Monday, March 20, 2017

São Paulo & Brazil

I never posted about Brazil :(

Time caught up to me in 2016, I found myself increasingly busy, but also unfortunately unmotivated to blog.

I had even created this draft about my Brazil trip! But never published it :/

But now I'm making up for it! Here is my São Paulo & Brazil trip :)

Between Cajamarca and Brazil I travelled with my parents in Lima and Cuzco, it was lovely! I'll write a blog on it when I find the time, but I'd like to write about our trip to Brazil first.

It was certainly an interesting process trying to get my visa, but I'll spare you the details. Basically, I learned that I've been very privileged as a US citizen not having to apply for a tourist visa prior to traveling until this trip.

And oddly enough, I've thought of traveling a lot of places. A LOT of places. But Brazil... was not on that list. It had never occurred to me.


Brazil was surprisingly brilliant. I enjoyed every minute of it. The people were exceedingly nice, the cities were diverse and beautiful, and the food was excellent. Pretty glad I have that Brazilian visa now.

We spent less than a week between São Paulo and Carguatatuba beach with our old family friend Carrie, plus an extended layover in the Brazilian side of the Foz do Iguaçu.

São Paulo is a beautiful city, very livable, with lots of parks and a beautiful downtown. Thank you to Carrie for being a wonderful tour guide!!

Ibirapuera Park - the Central Park of São Paulo

Ibirapuera Park - the Central Park of São Paulo

Selling Coconut water in Ibirapuera

Ibirapuera Park 

Catedral da Se

Catedral da Se

Catedral da Se

Catedral da Se

Catedral da Se

Justice Palace

Capela do Menino Jesus e Santa Luzia

Mercado Municipal Paulistano

Mercado Municipal Paulistano - fruit stand

Mercado Municipal Paulistano - dried fruit

Mercado Municipal Paulistano - recycled Christmas trees

Near the Luz Station (Estação da Luz)

Mom & Dad in the Garden of Light Park (Parque Jardim da Luz)

Luz Station (Estação da Luz)

 Beautiful street art.

Estação da Luz

The beautiful tiles and textures of São Paulo streets

The view from our hotel in Moema

We ate very well when we were there too. I didn't take nearly as many food pictures as I normally do, but here's a couple! I don't have a picture of it, but my favorite thing was a fish stew, moqueca de peixe. It's a thicky, garlicky, spicy, coconut fish stew. So good!!

Delicious corn pudding being sold on the street! 

Italian sandwiches and beer in the Mercado Municipal Paulistano at Mortadela Brasil.

The street art was also amazing:

Then, we went to Caraguatatuba by bus. It was a long bus ride, mostly because everybody else was also going to Caraguatatuba. We were in the bus about 6 hours. But it was worth it! It was beautiful! I don't have many pictures because I didn't take out my camera much outside, but there was warm water, lots of people, and really amazing beach food (my favorite was Carrie's pineapple and mint juice, and pão de queijo, mmmmm)

The beach at Carguatatuba

The beach at Carguatatuba

Reading a book at Carguatatuba

We spent New Years there (so many fireworks!!), then went to Foz do Iguaçu - which was the best way to end the vacation!

Foz do Iguaçu - Brazilian side 

Foz do Iguaçu - Brazilian side 

Foz do Iguaçu - Brazilian side 

Foz do Iguaçu - Brazilian side 

Foz do Iguaçu - getting soaked for the plane ride home

There were a ton of animals, my favorite was the quatis - these little jungle raccoons that were everywhere, in the garbage, on the platforms, in the trees...

Foz do Iguaçu - butterfly

Foz do Iguaçu - butterfly

Foz do Iguaçu - quati

Foz do Iguaçu - garbage quati 

Foz do Iguaçu - quati 

Foz do Iguaçu - sleeping quati 

That's it! This blog was a long time coming, but at least it's here! I had such a great time in Brazil, and I really need to use that visa to go back!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Porcón, Cajamarca

In Northern Peruvian Andes halfway between Lima and the Ecuadorian border, a farming community called Granja Porcón has been quietly building its success for 41 years.  Situated just miles from the largely controversial Yanacocha mine in the Cajamarca region of Perú, Granja Porcón operates as an autonomous, faith-based agricultural cooperative mainly composed of residents from its two neighboring villages, Porcón Alto and Porcón Bajo (upper and lower Porcón). 

