Archbishop of Cusco to Evict More Restaurants
by BARBARA DRAKE, An American in Lima, June 21, 2009
Peruvian and expat bloggers have lately been decrying the demise of the Ayllu cafe on Cuco’s historic Plaza de Armas. The 37-year-old coffee shop was a fixture of intellectual and social life in Cusco, and served up excellent, reasonably priced pastries and sandwiches, along with first-rate hot beverages to ward off the Andean cold. The Ayllu also nurtured the indigenismo movement that affirmed the values of native Peruvian cultures.
The Ayllu’s spot is being taken over by a Starbucks franchise, which has agreed to pay the site’s landlord, the archbishop of Cusco, an exhorbitantly higher rent as well as 10% of profits.
From the Ayllu to Starbucks? Gag me. It is rather like having the Left Bank’s Cafe de Flore, birthplace of the existentialist movement, being bought out by a Dunkin Donuts.
I’ve raised my voice several times against the archbishop’s greed and his callous treatment of local restaurant owners in Cusco. Along the same side of the Plaza de Armas, McDonald’s has already set up shop, to be joined by Kentucky Fried Chicken. These businesses don’t belong on the Plaza de Armas, which is recognized as one of the most historic squares in the Western Hemisphere. Nor should these Amerian franchises be priviledged over Peruvian businesses. They harm Cusco in both real and symbolic ways, and the Church should respect the sanctity of this great square.
I walked past the former Ayllu two weeks ago when I was in Cusco. The glossy brown shutters were closed against the street. No longer was it possible to drop by for a delicious hot chocolate made from local Cusceno chocolate, served for a reasonable 5 soles. I rather wore down El Fotografo lamenting the changes.
But the story isn’t over yet.
Unable to grab a bite to eat at the ground-floor cafe, we made our way to the nearest side street where, after much discussion, we entered a small restaurant that offered local fare at local prices.
The four of us each ordered big bowls of soup — quinoa, chicken, vegetable — for 6 soles a piece. That’s about US$2 each.
It was great soup, and there was lots of it.
How reassuring, I thought, that restaurants like this still exist near the Plaza de Armas.
Two minutes later I was eating my words: The restaurant owner, who has been at that spot for 20 years, confessed that he was looking for a new location. The real estate is owned by the archbishop who — you guessed it — wants four times the current rent and a piece of the profits.
It’s not stopping, I thought. The Church won’t be satisfied until all of downtown Cusco is turned into an overpriced tourist trap/fancy outdoor mall that only well-heeled tourists can afford to patronize.
Screw the locals, screw the poor, screw the backpackers, screw anyone who wants to eat healthy Peruvian food at decent prices.
I’m going to end this post now because, well, what can one blog post do to wake up local Cusceños to the obscenity that is the archbishop’s policy toward local businesses? The right people in Cusco must be engaged and they must stand up to the Church and they must take to the streets.
There is a time for blogging and a time for action. I truly hope someone who lives in Cusco and care about this development will want to take up the cause.
Click here to read the original post on An American in Lima.
Honored with a Just Post for a Just World August 2009 citation; finalist for Best of 2009 Just Posts for a Just World
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