23 April 2013
Category : Opinion
Travelling to Latin America always makes me feel a degree of personal and professional satisfaction, and I always have a smile on my face as I climb on board the plane. Which is just as well because it means that, rather than getting frustrated, I spend the two-hour delay thinking about what I’m going to do in Peru, my final destination on this occasion.
On this route, there are migrants in both directions, which is the thing about this ‘New World’, or perhaps it’s always been this way. After the great wars of the 20th century, thousands of Europeans sought a new life in the Americas, while from the 1990s and up to the start of the crisis in 2007, the opposite occurred… and what’s happening now? I think about the words of a friend who had just arrived in Montevideo: “I’m not emigrating, they’re throwing me out”; I don’t totally agree, but I’ll talk about the reasons for this new migratory scenario with my colleagues in Migration, who are also on this side of the pond, further north, in Antigua, Guatemala.
I walk along the aisle of the Airbus 340-600 and I see many guides to Peru in the hands of elegant Central Europeans, elderly Italians with adventurous spirits and young Spanish backpackers. Peru is a very attractive, versatile destination for many people, whatever their age, social status or country of origin.
At Jorge Chávez airport in Lima, as I meet up again with my colleagues from the European Commission and the coordinating partner, IILA, I am reminded of the reason for this journey, the EUROsociAL Forum. It is going to be held ‘officially’ in Lima from 24to 26 April but, since the start of the year, people have been busy behind the scenes, undertaking extensive consultation work with the partners and the participating institutions to ensure the best selection of themes which will give rise to a productive debate about the immediate future of EUROsociAL.
The first morning in Lima brings the typical thick morning fog. Over breakfast, the local press (El Comercio) reveals an interesting statistic: the second and third greatest concerns of the Peruvian people are corruption and the lack of work – sounds familiar, right? – while their greatest concern is something I’ve encountered in other tropical regions – the lack of security, which, by the way, other colleagues in the FIIAPPare working to reduce. On the front page, an article about what Peruvians most appreciate about the administration of President Ollanta Humala: the social programmes for the most disadvantaged; precisely one of the sectors in which EUROsociAL collaborates with the Peruvian institutions.
The fog gives way to a sunny Sunday which reveals Lima in all its glory, with an atmosphere of leisure and tranquillity in its parks and streets. The ají de gallina (chicken in a creamy, peppery sauce) is an excellent introduction to the pleasures of the rich Peruvian cuisine, and after lunch is the perfect time for a stroll along one of the city’s breakwaters while we await the arrival of other colleagues attending the Forum. In the evening, we all gather round the table with lists, case studies, diaries and dozens of details to fine-tune.
The countdown has begun. It is now just three days till the 1st Annual EUROsociAL II Forum.
By Enrique Martínez (@kikeguatemala), head of communication and visibility of the EUROsociAL II Programme
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are the sole responsibility of its author.