Visitors to Peru are often painfully aware of the different standard of living that many Peruvians experience, and feel compelled to do what they can to help. This is a very noble and understandable sentiment, but you must be very careful about what and how you give gifts as they can create undesirable side effects, like corruption, jealousy, and a begging mentality where none existed before.
Remote Andean communities still live by the concept of ayni, the philosophy and legal principle of reciprocal exchange, or “today for me, tomorrow for you”. Over time, significant gift-giving – without the reciprocal exchange – can break down this fundamental principle of Quechua society. Therefore, while it feels good to give, also consider the long-term implications and what it means for these traditional communities.
Gifts to Avoid
- sweets and candies
- loose change
- anything packaged – packaging will inevitably become litter
- fridge magnets (most rural families do not have refrigerators)
- fresh and dried fruit – oranges, peaches, apples, raisins
- hats, t-shirts
- shampoo, toothbrushes and toothpaste (though the packaging will become litter)
- Spanish language reading books or picture books. Please be sure to give books to the local school. Your guide can accompany you to meet with the teacher. Do not give books to individuals.
Don’t forget that you are already giving a gift to rural families when you book a trek with Apus Peru! $20 of your trek price is donated to Threads of Peru, a local organization dedicated to providing economic opportunities to rural indigenous women and to preserving the Andean weaving tradition.