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Published: October 13th 2010
This weekend my program crossed the northern border of Chile over into Peru. We had some lectures over health in Perú, and a lot of more hands on experience- for example, we went to a program of education and free HIV testing for pregnant women. Even though we were only an hour or so away from Arica, there were some obvious differences in culture and economic status from Chile. Also, the ever-present pancito (bread) was different and, in my gringa opinion, better because it was not the usual hallulla, but something that looked more like croissants or french bread. Peruanos speak slower than Chileans, a relief The center of Tacna, in the area of San Martin- where my hotel was- and Bolognesi, it is obvious that the Peruvian government puts a lot of money into making this sector respectable, with some nice wide walkways, landscaping, parks, and palm trees. There are tons of little tiendas selling candy, clothes, bulk toilet paper, sunglasses, and crafts. Tacna is also a center for Medical tourism, and many Chileans cross the border to access cheaper, faster services than they can find at public or private health centers in Chile. I have heard several stories about
botched plastic surgery or dental work, but it seems that the hundreds of walk-in dentists, ophthalmologists, and pharmacies are still doing lots of business. Of course, many Chileans come just to shop at a better price because the border crossing is easy and nearby.
For the academic aspect of my trip we spent time at a health clinic in La Natividad and a puesta in Sector Viñani, which is an offshoot of the region of Tacna that was destroyed in an earthquake in 2002. At La Natividad I went on a home visit to a tuberculosis patient who was a part of the DOTS program for treating multi-drug resistant TB. It was cool to see this in action, and the patient, a man named Bartolemew, was very very willing to talk about his health with us. In the afternoon we watched a presentation for pregnant women about HIV and sexual health in sector Viñani, and afterwards the women who were interested took a free HIV test. It was a more public experience than one would find in the US, and this is interesting to note in the realm of patient empowerment and knowledge. On Sunday we went to the
mobile clinic, made up of 2 buses with medical equipment which spend each Sunday in a different location around Tacna. Along with the buses we provided free clothing to residents of Sector Viñani. This was just a glimpse of health and healthcare in Perú, but many inequalities were very obvious, from my American perspective.
We had a lot of free time to shop and sight see in Tacna between classes and on Monday morning. I never got out of the central area around Bolognesi, San Martin, and the Cathedral, but the little parks and pastry shops in this area kept us entertained. I also spent a lot of time wandering around the clothing/ bulk goods stores on Bolognesi. Mannequins in this region have fully detailed facial features and hair, which can be frightening (see example below). In front of the Cathedral, which was designed by Eiffel, apparently, children feed pigeons. I decided to give it a try and get in touch with my inner niña. Downtown Tacna contains a mix of modern and decrepit old buildings. Even the cars follow this order, where a Prius will be parked next to an old-school volkswagen beetle- and there are tons of
these. Tacna also has more international trade than Arica, including a lot of trade from Asia- evidenced by the many Comida China shops- and the Middle East. I was surprised, in such a Catholic region, to see a group of girls in head scarves in a park, and there is even a mosque in Tacna.
On Monday afternoon we went to Viña Bodega Tacna, which produces pisco, apricots, and peaches. Pisco is a very strong grape liquor that was invented in either Northern Chile or Perú, and contributes to the animosity between the two countries. Wherever it came from, it has got some real power. In the bars you can get a piscola (piso and cola) or a pisco sour made of pisco, simple syryp, lemon concentrate, egg white blended into a delicious strong lemonade topped with froth. After touring the vineyard we had a lesson or five on how to make pisco sours. They were served with abalones, just another example of the variety of delicious seafood available in this region. While in Perú I ate so much delicious, fresh ceviche, and that in itself is a reason to go back. Of course, there is also Macchu Picchu,
Lima, Cusco, and the pisco sours that make me interested in another visit.
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