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The Bolivian Beef With Peru

Published October 22, 2022 in Bolivia , Peru - 0 Comments

Imagine two countries were actually twins.

They basically have everything in common.

Look exactly the same to everyone.

Have similar habits.

Speak similar languages.

But, for whatever reason, they hate each other.

To an outsider, it's completely bizarre.

However, in Latin America, it's almost a meme at this point.

Where countries down here with so much similarity to each other have this odd rivalry that sometimes just boil into xenophobia.

A rivalry I briefly discussed in this article here.

In some cases, the dislike is easier to understand or see.

Like how Peruvians might grow a dislike of Venezuelans over time due to the perception that they bring crime.

Or the dislike of Argentinians that so many Latin Americans hold due to the perception that all Argentine people are arrogant, snobby, racist, etc.

But the differences between Argentina and Guatemala are more clearly defined in certain aspects.

Same with Venezuela and Peru.

....But what about Bolivia and Peru?

Introducing the Twins: Bolivia & Peru

To be fair, we could've picked any other obvious example like the tension between Colombia and Venezuela or the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

But we're going with Bolivia and Peru due to something I saw online recently that reminded me of me time in Bolivia and serves as a good example of what I am talking about.

That being two countries that, to an outsider, look like replicas of each other.

T0o the point that you almost wonder "why are these two countries separate and not joined into one?"

Of course, if we were to explore that question, we'd naturally be inviting Ecuador into the topic also.

So we have two countries that are Andean obviously.

Similar music in many regards.

A strong indigenous demographic in the populations of both countries.

At one point, they actually were part of the same country called the "Peru-Bolivia Confederation" as you can see here.

Though that is a topic we'll discuss again briefly soon.

Of course, there are likely differences between both countries given how large they are.

Similar to how you'd find differences even internally in either one of them like if you were to compare Santa Cruz to La Paz in Bolivia.

Or Uyuni to Rurrenabaque.

Regardless though of those more intricate details, any traveler throughout Latin America notices the strong similarities between both countries.

So surely they couldn't hate each other, right?

The Bolivian Beef with Peru

Years ago when I was in Bolivia, I remember having beer occasionally with a Bolivian dude named Mau.

We often went to the same bar where this gal was working that I hooked up with often as you can read here.

And he happened to just be another regular that I met while sitting down at this bar an hour before her shift would be over so we'd go to some hotel or whatever.

He was a pretty likeable dude anyhow and made for decent small talk while I hung out there.

If he was to drink enough though, he'd be no stranger though to telling me "how it is" in Bolivia.

Be it what certain areas of the country are like, what he recommends I visit, his time visiting other South American countries, etc.

Usually recommendations that I found to be useful for enjoying my time in the country.

One particular thing about him though was that he clearly had in his mind countries he didn't like during his own travels and time on this planet.

Two in particular that always rubbed him the wrong way: Chile & Peru.

With Chile, it's obvious where he was going with that.

The usual ol' "they stole the sea!"

With Peru though, that was oddly confusing to me.

While I hadn't been to Peru by that point just yet, I always thought that Peru was basically like the Canada to the US.

....Or would that be the other way around as Peru is stronger than Bolivia?

You get what I mean though.

Two countries that, to an outsider, basically look the same.

But his beef with Peru was pretty simple.

He didn't dislike the average Peruvian or even their government.

He had a few issues but there was one in particular that he brought up a bit. 

That being the perception that Peru dominates the world image of what "Andean culture" means.

It takes up all the real estate.

When a stranger to Latin America think of Andean culture, it's likely they don't think of jack shit if they are not familiar with Latin America at all.

If they have some minor familiarity, then they are likely to think of Machu Picchu, Cusco, alpacas, ceviche, pisco sour, etc.

But mostly Machu Picchu and Cusco.

If they aren't that familiar with Latin America, then their mind definitely isn't thinking of Salar de Uyuni, white buildings in Sucre, Tiwanaku, Death Road, etc.

If the Bolivian is lucky, maybe the uninformed foreigner happens to remember this scene here in Scarface where Sosa is from Cochabamba.

And that's a strong maybe.

Still, I left it at that.

Until recently where I came across some videos on Facebook where this topic came up again.

The Bolivian beef with Peru.

The 99 Bolivian Problems with Peru

This was the video in question that came up on my Facebook not too long ago.

And, to the surprise of anyone new to this topic, they might find it odd how seemingly more people are saying they have an issue with Peru than Chile.

Of course, with Chile, it should be understood that there are Bolivians who see past the scapegoating that some left wing politicians in Bolivia engage in to blame away all their problems on Chile.

Though not everyone is that smart.

