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Re-Creating an Alpine Way of Life: Tyrolean Settlers in the Peruvian Jungle

Karin Zbinden Gysin
Traduction de Karin Zbinden Gysin et Daniel Hoffmann
Cet article est une traduction de :
Ein Leben wie in den Alpen? Tiroler Siedler und Siedlerinnen im Dschungel von Peru [de]


The paper shows how an ethnic group in Pozuzo, an old colony founded by Tyrolean and German settlers in the Peruvian jungle, recreates an alpine way of life. This case study, which is based on evidence from the field in Pozuzo and in Tyrol, illustrates how cultural resources linked to ‘alpine’ ways of life are constructed and claimed within the multi-ethnic rural community of Pozuzo as well as in Tyrolean NGOs.

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Introduction and conceptual background

1Societies in the Alps, as well as in other mountainous regions worldwide, have adapted and continue to adapt to the resources available within an environmental and societal context. At the same time, they construct their environment and societal practices. These constructs and adaptations are ongoing, as the definitions and uses of resources are continually challenged and changing. This paper offers a case study to highlight the role of alpine cultural resources in complex processes of construction and adaption. Cultural resources are often defined as heritage from the past (Fowler 1974). For the purpose of this paper the concept of cultural resources is conceived more broadly as tangible and intangible assets claimed by individuals or societies in constructing their identity. Among the broad range of cultural resources that are claimed by people in Pozuzo and Tyrol, this paper addresses those which are linked to an ‘alpine way of life’. The alpine way of life is perceived and constructed by the Tyroleans and Pozuzinos of the study in a very selective way, emphasizing rurality, alpine agriculture, relative isolation, and traditions, while neglecting other elements such as urbanization, migration, tourism, etc.

2Postmodern concepts frame cultural resources and their transformations in a constructivist perspective. Multiple (re-)interpretations and (re-)definitions of cultures and society are understood as common practices of human beings (Appadurai 1996, Hannerz 1992, Wicker 1996b). These interpretations and practices become especially challenged when members of a society emigrate from their place of origin and adapt their lives and lifestyles to a new natural, socio-cultural and economic environment (Featherstone 1990, Hall 2003). In this process, cultural resources such as language, ethnic bonds, and ways of living may be constructed and evoked in order to establish links between the old and new situation. Familiar perceptions and practices are incorporated into the new physical and societal environment and in return the perception of this new environment may lead to a reconstruction of common perceptions and practices. The group’s cultural resources can thus be perceived as assets for establishing connections, allowing (re-)interpretations and (re-)definitions of natural and economic resources (Barth 1969, Cohen 2006).

3Research around the topics of transnationalization and globalization shows that growing networks can support better imaginations of one’s own life and the lives of others (Appadurai 1996). Societies living between geographical, ethnical and cultural contexts may form diasporas, bridging the diversities of the countries of emigration and immigration (Clifford 1994, Featherstone 1990). Doing so often implies an active process, framing the diasporization of visions, practices and self-identifications in a continuum of belonging to a place (roots) and defining new, hybrid and multi-ethnic ways of life (routes) (Cohen 2006, Gilroy 1993). The ‘alpine’ way of life, —constructed in this case study by Tyrolean settlers in Peru mostly based on alpine forms of agricultural practices— can be part of both: it implies so-called traditional values and practices, as well as adaptations to hybrid ways of life influenced by continued processes of globalization and transnationalization.

