At Pacha Perú Explorers, we like to find out what awed and intrigued our guests during their custom tour to Peru. Time and time again, we hear about the surprise they felt to find such deep Asian influences throughout the country, influences that have become ingrained in the fabric of the culture. In fact, a proportionately large percentage of Peru’s population is of Asian descent, over 600,000 people to give you an estimate. That’s approximately 3-5% of the total population! Behind Brazil (a much larger country), Peru is home to one of the largest Asian populations in all of Latin America. In this blog post, we’ll prepare you for your authentic Peru vacation by bringing you up to speed on Peru’s two largest Asian populations, Chinese Peruvians and Japanese Peruvians, and the unique influences they’ve had on Peruvian culture.
But First: The Beginning of Asian Influence in Peru
Locally, Chinese Peruvians are known as Tusán. They were the first Asians to arrive to Peru in the mid-19th century, coming to work the plantations that had originally been worked by African slaves. The Japanese immigrants, known as Nikkei, arrived later at the turn of the century seeking better work opportunities than they could find in Japan at the time. The circumstances weren’t easy and working conditions were arduous on the haciendas with many of the original immigrants dying from disease, poor medical attention, lack of housing, and malnutrition. Those that survived this rough patch eventually transformed their practiced resourcefulness into businesses, the start of a thriving Asian population in Peru.
The Byproducts of Asian Influence in Peru
Chinese Peruvian Cuisine
One of the most obvious Asian influences in Peru is of course through its cuisine. Every neighborhood in many of Peru’s cities, including Lima, Cusco and Iquitos, boasts its chifas, or Chinese Peruvian restaurants. On your custom Peru tour, delight in the exquisite flavors of chaufa especial, fried rice with Chinese vegetables, and your choice of meat, shrimp, and hardboiled quail eggs, or try the pollo enrollado, chicken breast pounded, flattened, then filled with asparagus and pork or other vegetables and meats, finally rolled up, fried or sautéed, and served alongside an aromatic black bean or Asian sauce.
One Asian-inspired dish you may find on menus beyond the chifas is lomo saltado, one of Peru’s most emblematic dishes possessing a distinct Asian flare. Its tender slices of beef, fried potatoes, tomatoes, and onions marinated in soy sauce bring to mind Chinese Wok cooking, from taste to technique.
Lima has an extensive Chinatown section located on Calle Capón where one can find a host of chifa restaurants and fascinating shops full of Chinese herbal medicines and imported foods and spices not found elsewhere in Peru. Talk to your Pacha Perú Explorers designer to include a guided visit of Lima’s Chinatown in your personalized Peru itinerary.
A Japanese Peruvian President
Aside from the influence on cuisine, Japanese and Chinese Peruvians have had an enormous influence on Peruvian politics and on the economy. The most obvious example is the presidency of Alberto Fujimori, from 1990- 2000. He is the first Japanese person to be elected president in a country outside of Japan.
Famous Asian Peruvians
Some famous Japanese Peruvians are the Japanese Peruvian poet José Watanabe; the actor and playwright Aldo Miyashiro Ribeiro; photographer and celebrity reporter Patricia Uehara, artist Venacio Shinki, considered to be one of Peru’s most outstanding painters, and renowned chef Mitsuharu Tsumura, owner and chef at Maido, currently considered one of the world`s best restaurants. Famous Chinese Peruvians include Pedro Zulen, philosopher, university professor, poet and writer; Victor Joy Way, former Prime Minister of Peru; José Antonio Chang, former Prime Minister of Peru; and Erasmo Wong, founder of the Wong supermarket chain.
Talk to your Pacha Perú Explorers designer about how you can soak up the unique Asian Peruvian atmosphere on your personalized Peru tour.