Cusco: Where Does the Money Go?


Hello all my dear Streets of Lima readers!
About two months ago I made the decision to change up my format a little bit. I’ve been overrun with writing projects lately, and I’ve found I just don’t have the time to do a daily “Streets of Lima” article like I have in the past. Also, with changes to how google does their page rank calculations, there is less of a demand for selling textual links within a blog article (curse you google for stealing a perfectly viable source of income). At first, I was simply publishing a photo every day to give you a little taste of Lima and Peru, but then I received an email from somebody telling me they preferred articles…so here I am writing an article.

 

I find myself contemplating Cusco once again, mainly because I’ve received another hateful comment on my article “Sacred Valley Massage Girls Reflect Poorly on Peru.” When I wrote that article, I never could have anticipated the weird, negative responses it would generate. I think part of the reason is that people don’t actually READ the content of the article. My purpose wasn’t to attack the massage girls themselves (who I’m sure are hard working people who are just trying to get by in life). My point of conflict is the fact that there are no better jobs in Cusco for honest, hard-working people to perform.

 

To put it simply: you don’t normally see women working as “massage therapists” on every street corner in affluent areas. To go a step further, “street massage therapist” is not the type of job that I would want for my daughters (and I would guess most fathers would share that sentiment).

 

Perhaps some people would argue with me that Cusco is “affluent.” After all, when you go there poverty is clearly on display (in the form of street massage girls as well as other things). But isn’t that kind of weird? After all, SHOULDN’T there be a lot of money in Cusco? This is one of the most desirable tourist destinations in the whole world. On a daily basis, Machu Picchu allows 2,500 people to pass through its mossy gates. Two thousand five hundred people! That means that two thousand five hundred people are arriving DAILY to Cusco.

 

Think about that for a minute. Let’s consider how much money is spent.

 

Keep in mind, I’m making some rough estimates, but I think you should be able to see a logical thread in this argument which will allow you to conclude A LOT of money passes through Cusco on a yearly basis.

 

For the sake of argument, let’s say that every tourist who comes to Cusco stays there for a week and spends $1,000. My guess is that this number is low for an average because the people that spend a lot of money spend a HUGE amount. For $1000, an average American tourist would be able to purchase everything that s/he needs (train tickets to Machu Picchu, entry to Machu Picchu, hotels, food, other entertainment). Considering the fact that you’re out about $120 just on the train and the entry gate fee, $1000 seems very conservative.

 

Ok, $1000 x 2,500 = $2,500,000 a DAY comes into Cusco. This is just in tourist dollars with no mention of regular commerce that takes place in Cusco. This is essentially extra money. Two million, five hundred thousand dollars a day.

 

And the only jobs young women can get in that town are to walk around on the streets yelling “massaje, massaje” at every tourist who comes stumbling by?

 

Really? Nobody else has a problem with this?

 

Now, I’ve heard all the arguments. People have written to me and said, “but it’s a really good massage.” And, “the women are very professional, it’s not a sexual thing at all.”

 

Fine, that’s not the point. The point is I think it’s dangerous for young women to stand on street corners and offer to go with any random tourist up to a hotel room. After all, not too long ago a woman was killed in Peru when she agreed to head up to the hotel of one Joran Van Der Sloot. And, OK, sure, if women were getting killed in droves in Cusco we’d hear about it (presumably). But there are a lot of traumatic things that can fill in the blanks between “a good day” and “death.”

 

Folks, I know you don’t like to hear this, but sex tourism is HUGE throughout Peru and the rest of the world. Nobody keeps accurate statistics on this because it’s pretty tough to know what’s going on, mainly because victims don’t usually come forward the next day with a full disclosure. Nope, they BURY that darkness deep down within themselves, generally hating and blaming themselves for what happened, and if they should someday get the courage to step forward, they’re generally ridiculed.

 

I seriously can’t understand why people don’t understand this. It seems like every day on Facebook I’m assailed by a plethora of memes about how we need to “be more respectful of women’s rights” and “help women” and all that. But the second I mention that, you know, hey, maybe we should have better jobs in Cusco than “street corner massage girl” people treat me like I’M the bad guy?

 

Sexual dignity is more complex than the one or two crude attack scenarios that people choose to recognize as “problematic.” I realize that a lot of tourists have their ego inflated when they walk around Cusco and pretty young things smile at them and offer to give them a massage…but really folks, do you think that would be happening if the girl had access to some other gainful employment?

 

Oh, and don’t be under the conclusion that this is a female only problem. There are plenty of little boy prostitutes running around in Peru. Go and read the Kinsey reports, there are sexual deviants of both genders and people in low income areas learn quickly how to make a few bucks with whatever assets they are born with. This isn’t good for these kids.

 

I don’t know, I guess most people are happy enough to have their little “Machu Picchu Moment” and come to Cusco and think they’re a generous soul because they give a couple Nuevo Soles to some cute little Andean kid. Then there are other folks who go and get a massage and think they’re “altruistic” because they don’t “partake” of a sex act while they have the street corner massage girl sequestered in their hotel (and they go home thinking they actually helped that person by patronizing them).

 

Hey, I don’t know if I want to see Cusco as a “modern” city. The place is charming as it is currently. It’s a quaint little Andean village, although if you don’t think the evidence of the MASSIVE tourist influx is visible, then you’re fooling yourself. Cusco is not free from outside influence, and I just can’t stop wondering why with all the tourists and with all the money that comes through there, there aren’t high-quality schools, hospitals, and developmental centers to make Cusco one of the premier regions of all of Peru.

 

Who is enjoying all that money?

 

Somehow, I don’t think it’s the street corner massage girls.

 

Ok, enough of a rant.

 

In other news, within a month or so I’ve got a book coming out with Perseid Publishing. This is the publishing house of the great Janet Morris who is the author of all the Thieves’ World books. I’m pretty excited about this, working with Janet Morris has been a wonderful experience, and I think we’ve crafted a pretty darn good book.

 

When the book is released, I’d like to hit the ground running with it, so I’m looking for some reviewers. I need about 50 reviews for this book to make even a blip on Amazon, so if you’re interested in receiving a review copy, please let me know. Just send an email to: walterrhein@gmail.com.

 

Thanks for reading!
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