Tyrol in the Alps – Tyrol in the jungle: imagining Tyrol across time and space

4The case study concerns the reflections and imaginations of an ‘alpine’ way of life in the rural settlement colony Pozuzo, established by Tyrolean and Prussian settlers in 1859 in the Peruvian Amazon. It illustrates what was reflected from a once alpine lifestyle, - translocated from Tyrol to the Peruvian jungle - at present with its own distinct, European perception of the ‘alpine‘, including for example tourism and urbanization. These reflections transcend 150 years of widely delinked development between two distinct socio-political and environmental regions on two continents. The small town of Pozuzo, with a warm tropical climate, was founded in 1859 in a largely unpopulated watershed in the low foothills between the Amazon lowlands and the Andes. Envisioned originally as a large multifunctional colony linking the Atlantic to the Pacific by train (over the Andes) and boat (down the Amazon River), the immigration project failed and left some 300 settlers from Tyrol and Prussia isolated for about 100 years until Tyrolean NGOs re-established contact with Pozuzo, seeking to initiate development projects. With the establishment of a road and small airstrip during the 1970s, the transnational and national links to Pozuzo increased both in quality and quantity. Terrorist attacks by the Maoist Shining Path in the 1980’s strengthened the community’s identity, as residents forming armed civil-society organizations for self defense. At the same time, however, as families from the surrounding highlands and the Amazon basin moved to the settlement seeking protection, the social and political position of the descendants of the European founders weakened. From this point forward, Pozuzo was perceived as a multi-ethnic town, though there had been a long-standing presence of spouses and servants from other ethnic groups ('Andean' and 'Amazonian') who had been integrated to the colonists and their descendants’ households. These original spouses and servants, however, were expected to assimilate to the dominant Tyrolean way of life, speaking Tyrolean dialect and adapting to the proclaimed Tyrolean values such as hard work, Catholicism and honesty. Their contribution to the practices and perceptions of the European settlers and their descendants, for instance farming practices and local knowledge about medicinal plants and animals, is rarely acknowledged.

  • 1 The figure of 4,000 inhabitants for the district is a rough estimate by the district administration (...)

5In 2005, a survey among people living in the district of Pozuzo showed that about 15% of the approximately 4,000 inhabitants1 feel they have Tyrolean or Prussian roots (Zbinden Gysin 2005). This ascription is mostly based on descent, but it is also coupled with a way of life expressed as “living differently than Andean or Amazonian people”, due to different values (focus group discussion). Three quarters of the inhabitants of the district are involved in agricultural activities. As there are few alternatives to agriculture, many young people migrate to the cities in the highlands or on the coast; few return, and then often only after failing to find success outside of Pozuzo.

  • 2 Freundeskreis für Pozuzo, founded 1983, has about 240 members; its aims have been to establish rela (...)
  • 3 For the purpose of this paper the Germanized form Pozuzinos stands for the descendants of the Pruss (...)

6In 2006, the descendants’ elite position in the village and the district was challenged by the (now) majority of immigrants from the Andean highlands and Amazonian lowlands. For the first time since the colonization of the region, a mayor representing the communities of the Andean highlands won the communal elections. 'Euro-centric' politics (favoring the lifestyle and values of the European descendants) no longer represented the majority of the community. Around the same time of this political contestation of Tyrolean lifestyles in Pozuzo, Tyrolean NGOs2 invited a group of Pozuzinos3 to Tyrol for the commemoration of the founders’ emigration 150 years before. The idea and intention of the organizers was that the group of ‘Tyroleans’ from Pozuzo would come back to Tyrol and connect again with the 'alpine' roots of their ancestors. At the same time, the group would represent what a Tyrolean way of life looks like in Peru, Pozuzo being seen as “a piece of Tyrol in Peru” (interview in Pozuzo). Due to the historical purposes of the visit, both Tyrol and Pozuzo were framed in terms of Tyrolean ways of life: rural living in the Alps; traditional clothing, dancing and food dishes; and old dialect were at the core of the representations. As a result of this choice of themes, Tyrol was represented and perceived by organizers and visitors as a rural place, where agriculture and a traditional rural life are dominant, while modern aspects of alpine resources (urbanization, industrialization, migration, tourism etc.) were widely neglected. The visit of the Pozuzinos was well orchestrated, attracting considerable attention from the media and political actors in Tyrol, again framed mostly around themes of rurality and alpine cultural heritage.

