For those who know me, its no secret that I love history. As a PCV, I’ve hit the jackpot with a placement in Peru. There’s so many different cultural heritages to learn about and so many great archaeological sites to visit that would make any history buff want to cry. Not to mention, there is so much more to Peruvian history than just than the Incas and Machu Picchu. So in the spirit of sharing my love for history, I decided to do a series called Throwback Thursday where I highlight a specific part of Peruvian history on a Thursday of course. Enjoy – I hope ya’ll learn something new.
I’ve found that in Peace Corps, your life becomes a series of ridiculous questions you ask yourself and to your fellow volunteer friends. These are mostly questions you probably would never have to ask yourself or others back home in the states. So when my friend Sandra turned to me and said,
“Are there a lot of kids in your site named Hitler?”
I just busted out laughing because it was another reminder of how weird life in Peace Corps can be. And because, seriously, wtf kind of question is that? She went on to talk about how she’s noticed that a lot of people in her site are named that and how you don’t even pronounce it with an accent – its straight up pronounced like… Hitler. Crazy town, I know.And after giggling about the ridiculous question over and over again in my head, I realized that this isn’t the first time I’ve seen a reference to Nazism or Germany in Peru. Every so often, I’ll see graffiti on a wall that proclaims pride for Germany or I’ll see a swastika plastered somewhere. But I never thought much of it because every society has teenagers who write
inflammatory things on walls for the sake of being jerks, right? But after hearing about these kids named Hitler, I decided to do a little google search and of course in the spirit of sharing all things Peru with the folks back home here’s what I found for this Throwback Thursday post:
Little did I know that Germans have been immigrating to Peru since Peruvian independence. Many of these early immigrants established themselves in places like Tarapoto, Moyobamba, and all up and through my hometown department of Amazonas. However, the first large wave was actually organized by Ramon Castilla, the president at the time. For whatever reason the leader of the immigration movement (a guy with a long name I don’t feel like writing) consulted with the Peruvian Minister of Foreign Relations about colonizing the central jungle region. The purpose was beneficial to the Peruvian government because this would help serve as a link from the Atlantic to Pacific Oceans. In 1855, someone’s secretary drew up the papers and both parties signed, and made it official.
The contract stated that each colonist would be compensated for the journey from Germany to their final destination in Peru, each colonist 15 years or older would receive 15 pesos, and the distribution of 140 square miles. The colonists would also be tax exempt for the first 6 months (#winning) while they focused on building schools, churches, and other things that make a town a town. All of this with the requirement that the colonists be Catholic and skilled trade workers. The majority of these German folks were from Upper Austria, Lower Austria, and Viena. Now don’t get all up tight and say that Austria isn’t in Germany, just remember that Germany wasn’t this unified country like it is today hence Upper Austria , Lower Austria, etc. Today you can still visit towns like Oxampampa and Pozuzo and see houses that look like they’re straight from a Brother’s Grimm Fairy Tale.
The second wave came during WWII. Ironically, a lot of the immigrants who came over were wealthy German and Austrian Jews who were fleeing certain death by the hands of the Nazis. These immigrants settled in provinces like Huancayo, Trujillo, and Chiclayo. Nowadays, if you run into any Jewish Peruvians chances are they’re of German descent.
Honestly through all this surface level internet research, I couldn’t really find much about the influence of Nazism in Peru. And before you go saying, “Duh, Brittany its because the Nazi war criminals fled there to escape persecution,” let me just say that sure, it’s possible, but apparently Peru wasn’t really a big
hit with the Nazis. They fled to places like Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay,and Chile instead. The only thing I found was information on a small neo-nazi movement led buy a guy who justified his hate for Jews by claiming that Francisco Pizarro was Jewish saying, “The Jew and his band of genocidal Jews killed millions of native Peruvians in their mission to possess our gold.”
SO, in the beginning of this post I said that being a PC Volunteer, you ask yourself and others the strangest questions and a lot of the times, you wont ever have a clear answer. And although I enjoyed the research ride, it seems that I still have no answer to why every blue moon I’ll see a reference to Nazi Germany or why there are bunch of kids named Hitler running around Amazonas… and maybe I’ll never know.
With that being said, if ya’ll know something me or the first two pages of my Google search don’t, feel free to drop a knowledge bomb in the comment box.
If you’re a history buff like me and want to read more Throwback Thursday posts, click here.