to travel to Peru’s Amazon where she has lived since 1990. She serves thousands of residents, both children and adult, in very remote areas.

As the story reports, in 1998 she published a book on her experiences titled “La Doctora.” In 2005, the Wisconsin Medical Society chose Smith as the Wisconsin Physician Citizen of the Year. And this fall, she received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the Wisconsin Alumni Association, which takes trips that visit her clinic in Peru.

Take a read, and let me know what you think. Captivating story — and thankful to her for bringing so much love and health support to those kids and their parents who have very limited access to hospital care.

Written by Catherine Castro

December 20, 2008 at 1:27 am

Peruvian Restaurant “Pardo’s Chicken” Now in Miami!

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pardosYou can ask any Peruvian about Pardo’s Chicken, and I assure you will get an expression of excitement on their face right away! It is one of the well-known local restaurants in Peru, particularly in the capital city Lima, where millions of people gather with friends and family to get a rottiserie chicken, french fries, wonderful steamed and fresh salads, Peruvian-style BBQ, Peruvian soda called Inca Kola, and other dishes and flavors of Peru.

Well, Pardo’s Chicken has just opened a new location in Miami, FL!!!!! 

If you are not familiar with Pardo’s Chicken, check out their website from Peru available in English and you can check out their menu!

The exact address is 2312 Ponce De Leon Blvd, Coral Gables, FL 33146, right in the heart of Coral Gables.

TIP: If you have time to kill while in the Miami International Airport, the restaurant is just 20-30 minutes away driving via all LeJeune Rd.

Yay! Can’t wait to get that yummi chicken!!!

Written by Catherine Castro

December 19, 2008 at 7:07 pm

Iron Maiden to Visit Macchu Pichu Around Upcoming Concert in Lima, Peru

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iron_maidenIron Maiden’s lead singer Bruce Dickinson and his crew announced they are planning to visit Macchu Pichu around the time of their concert in Lima on March 26, as El Comercio newspaper reports.

As mentioned in my earlier post, there is great expectation for this concert. More than 40,000 people are expected to attend the show. Around 6,000 tickets were sold just on day one. As of date, nearly 12,000 tickets have been sold.

Tickets are available for sale online (it’s in Spanish) by clicking here.

Looks like a concert to definitely check out if you are planning to be in Lima late March.

Written by Catherine Castro

December 19, 2008 at 5:14 pm

So Now That I’m in Peru, What Food Should I Eat?

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pachamancaHeard some friend’s friends are going to Peru in the next month. And I realize if you go to a whole new continent and with SO much food to try, wonder if a non-Peruvian visitor would know where to even start?!?

But here is a list of the top five “basic” dishes you might want to make sure you eat before catching that flight back to the US or elsewhere. And when you order, ask what varieties they have: maybe chicken, pork, fish, etc. so you can have what you like.

Top 5 Appetizers

  1. Ceviche (fresh fish marinated in lemon juice with onions, sweet potato and corn)
  2. Papa a la Huancaina (boiled potatoes with a creamy sauce of yellow chili sauce, milk, crackers, and cheese served with boiled egg and black olive on top)
  3. Tiradito (this is similar to the ceviche but just the plain fresh fish marinated in lemon juice – it’s a delicatessen and not too many places have it outside of Peru, so here is your chance!)
  4. Cocktail de Camarones (fresh shrimp with avocado and golf sauce)
  5. Anticucho (grilled steak skewer, many types to try, served often with grilled potatoes and corn)

Top 5 Entrees

  1. Lomo Saltado (stew made of steak, french fries, onions, tomatoes and white rice)
  2. Aji de Gallina (shredded chicken with a yellow chili sauce served with slices of boiled potatoes and white rice)
  3. Seco (this can be made of lamb or steak, it is a stew with cilantro, and served with white rice and beans)
  4. Arroz Chaufa (this is similar to a Chinese fried rice, but make sure you go to a “Chifa”, the name of the cuisine that mixes Peruvian and Chinese flavors. If hungry, this is a perfect place to go as you can get many other types of dishes that you can enjoy with this Arroz Chaufa)
  5. Chupe de Camarones (this is perfect for shrimp lovers, similar to a chowder)
  6. Extra! You might also want to try “cuy”, the famous Andean rabbit. Some people like it, some others don’t. It is a novelty to have tried it.