7This paper explores the notion of ‘alpine’ rural life and the construction of alpine cultural resources in Pozuzo and, to some extent, in its reflection in Tyrolean NGOs engaged with Pozuzo, by discussing i) what is perceived by Pozuzinos, Tyroleans, and the author as ‘alpine’ roots in the structures and practices in Pozuzo, ii) parallel dynamics and processes of cultural hybridization, migration, and shifting self-identification (routes), and iii) redefinitions of the alpine/Tyrolean way of life, and returnings to Tyrol, both encouraged and facilitated by transnational connections with Tyrolean NGOs.


8The analysis is based on multi-sited ethnographic research in Pozuzo and Tyrol from 2004 to 2012, integrating different concepts and notions of belonging, identification and transnationalization within the multiethnic societies of Pozuzo and Tyrol. Data were collected using participant observation, different types of interviews, questionnaires, ego-centered network analyses, qualitative analyses of texts and pictures, as well as focus group discussions and literature. This paper draws upon data published in a PhD dissertation (Zbinden Gysin 2012), focusing on 'alpine’ imaginations and allusions as cultural resources in today’s Pozuzo.

Alpine livelihood structures: mixed farming on scattered family farms

9Most of the descendants from the European settlers (Pozuzinos) base their livelihood on agriculture and herding. The vast land of the colony was good for agriculture, and was classified by the state as 'unused' land, as local Amazonian ethnic groups (Yanesha, Ashaninca, Jivaro, Cashibo) had no stable settlements located there. The occupation of the forest resulted from young men establishing new farms on the borders of their parent’s farmland. Farms are scattered and surrounded by pasture and fields resulting from slash-and-burn agriculture. This settlement scheme allows for short distances between the home and place of work, but long distances to the places of trade and social interaction. It is in line with the settlement scheme in Tyrol, and contrasts with the settlements or hamlets of both Amazonian and Andean ethnic groups around Pozuzo. The farmhouse is fully enclosed, sheltering room and family life from curious people and animals, but providing little escape from the heat. This again contrasts with the houses of native Amazonians, who prefer open shelters to stable houses with closed rooms. The farm house of Palmatambo (picture 1), built during the first years of the 20th century, illustrates how the settlers installed themselves in their new environment.

Picture 1

Picture 1

The farm house of Palmatambo in the Pozuzo district, built in so-called traditional Tyrolean style, in the middle of recovering slash-and-burn fields and pastures.

Photo by author, 2009.

10Cattle are held in large lots of fenced pasture. Pasture requires considerable labor; only growing when seeded. Pozuzinos are amazed by the grass growing naturally in the vast open pastures of Tyrol, but they pity the farmers for the hard work of haymaking, and the cows for the steep hills they have to climb. Pozuzo women, who mostly care for the gardens, are proud of the large variety produced. Hardly any of these products grow in Tyrol, but many of them replace in Pozuzo products familiar to their ancestors, and are used for adapted dishes: apple pie is replaced by banana pie, wheat bread made with yeast is replaced by maize bread made with ripe banana, and wheat in dumplings is replaced with rice. The processing of the products is remarkably focused on food conservation (cooking compotes, deep-frying and smoking of sausages and bacon, drying vegetables and herbs). “We do it because we learned it from our mothers” and “It’s just part of our tasks as housewives” are common explanations for food conservation practices (interviews in Pozuzo). Though there is no need for food conservation, as the gardens produce throughout the year, the practices reflect a cultural resource rooted in an alpine way of life characterized by hard winters.

  • 4 Ethnicity (etnicidad) has become a common term in Pozuzo, in official documents, and in teaching ma (...)