Vicuña in front of the pine forests of Porcón

It’s easy to discount Granja Porcón as being just one of many in the farm-laden Cajamarca region, but Porcón’s workers have become quite wealthy even while being located in the poorest region of Pe – a region whose main economic activity is also agriculture.

Granja Porcón has an odd but brilliant success story. Perú’s agrarian reform took place in the 1960s and 70s under the government of Juan Velasco Alvarado. During this time, land was taken from wealthy hacienda owners and distributed among agricultural workers, who were instructed to produce and sell agriculture as cooperatives. The great majority of cooperatives failed – they were shifted so much land and control at once with little to no training and support that they buckled, unable to move their products as the old hacienda owners had done. 

Another vicuña in Porcón, because there´re lots of vicuñas

Waterfall near to the Porcón farm

            But Granja Porcón was one of the few projects that stood. The farm was formed by a rural cooperative that named itself Cooperativa Agraria Atahualpa Jerusalén (Agricultural Cooperative Atahualpa Jerusalem). It had just barely entered into its journey as an independent cooperative when they connected with the Cooperación Belga, a Belgian development project. The Cooperación Belga had been looking for areas in Perú in which they could carry out a reforestation project without much interest from Peruvians. Until they came across the Cooperativa Agraria Atahualpa Jerusaén, who accepted their proposal. 

Just above the zoo in Porcón Alto

The Belgians planted several varieties of New Zealander pine trees throughout Porcón Alto and Porcón Bajo over the course of the years, while providing support and training to the Cooperativa regarding maintenance of the trees. With the pine trees came an economic niche – no one in Perú had pine trees but Porcón, and the trees came with benefits: pine wood, pine-reliant mushrooms, and a restored forest ecosystem. Today’s Porcón has over 10,000 hectares of pine forest filled with deer, vicuñas (an adorable relative of the llama and alpaca), and mushrooms. They produce gorgeous pine products, among them the only Peruvian-produced pinewood furniture and lovely pinewood cabins and restaurants in which guests can stay for S/110.00 (US$ 31) a night to enjoy the farm experience, unique pine-forest views and activities, and farm-to-plate dairy and mushroom based cuisine.

The pine forest in Porcón 

Famous Porcón mushroom, sold in humble menú cuisine in Porcón, to the Yanacocha mine, and on fancy burgers in Lima 

Fresh cheese with molasses

mushroom stir-fry and bistec a lo pobre, world-class versions of classic Peruvian dishes

Pine berries, also used to make pine ice cream

And they are successful. There is no published record of how much they make, but our tour group was told by the guide that it was in the millions. While he did not specify whether those millions were in soles or dollars, either way in a region overrun with extreme poverty both figures would be considerable.

Wealth not associated with mining means a lot in rural Perú. Perú is a country where most college-bound kids want to be engineers because engineering means you can work with mining, and mining equals money – especially in rural Perú. Perú is among the world’s top-ten gold producing countries, much of that gold coming from Cajamarca. One of the largest mines in the region, Yanacocha, is a huge source of wealth for some and grief for the rest – Colorado-based Newmont mining set up shop extracting the ore from the ground, allowing them the wealth that comes with exportation of such materials but also bringing substantial environmental contamination. Yanacocha is only one of many mines throughout Perú doing the exact same thing, while the rest of rural Perú survives on pitiable wages mainly from agricultural work. And as Perú is very centralized, poor rural Peruvians often turn to migration to Lima to work as taxi drivers and construction workers for a better wage.

Porcón vegetation 

Hummingbird taking nectar from a ¨Baston del Inca¨ flower 

Bird in Porcón  

Bird in Porcón


Baston del Inca flowers 


But not Granja Porcón. Granja Porcón rakes in money doing the agricultural work that the rest of Perú struggles to survive on, while selling its products to mines like Yanacocha to boot. Its mushrooms are being sold on expensive foodie hamburgers in Lima food trucks. All while its workers live in an idyllic Andean mountainside picking mushrooms and tending cattle, far from the pollution and bustle of Lima.

Besides Perú’s only pine forest, the cooperative offers classes on how to grow pine trees and sells pinecones for this purpose, has its own trout farm, produces Perú’s only sheep cheese, offers mushroom ceviche and (strangely delicious) pine and mushroom flavored ice creams, and has a small zoo equipped with ostriches, leopards, and lions - just to please the domestic tourists. They even bottle and sell their own water. So far it has managed to maintain a low international profile, but should be noted as a radiant example of how cooperatives and agriculture can be successful even amongst extreme poverty.

Mushroom ice cream anyone?