Top 5 Desserts

  1. Suspiro de Limena (made with an egg yolks base, milk and meringue on top)
  2. Alfajor (cookie sandwich with condensed milk-based sauce in the middle)
  3. Mazamorra Morada (Peruvian pudding made of purple corn with pieces of fruit, such as pineapple, raisins, etc.)
  4. Picarones (Peruvian doughnuts served with a caramel sauce)
  5. Arroz con Leche (Peruvian style rice pudding)

Top 5 Drinks

  1. Pisco Sour (the Peruvian flagship drink made of the authentic Peruvian pisco (alcoholic) , the same all APEC leaders tried weeks ago)
  2. Inca Kola (this is the national soda, and Peru is the only country where a local soda beats Pepsi and Coke on market share)
  3. Chicha Morada (purple corn-based non-alcoholic drink)
  4. Chicha de Jora (traditional drink that goes back to the Inca empire times, made of yellow maize and is prepared with different degrees of alcohol, similar to an apple cider)
  5. Beers: depending on your preference, you can try Pilsen, Cuzquena (my favorite), or Cristal.

Tip: The safest bet if it’s your first time in Peru is to go for a buffet restaurant. Ask your hotel to recommend places where they serve buffets. That way you get a better chance to get a little bit of everything, and go for what you like.

And if you go to a more camp-like restaurant, you might also want to try “Pachamanca” (see picture above). It is food cooked underground with hot stones the same way the Incas did. It can be chicken, pork, steak, etc. and you can also have it with sweet potatoes, corn, potatoes, etc. This is a very unique way of cooking the food, a tradition that has gone through many generations.

And here are the top 5 places to eat in Lima, Peru according to Food & Wine magazine from my earlier post.

Hope this list helps you try some of the best traditional Peruvian dishes during your stay. There are many more options, so if you got plenty of time over there, go for it! The sky is the limit!

Bon appetit!

Written by Catherine Castro

December 18, 2008 at 5:16 pm

You Can Make a Difference: Support Disabled Children in Peru this Sunday December 21

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teletonThis Sunday, December 21, the biggest charity campaign will take place nationwide in Peru supporting disabled children with the support of the Peruvian government and participating private companies called “Teleton 2008”. The fundraise will benefit the home where all these kids are medically treated named “El Hogar Clinica San Juan de Dios” (Home Clinic St. John of God).

For many years (and goes back all the way when I was a child myself), my family and I participated in donating money by depositing in a bank account in Lima. My parents will do it as a way to develop generosity and support to other children who weren’t as lucky as we were.

And you don’t need to be Peruvian to participate. If you want to make a change in hundreds of lifes of poor disabled children in Peru, you can call the Peruvian Consulates throughout the U.S. and they’d be able to give you more details.

If you are in the Greater Washington DC area, the Peruvian Consulate in DC’s Advisory Committee and its volunteers will be all day  this Sunday at two locations receiving donations in two Peruvian restaurants (what about donating and enjoying a Peruvian-style lunch!?!):

  • Maryland: Ceviche House – 7236 Muncaster Mill Rd, Rockvile, MD 20855
  • Virginia: Restaurant Macchu Pichu – 5912 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041

And if you’d like to make a donation directly to a bank account in the DC area, you can also make a deposit in an HSBC bank under the name “Embassy of Peru/Teleton 2008”.

You can also mail your checks to the Peruvian Consulate payable to “Teleton 2008” and sending it to 1625 Massachussets Avenue, NW, Suite 605, Washington, DC 20036.

Join the millions of Peruvians, as well as public and private organizations donating this Sunday. Together, we can make a huge difference for these kids that really need our support!

Written by Catherine Castro

December 18, 2008 at 1:56 pm