11Farm households of Pozuzinos are composed of a nuclear family with the typical addition of day laborers, visitors, and children from outlying areas whose families pay room and board so that they can continue school in town. Households are very flexible both in incorporating new members and supporting members living outside of Pozuzo, but are very strict when defining who properly belongs to the family. The reason non-family members stay on the farm is mostly linked to work and even schooling is perceived as the work of children. Interethnic marriages between immigrants and local people have been common since the establishment of the settlement, as no man or woman could make a living without a partner. In the discourse of Pozuzinos, the question of descent is narrowly linked to race, constructed around physical appearance. The close link between race, ethnicity4 and social status, as claimed by Pozuzinos, is hardly challenged by the other ethnic groups of Pozuzo. Both, interethnic and so-called Tyrolean marriages are accepted and justified by all groups living in Pozuzo, with Tyrolean marriages being seen as 'nicer' (beautiful blond and blue-eyed children, continuity of the myth of the colony...), while interethnic marriages are said to be more resistant and 'lively' (see picture 2): “Coffee with milk is more tasty than milk alone” and “Zebu con Holstein is stronger [than inbreeds]” are common proverbs expressed in the context of interethnic marriages (interviews in Pozuzo).

Picture 2

Picture 2

Members of the Schuler family with their children on Election Day in Pozuzo.

Photo by author, 2006.

  • 5 Pozuziner (m)/Pozuzinerin (f) in German. There are a variety of etic names given by Pozuzinos to no (...)

12Pozuzinos perceive themselves as an ethnic group5. This distinction is rooted in an understanding of being part of the white race (physical traits) together with its supposed cultural dominance (social race). This relates to historical events: the migration treaty with the Peruvian state included selection requirements which intended to 'whiten' the Peruvian race with European settlers considered to be hard-working, professionally skilled, productive, catholic, self-reliant, family-oriented, responsible and loyal (Habicher-Schwarz 2001). These values to a large extent still form part the self-identity of today’s Pozuzinos, who perceive Amazonian ethnic groups as lazy, unattached, disloyal, and judge Andean ethnic groups as unskilled, disorganized and animistic or evangelistic (interviews in Pozuzo). Such processes of “othering” have contributed to the maintenance of Tyrolean identity in the region.

13To summarize, data show that both production and consumption of agricultural goods among the Pozuzinos are adapted to the tropical region and the social, ecological and economic context, including the requirements of decentralized settlements. Pozuzinos however have not adopted the entire agricultural and household system as practiced by the local Amazonian societies; some structures of their livelihoods are rooted in alpine rural practices. They perceive these passed-on elements and values as having been crucial to the cultural and physical survival of the original settlers and to themselves now. Within Pozuzo society, the structures and values rooted in alpine livelihoods are unchallenged. Pozucinos accept, as do tourists, the narrative, as told for instance by one elderly Pozuzino, that: “they [the colonists] have survived because they were united, hard-working and skilled, the way people are in Europe. Living alone on their farms, they did everything on their own” (interview in Pozuzo). The extent to which the retention of some of these structures may have hindered the development of an even more productive and prosperous livelihood remains an open question.

Dynamic diversification: Definitions of Pozuzo within and beyond the Tyrol

14Despite the development of Pozuzo within such a distinct social and physical environment, some parallels to development in alpine regions appear. Especially, where the perception of Pozuzo and its inhabitants are contested or constructed by the outside world, similar dynamics of diversification become evident. Various representations of Pozuzo and its inhabitants interact with the self-identifications of Pozuzinos. A distinct picture of Pozuzo is constructed by the tourism industry: Pozuzo stands for, much like the native-Amazonian ethnic groups that have became tourist attractions within a nationwide campaign valorizing cultural diversity, an unusual, traditional and colorful exotic way of life (Zbinden Gysin 2005). Moreover, Pozuzinos are constructed by tourism agencies as Europeans, particularly as Europeans surviving in an even more remote place than many other ethnic groups of the Amazon. This construction of the European out in the jungle blurs the constructed separation between ‘civilized Europe’ and the ‘primitive jungle’. Pozuzo has become a tourist attraction highlighting ‘Tyrolean’ traditions such as their houses, dishes, music and dances as well as their physical traits (blue eyes, blond hair). This is especially visible in advertisements for tourist services, where Pozuzinos and native Amazonians are shown side by side (picture 3).

Picture 3

Picture 3

Detail of an advertisement in the city of La Merced, where tourism agencies offer trips to different ethnic groups, such as the Yanesha and Pozuzinos.