With Peru though, what problems could they possibly have?

Well, when doing some minor research into the topic, I found some points of tension.

First, as you can see here, there is a legal dispute over the origins of a folkloric dance originates from Bolivia and not Peru.

Here's some quotes below:

"Bolivia afirmó el lunes que las danzas folclóricas de la región de Puno (Perú), declaradas por el país vecino como patrimonio cultural nacional, son de su propiedad.  

El presidente boliviano, Luis Arce, y el Ministerio de Cultura se pronunciaron por separado por la decisión del despacho peruano de Cultura de hacer esta declaración el pasado fin de semana sobre los bailes “Danza Morenada, Rey Moreno y Rey Caporal del departamento de Puno como Patrimonio Cultural de la Nación”."

"A su vez, Iván Arias, el alcalde de La Paz, la sede de Gobierno de Bolivia, calificó como un “atentado internacional” al igual que una “ofensa” la declaración peruana de Patrimonio Cultural de la Nación a la Danza Morenada, Rey Moreno y Rey Caporal de Puno."

"La región peruana de Puno es fronteriza con el departamento boliviano de La Paz y ambos países comparten por esa zona el Lago Titicaca."

And, as you can see here in this comment I found in that first video cited, apparently there is tension also about another dance known as saya.

All of this reminds me anyhow of the tension between Chile and Peru regarding who invented pisco as I wrote here.

And, if it is similar to pisco, then I imagine part of the issue also isn't just trying to claim to be the country that invented those dances but also trying to profit off it for tourism purposes.

Second, as you can see here, apparently there might be some stereotypes out there that Peruvians are thieves. 

"Hay de todo pero, tristemente, una mayoría ve al Perú como un país de malhechores y estafadores. Mucho tiene que ver cierta prensa amarillista que busca crear esa sensación de amenaza extranjera que tanto une y conforta a la chusma. Dicho esto existimos bolivianos que admiramos y valoramos la cultura peruana y a su gente maravillosa. Así también nos reconocemos en ellos pues somos paises muy parecidos."

Not sure how common that stereotype is but I've seen several mentions of that on the internet so I'm just leaving it out there.

Third, as you can see here, there has always been an argument online that Bolivia was part of Peru at one point and that it is some "rebel territory" that really should belong to Peru.

Of course, it's not difficult to imagine why such a narrative might piss some people off.

So we'll leave it at that.

Fourth, one issue that comes up is the history Bolivia and Peru have in the War of the Pacific against Chile.

Where Bolivia just abandoned Peru during the war.

It's a topic where some Peruvians in this case blame Bolivia for and that, at least to the few who care to this day, can cause some Bolivians to equally have negative feelings about Peru as it can be a contentious issues for some. 

More on that here.

Fifth, one thing that should be mentioned is that I remember now Mau telling me about his time in Peru and how he felt Peruvians don't treat Bolivians well.

It's a similar narrative you hear from Mexicans about Americans.

"We treat them well in our country but they treat us like shit in their country."

I can't comment on how badly or greatly Peruvians treat Bolivians on average.

Given Bolivians are poorer than Peruvians on average, I could see some mistreatment as most countries tend to treat poorer people and poorer immigrants (or migrants) worse than those with money.

But I'll leave it at that with some more videos I found on the subject regarding how Bolivians see Peru and how Peruvians see Bolivia (among so many more that exist online). 

Anything to Add?

As I said, I'm not Bolivian and so there are likely many things that are part of the context surrounding these this topic that I am not aware of.

And that is one point in of itself: A lot of times we outsiders likely still lack some context on some of the issues we discuss down here.

As you can see with the information above, the average foreigner probably isn't likely to learn about that stuff unless they are into Latin American history and culture (and specifically Andean history and culture).

So what might seem like a mystery -- why do two countries so similar have issues -- is actually not much of a mystery to those with the missing context.

Though, if I had to guess, I'd imagine most Bolivians don't actually hate the Peruvian government and definitely not the people of Peru.

Most people can distinguish anyway between its government and people of another country.

Others not so much.

Even if they, like Bolivians with Peru, have certain issues that get under their skin regarding that country and some of the people living there.

Above all though, it just serves as another example of some of the odd rivalry or beef that we outsiders might notice at times between different countries down here that, for all intents and purposes, seem so similar in so many ways.

But I guess, speaking as a North American, such a rivalry isn't that strange, is it?

After all, as you can see here, there's some Canadians who have their own beef with the US despite the common perception that both countries (minus Quebec) have so much in common in so many ways.

So it is what it is.

If you got anything to add, drop a comment below.

And follow my Twitter here.

Thanks for reading.

Best regards,


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