For the record, I did meet a guy in Peru who I ended up marrying. I also struggled with being accepted by his friends and families due to some of the stereotypes surrounding foreigners who date Peruvians. He, in turn, fought against my friends thinking he was a brichero. However, we overcame that and after a while I got the paperwork together and we tied the knot in Piura. We both had stereotypes to work against. People thought I was with him because he was a "Latin lover" and people thought he was with me because I was his ticket out of Peru. Unfortunately, my marriage ended after nearly 8 years. Here's what I had to do to get a divorce in Peru.
It is my belief that stereotypes come about due to actual events that people hear about. For example, let's say that there's a country called Overthere. This country has a population of 1 million people and of these 1 million, 100,000 leave Overthere and travel around the world. While travelling around the world these Overthere-ians meet other people and they're always happy and smiling and telling people how wonderful Overthere is. So now let's generalise, or make a stereotype about Overthere. We're going to say that all Overthere-ians are happy because the Overthere-ians we had contact with were happy.
Got it? We had contact with a minority (10%) but we made a generalisation, or stereotype, about them as a whole. However, this works to their advantage, since they have a positive stereotype about them. Let's look at another example.
Our next example has to do with another made up country called Faraway. It's a small country with only about 100,000 people. Of these, 100 leave Faraway and travel around the world. While travelling, these Faraway-ians meet other people and are absolutely horrible. They bitch and moan about everything, are rude to people, as well as being loud, obnoxious and boisterious. Once again, we're going to create a stereotype about Faraway-ians and say that all Faraway-ians are downright rude, horrible people to be around. We created this stereotype based on a very small minority of the population, only 1%.
What does this mean? This means that even if the other 90% of Overthere-ians are horrible people, when people talk about Overthere-ians we will assume that they are nice people since the 10% of the Overthere-ians who left Overthere were nice. However, since 1% of the population of Faraway came across as rude, horrible people, we will assume that the other 99% of the population of Faraway is the same. As you can see, a small percentage of the population can make it or break it for everyone else.
What exactly IS a brichero or a brichera?
The word "brichero" is used for a man and "brichera" is used for a woman. Like the word "cholo / chola", it's slang that usually has a negative connotation. Some people say it's a Spanglish word that comes from the English word, "bridge". It refers to a person who targets foreigners and tries to make them fall in love so that they (the foreigners) serve as a bridge out of Peru. Other people say it's more sexual and comes from the word britches and insinuates that they're trying to get into your pants. Either way, foreign tourists are being targeted by these "busca gringos/as". They are out to cazar (hunt) and/or casar (marry). They might try to take you to bed, steal your money, plant drugs on you, use you for a visa, or get you to buy them things.
Bricheros usually go for English speaking foreigners (such as those from the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand) and Europeans, usually British, French, Italian, or Spanish. They're trying to step up and move away from Peru. They don't often go for Asians or Africans for a couple of reasons. First, there are not that many tourists from these places as there are from places like the US or the UK. Second, these tourists tend to travel together in packs (ever seen a group of Japanese tourists?). Thrid, Peruvians aren't as familiar with these countries as they are with others. Lastly, Peruvians (like other people who immigrate) want to go to a place where they can find other Peruvians.
People think of bricheros and bricheras as people who don't have that much money and want a chance to make it in another country. They come across as Latin lovers or casanovas. In Peru, they often stick to touristy areas such as La Plaza de Armas in Cusco, the ombligo (bellybutton) of the world. They also have a decent grasp on English or another foreign language. Not sure how to find out? They stick out. Have a blond woman stand in the middle of the plaza and watch to see who approaches her. They're good-looking and suave. They come across very well, but they have hidden motives.
Blend in for your safety and peace of mind
As a foreigner, you may or may stick out. Physically, there's little you can do. If you're tall and blond, you're going to stick out. However, you can modify the clothes you wear, how you act, what you do, and what you say. Blending in while travelling abroad will also help make you less of a target for pickpockets and thieves. One tip to remember is that speaking Spanish will help you greatly. You can refuse to tell them where your from or get the police involved if necessary. If you don't know Spanish, now's the time to learn. It'll help you assimilate to the culture, and you'll be able to communicate easier. If you're looking to learn Spanish, Fluenz Spanish, Rosetta Stone, and Synergy Spanish.
More info on bricheros:
- Brichero en Cusco by Portal-Peru (youtube)
- Cazador de Gringas (in Spanish)
- Cuzco Eats: Bricheros, Backpackers, and Hippies
- Gowanus Books: An Interview with Mario Guevara
- Key2Cusco: Bricheras & Bricheros
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