Photo by author; author of the advertisement unknown. 2006.

15Ethnotourism affects in Pozuzo what Thiem calls the ‘inner cultural spheres of life’ (see the “four cultures scheme” for tourism, in Thiem, 1994), reflecting a low institutionalization of tourism. Similar to alpine tourism some hundred years ago, a ‘service-providing sphere of cultural practice’ (Thiem 1994) is slowly developing, fixing a set of cultural practices to be represented for tourists. One example of this service-providing sphere is the typical dresses for women, copied from the tourism industry in Tyrol, or bestowed from friends in Tyrol who recycle their Dirndl in Pozuzo. Dirndl differ greatly from the traditional, light and bright-colored cotton dresses protecting arms, shoulders, and neck from the sun. The short skirt and wide décolleté of the Dirndl in contrast are the product of the actual tourism industry in German-speaking regions of the Alps. In Pozuzo, however, they also recall the partially ‘topless dresses’ of Amazonian ethnic groups. Both attires are perceived by tourists from the Peruvian coast and highlands as very sexy. The image of Pozuzo, and its representation within Peru and in tourism, has become a contested topic within the village: should a dark-eyed college girl with black hair be trained as a tourist guide, or be allowed to dance in a traditional dancing group or wear a Dirndl?

16Some of the ethnicization of the Tyrolean heritage in Pozuzo has been fostered by the activities of the Tyrolean NGOs. Founded some forty years ago in the Austrian Tyrol region, where solidarity with vulnerable people is firmly established, the aim of the NGOs was to pay reparations for the injustice the emigrants suffered when they felt compelled to emigrate from Tyrol. The injustice, in the eyes of the NGO members, is that their home country was not able to provide the emigrants a basis for a decent life and personal freedom. Many of the emigrants who founded Pozuzo did not have enough access to agricultural land in Tyrol, or were forbidden from marrying there because they were considered too poor. Living now in a prosperous region, albeit with the typical limitations and opportunities of a center within an 'alpine' periphery, the members of the NGOs endeavor to bring the progress of the ‘modern world’ to their counterparts and kin living in the Amazon. The Tyrolean dialect still spoken by some older Pozuzinos allows communication in German, and together people engage in the exchange of memories and remembrance, mostly about rural life, traditional music and common ancestry, establishing parallels between Tyrol and Pozuzo, the latter constructed as ‘Tyrol in Peru’. The German language has been reinforced in Pozuzo since the beginning of the NGO activities. Tyrolean/German language skills are a main cultural resource for Pozucinos, facilitating transnational contact, access to the development projects of the Tyrolean NGOs, and informal interaction with NGO members and German-speaking tourists. The NGOs value German language skills as an important cultural heritage, and making German language classes compulsory in Pozuzo’s education curricula, from kindergarten to secondary school, has been integral to their funding. No longer spoken in daily life, and replaced by Spanish, German language nonetheless clearly has been put back on the agenda by the Tyrolean NGOs as a resource and source of cultural capital. In addition to language, other cultural practices such as music, dancing, and handicrafts, as well as the elevation of certain values and morals, have been reinforced by way of increased contact with Tyrol. This sort of cultural diasporization (Cohen 2006) is rather untypical: diasporization processes typically are launched from within the migrant group, as a means for fortifying their own ethnicity in the host country; in Pozuzo, diasporization has been triggered in large part by NGOs coming from the country/region of origin.

  • 6 In the election for the local parliament in 2006, the candidates represented themselves as either l (...)

