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The Secret Ingredient Of Peru's Turnaround

The refusal to give up amid dire political and financial conditions - call it old fashioned Optimism - helped Peruvians turn into a growing economic force.

Traditional Andean dance in Cusco
Traditional Andean dance in Cusco
Carlos Escaffi

LIMA – Everyone has heard about Murphy’s Law about bum luck. Sum it this way: “A slice of toast will always fall onto your expensive carpet — on the buttered side!”

Then there is the one about our life decisions, that the effort devoted to a decision is in inverse proportion to its importance. It’s a law that would explain how the most important decisions in our lives receive less thought than trivial ones. It seems we subject the minutiae of a “trivial” choice to veritable scrutiny relative to the cavalier treatment we give strategic decisions despite their complexity — because of a certainty on our part on the “need” to implement big decisions.

This led to me to wonder, what is the use of worrying about imponderable situations or of adding more plans to what we’re already doing? Why do we need to know about tomorrow when our present is uncertain? What good is thinking ahead or crying for someone who is still alive? Why complain when you are not doing anything to change the situation tormenting you?

Thick skin

My interest is in promoting a state of consciousness that allows us to be happy and enjoy the situations in which we find ourselves. Here’s where I’m going with this: A Gallup poll published last last year showed Peru to be the fifth-happiest country in South America, and third in terms of viewing itself as having a prosperous economy that has improved over the past. There’s a simple explanation for this: optimism.

Optimism has had an increasingly forceful presence in Peru since the 1980s, and it’s the same sort of collective mindset that prevented the country from going bankrupt during that period, especially between 1987 and 1992 when inflation reached the dizzy rate of 7,649.6%. Optimism was a companion of a toughened generation of Peruvians, who at the most critical juncture were forced to sell whatever they could in a “black market revolution” that helped prevent Peru’s outright collapse.

Some readers may also recall how in those years, amid one of the country’s most infamous periods, this optimism even prevailed during the dreadful nights when utter darkness would spread panic on the streets of Lima.

This philosophical doctrine called optimism contributed in great part to the country’s growth and economic prosperity. It ensured recognition of sectors such as dining, tourism and probably more, and helped the Peruvian economy maintain annual 5% growth. It helped drive dynamic trading activity that rose 5.9% by the end of 2013, thanks mainly to growth in car sales and wholesale and retail sales.

All of us are constantly exposed to innumerable situations and dark moments during which we simply fail to see the light. At those times, when we feel dire conditions have taken us hostage, we should aim to react as Peru has over the years — seeking new horizons instead of simply abandoning ship.

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How Brazil's Evangelical Surge Threatens Survival Of Native Afro-Brazilian Faith

Followers of the Afro-Brazilian Umbanda religion in four traditional communities in the country’s northeast are resisting pressure to convert to evangelical Christianity.

image of Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Agencia Publica
Géssica Amorim

Among a host of images of saints and Afro-Brazilian divinities known as orixás, Abel José, 42, an Umbanda priest, lights some candles, picks up his protective beads and adjusts the straw hat that sits atop his head. He is preparing to treat four people from neighboring villages who have come to his house in search of spiritual help and treatment for health ailments.

The meeting takes place discreetly, in a small room that has been built in the back of the garage of his house. Abel lives in the quilombo of Sítio Bredos, home to 135 families. The community, located in the municipality of Betânia of Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco, is one of the municipality’s four remaining communities that have been certified as quilombos, the word used to refer to communities formed in the colonial era by enslaved Africans and/or their descendents.

In these villages there are almost no residents who still follow traditional Afro-Brazilian religions. Abel, Seu Joaquim Firmo and Dona Maura Maria da Silva are the sole remaining followers of Umbanda in the communities in which they live. A wave of evangelical missionary activity has taken hold of Betânia’s quilombos ever since the first evangelical church belonging to the Assembleia de Deus group was built in the quilombo of Bredos around 20 years ago. Since then, other evangelical, pentecostal, and neo-pentecostal churches and congregations have established themselves in the area. Today there are now nine temples spread among the four communities, home to roughly 900 families.

The temples belong to the Assembleia de Deus, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the World Church of God's Power, the latter of which has over 6,000 temples spread across Brazil and was founded by the apostle and televangelist Valdemiro Santiago, who became infamous during the pandemic for trying to sell beans that he had blessed as a Covid-19 cure. Assembleia de Deus alone, who are the largest pentecostal denomination in the world, have built five churches in Betânia’s quilombos.

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