Americans

Nothing says Peru like eating a BBQ cheeseburger while watching Sunday Night Football.

The United States seems under represented on the travel circuit. I’ve gotten some looks of surprise when I say I’m an American traveling for three months. Apparently, it isn’t that common.

I use the word American to refer to people from the U.S. According to one guidebook, this is a big no-no. Peruanos are Americans by definition. So are chilenos and argentinos. A lot of them are more American than I am, having native ancestors. My family origins are all from Europe. I have a relative who died in the Civil War; that’s as far back as we go in the New World.

So far, no one has gotten mad at me for describing myself as an americano.

In Iquique, Chile, the owner of the hostel called me Texas.

A guy from New Jersey also called me Tex. He was drunk in a bar in Buenos Aires. I think if I’d met him at a bar in New Jersey, he still would have called me Tex.

That’s the stereotype of Americans abroad. Loud, obnoxious, not interested in learning anything about a different culture. Gringo is a word used to describe any foreigner in South America. But, as an American, I am the super gringo.

Many Americans I’ve met don’t fit that definition. The first person I spoke to in Santiago was from Arizona. He arrived the same morning I did, looking for work in Chile.

The guy who worked on the remote vineyard in Argentina lived in California. His Spanish had improved a lot from the time I met him Buenos Aires to when I arrived in Barreal.

I’ve met many residents of other countries. I’ve made friends from Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Australia, Holland, England, Ireland, Scotland, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, France, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Canada, Korea, and Morocco. And one guy who I thought was French, but lives in Panama, and whose Facebook profile says he is from Hong Kong.

Among that diverse group has been a lack of diversity. A small group was like me–between jobs, taking a few weeks or months to see the world. Most fell into one of two categories: students, either on holiday or studying abroad; or vacationers, taking two to four weeks off from work in a hurried expedition to see famous places.

Strangely similar to the majority of trips taken by Americans.

Cusco is not like any other city I’ve visited. It’s not for the claustrophobic, with it’s narrow streets and narrower sidewalks, overrun with pedestrians, who in equal parts have to dodge cars and street vendors peddling food, crafts, tours, and massages.

I called Cusco the “tourist capital” due to the staggering foreign influence. There are burger joints, taco shops, even barbecue. I couldn’t help myself; I had to try a little taste of home.

Two more weeks until that becomes my everyday reality.

 

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