17One thing that became evident during the political disputes marking the 2006 elections6 is that being Pozuzino is a construct and does not depend on a surname, physical aspect or descent, but rather on loyalty to Tyrolean NGOs and the values of the settlers. Yet, the adaptation to the demands of tourism, to meet Europeans and their specific habits and expectations in the remote jungle, seems to lead back to an essentialist understanding of culture and to the exclusion of people with different physical appearance—those who are neither fair-skinned nor blue-eyed. This becomes more and more of an issue in Pozuzo as emigration exceeds reintegration of young Pozuzinos, who leave the region for educational or professional purposes. Additionally, continued colonization since the 1970’s into even more remote watersheds has distanced many of the young rural descendants of the first settlers from the sites now visited by tourists. The once-promoted 'whitening' of the region is no longer apparent in the village of Pozuzo. Thus the representation of the 'alpine' as a tourist attraction, and the reproduction of 'alpine' practices on farms, have become disconnected. As such, the distinction of what forms part of the Tyrolean cultural resource, and what does not, becomes blurred and contested by personal and political interests. In other words, the ‘alpine’ cultural resources that have been described here undergo transitions that are no longer linked to the way of life of the first settlers, but that give way to diverse interpretations, self-identifications, and debates best described as bricolage (Levi-Strauss 1962).

18Alongside the establishment of tourist infrastructure, the village of Pozuzo has become a crossroad for people, 'cultures', and goods. Farmers have become entrepreneurs with salaried workers and side-businesses in food processing or trade. More and more families have moved to the village center, while renting out the ancestral farm to farming families from the highlands (as sharecroppers). A few immigrants from distant parts of Peru and even Europe have established businesses in the village. Processes of intensified marketing of agricultural commodities, urbanization and growth of the services have allowed more options for making a living within the district of Pozuzo and neighboring regions. Similar phenomena to those experienced in a modern rural 'alpine' context are being perceived by people in Pozuzo: a) remoteness generally acquires a more negative connotation; b) the centrality of places is contested as means of communication grow in reach and depth; c) young people are encouraged to pursue an education, leading them to leave their parents’ home; d) roads affected by frequent landslides and unreliable phone/internet services frustrate the growing demand for reliability and punctuality in business. Dynamic diversification allows more ways of identifying with a Pozuzino way of life; more urban living, better education, and reliable means of communication become resources for the construction of alternative cultural practices and identities.

Redefinitions and returnings: going back to 'the Alps'

19The close cooperation of some Pozuzinos with members of Tyrolean NGOs challenges their own perception of the Tyrolean and rural/alpine heritage of the colony. With the visits of Pozuzinos to Tyrol in 2007 and afterwards, it became clear that the ‘old homeland’ of their imagination disintegrated; it became obvious for the Peruvian visitors that ‘their Tyrol’ as proclaimed in Pozuzo was not the same as the actual Austrian Tyrol. Some examples which may illustrate this include the case of a Pozuzino man in a Tyrolean village stating that he could smell the animals, but did not see them. A woman from Pozuzo found it striking that work separates people from their families and neighbors for hours, leaving villages abandoned during the day. In a discussion among Pozuzinos, most of them stated that their work is less hard, as they always try to go back to their homes during the day. Some experienced the hardship of winter for humans and animals, when it started snowing; others were amazed to see that poverty in Tyrol was mostly alleviated by the growth of a tourism industry. “We threw away all the old things, but here they expose them and are proud of their past”, a visitor from Pozuzo remarked; as soon as she went back to Pozuzo, she garnished her small tourist bungalows with antiques. After seeing advertisements promoting activities linked to tourism in the Alps (mountaineering, skiing, hiking, river rafting), some of the Pozuzinos were impressed that nature can be a playground for adventure.

