Written by Emma Jones // Photo provided by Jeana Willmon
The spring 2023 Harding University in Latin America (HULA) program has slightly rearranged its planned itinerary due to continued protests in Peru making transportation in the country unreliable.
HULA students flew into Lima, Peru, on Feb. 2 and then headed to Buenos Aires, Argentina, instead of flying straight into Arequipa, Peru, where the program is headquartered.
According to HULA director Jeremy Daggett, citizens of Peru have been protesting for a new congress and a reformed constitution after a failed coup by former President Pedro Castillo on Dec. 7. Castillo was elected in 2021, and the indigenous and underrepresented peoples of the Peruvian provinces hoped he would bring change to their government, but it soon became clear he was susceptible to corruption and incompetent to lead, according to Daggett. After the coup, in which Castillo tried to dissolve congress, he was arrested and Vice President Dina Boluarte took over as Peru’s sixth president in five years.
“The people of the provinces were disappointed by the president that was supposed to be their champion, and they’re asking for new elections for president and new elections for congress in hopes that something might finally change,” Daggett said.
Daggett said though protesting is a normal part of Peruvian culture, altercations with police and military forces have led to some of the protests becoming violent. According to a Jan. 27 article by The New York Times, at least 57 deaths have occurred related to the unrest. Daggett said the concern with HULA staying in Arequipa is not due to the violence, as the protests are organized, and citizens can find out ahead of time where they will be located. Rather, the concern was more that travel into the Arequipa airport wouldn’t be possible or that the group would be restricted from traveling outside the country.
“We were planning on traveling to Argentina on Feb. 9 and now we’re traveling on Feb. 4, so the only big change has been moving up our trip five days,” Daggett said. “That gives us a little bit more time for things to iron out. I don’t currently anticipate having to extend our stay in Argentina. I’m confident that we’ll be able to do a really special Arequipa-based HULA program.”
Director of International Programs (IP) Audra Pleasant said her office has been monitoring the situation and still feels the program can be headquartered in Arequipa this semester.
“The situation in Peru is fluid, and we’re monitoring it closely,” Pleasant said. “If circumstances change, and we no longer feel that we can provide an excellent program or reasonable safety for all program participants, we will adapt the itinerary as needed.”
Freshman Mikayla Jones is one of the students studying abroad at HULA this semester. She said the program directors and IP office have done a good job at making the group feel safe and informed about the situation in Peru.
“Some of my friends who went to HULA in the past said their only regret was that they couldn’t spend more time in Buenos Aires, so with that in mind I am so excited to explore that city for even more time,” Jones said.
Daggett said they are hopeful about HULA returning to Peru to continue with their planned schedule after visiting Argentina.
“We love HULA, we love Peru, we love hosting HULA in Peru, and we’re really hopeful that things can be settled in the coming weeks so we can be comfortable continuing on the program based in Peru,” Daggett said.