20Discourses of authenticity, hybridization and belonging could be observed among the traveling group of Pozuzinos. Far away from the usual daily practices and perceptions in Pozuzo, and encouraged by the interest of the NGOs in their cultural heritage, some made plans on how to give their ‘Tyrolean’ roots and values more importance. They adopted the idea that wooden houses and handicrafts are not symbols of backwardness but are attractive and valuable. From the other side, Tyrolean hosts and members of the NGOs have reconsidered their assumptions about the meaning of development and poverty. At first, when the group of Pozuzinos arrived to Tyrol, the hosts felt uneasy about showing the visitors, who they perceived as much poorer, things they perceived as luxuries and the privileges of the ‘modern European life’. The hosts even felt guilty that they would be “sending them back to the jungle, where they will probably miss the luxury they experienced here” (interview in Tyrol). “They will feel neglected, excluded, as in the past, when they have to go back to Pozuzo” another stated. Nonetheless an elderly woman from Pozuzo stated in her farewell speech: “Now I can understand my ancestors, why they were singing when leaving Silz [a village in Tyrol]. […] They found a most lovely and charming place in Peru”. Hearing that Tyrol is perceived by many visitors as nice, but Pozuzo even nicer and more hospitable, provoked both confusion and relief among the hosts. In brief, many discourses arose among some visitors and hosts concerning definitions and redefinitions of being Tyrolean, of having a background in one or two homelands, and even of what poverty and modern life mean to different people.

21Even though the discussion among some of the descendants of the European settlers deals with the valorization of their ‘roots’, and the retraditionalization of the society of Pozuzo, other Pozuzinos are beginning to establish transnational practices, integrating labor migration and tourism to Tyrol to their livelihood strategies, thus valorizing ‘routes’. Every winter, about half a dozen Pozuzinos get work contracts in Tyrol, mostly in tourism. Some members of the NGOs host young Pozuzinos in their households, so long as they pursue some kind of professional training (physiotherapist, butcher, farmer-entrepreneur...) or language instruction. A few binational marriages or partnerships have emerged as well. And several Pozuzinos from the 2007 visit returned to Tyrol with members of their families for visits and tourism. In sum, several forms of return are practiced by Pozuzinos. The cultural resources linking both ‘versions’ of Tyrol are vehicles for transporting shared meaning and thus laying a basis for common understandings and the building of trust between Tyrol here and Tyrol there.

Discussion and conclusion

22The study of Pozuzo shows how cultural diversity is fostered by what Robertson (1995) calls glocalisation. The (culturally) local and global spheres in Tyrol and Pozuzo interact as well as compete. They interact in a reestablished relationship between an old and new homeland, where the old homeland changes its appearance. Yet the references to the past, to those Tyrolean livelihoods that have mostly been shaped by rural practices, are still constructed in Pozuzo as valuable and enduring cultural resources. The local structures and practices of ‘alpine’ farming households in Pozuzo are complemented by the global perception of Pozuzo by tourists and Tyrolean NGOs. In Pozuzo, a competition between the local and the global becomes visible, for instance, when local practices (such as the local, passed-on versions of the waltz and polka) are ‘completed’ or corrected, as when a Tyrolean folk dance group taught its counterparts from Pozuzo missing steps. This risked diluting the meaning of the local version, still perceived by Pozuzinos as the real, time-honored traditional way. Such drifting apart of the local and the global can be perceived by Pozuzinos as encroachment, as in the cases of dance and music where they would like to keep their local traditional forms. In contrast to this, however, is the case of the Dirndl, which was introduced by Tyrolean friends, and has been accepted in Pozuzo as a globalized representation of traditional attire in the Alps. Both the local rootedness as well as the global routedness, however, are for the most part perceived by Pozuzinos as opportunities, enlarging options for what can still be called a ‘Pozuzino way of life’ linked to the settlers from Tyrol.

23When looking closely at cultural resources, it becomes evident that multiple identifications and shifting values are at work. With the Pozuzinos, ‘alpine’ self-identification was originally based in a rural livelihood linked to farming and housing practices. These ‘alpine’ identifications can be adapted and adopted to different degrees, especially by young Pozuzinos or other people living in Pozuzo. Some continue to claim land from the jungle, perpetuating the ‘alpine’ identification as self-sufficient farmers; others identify with the history of the colony, and its ‘alpine’ roots, when participating in performances for tourists. The (recent) appreciation for old tools, houses and dishes forms part of this ‘alpine’ identification, overlapping to a large degree now with forms of ‘alpine’ identification traditional in the Alps. Yet, newer interpretations of the ‘alpine’ in the Alps (mostly linked to the Alps as a tourist resource offering recreation, adventure and scenery) in Pozuzo are not linked to their own perception of a Tyrolean way of life. Until now, migrant workers and tourists have been the brokers for this new set of ‘alpine identifications’, but only to a very limited extent. An interesting parallel, though not addressed in this paper, would likely become evident when assessing the influence of tourists and laborers on ‘alpine’ identifications in the Alps—be this in terms of the ‘greening’ of agriculture, the gamification of the Alps, or the emergence of new interpretations of center and periphery.

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1 The figure of 4,000 inhabitants for the district is a rough estimate by the district administration from 2005. In 2016 the administration reported 8’500 inhabitants. The number of inhabitants of the village of Pozuzo itself was estimated to be about 650 in 2005. Until now, no census has been conducted for the district and village of Pozuzo.

2 Freundeskreis für Pozuzo, founded 1983, has about 240 members; its aims have been to establish relationships between Pozuzo and Tyrol in order to strengthen cultural and economic exchanges and to preserve the German language in Pozuzo. Gesundheit für Pozuzo, founded 1997, has about 250 members; its aim was the construction and maintenance of the hospital in Pozuzo. In 2015, Gesundheit für Pozuzo was integrated into Freundeskreis für Pozuzo. Pro Kulturverein Pozuzo, founded 2005 by members of the Freundeskreis, is dedicated to the establishment and maintenance of the local museum (Museo Schafferer) and the House of Culture (Casa de Cultura/Kulturvereinshaus), both reinforcing the traditions of the settlers and their descendants.

3 For the purpose of this paper the Germanized form Pozuzinos stands for the descendants of the Prussian and Tyrolean settlers. It is as well their emic term, while Pozucinos is today the etic term for all inhabitants of the village and district of Pozuzo, as well as the emic term for settlers without European descent.

4 Ethnicity (etnicidad) has become a common term in Pozuzo, in official documents, and in teaching materials. Nevertheless, the use and perception of etnicidad hardly differs from the use and perception of race, and is basically constructed around the physical appearance of people and the local perception that the “white race” is superior to the “colored race”, represented as well in the use of the term “blanceamiento” (whitening of society).

5 Pozuziner (m)/Pozuzinerin (f) in German. There are a variety of etic names given by Pozuzinos to non-Pozuzinos, most of them with pejorative connotations. Their emic name is Pozucinos. Pozucinos call Pozuzinosblancos” (whites) or “colonos” (colonists).

6 In the election for the local parliament in 2006, the candidates represented themselves as either loyal to the Pozuzinos or to the other ethnic groups. Being Pozuzino was strongly disputed within the village and district.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Picture 1
Légende The farm house of Palmatambo in the Pozuzo district, built in so-called traditional Tyrolean style, in the middle of recovering slash-and-burn fields and pastures.
Crédits Photo by author, 2009.
Fichier image/jpeg, 2,6M
Titre Picture 2
Légende Members of the Schuler family with their children on Election Day in Pozuzo.
Crédits Photo by author, 2006.
Fichier image/jpeg, 2,1M
Titre Picture 3
Légende Detail of an advertisement in the city of La Merced, where tourism agencies offer trips to different ethnic groups, such as the Yanesha and Pozuzinos.
Fichier image/jpeg, 225k
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Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Karin Zbinden Gysin, « Re-Creating an Alpine Way of Life: Tyrolean Settlers in the Peruvian Jungle »Journal of Alpine Research | Revue de géographie alpine [En ligne], 104-3 | 2016, mis en ligne le 29 décembre 2016, consulté le 08 décembre 2023. URL : ; DOI :

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Karin Zbinden Gysin

PhD Social Anthropology. Professor of Social Sciences, Bern University of Applied Sciences, School of Agriculture, Forest and Food Sciences, Zollikofen, Switzerland

Daniel Hoffmann

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Le texte seul est utilisable sous licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont « Tous droits réservés », sauf mention contraire.

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