Alpaca sweater

There are a ton of things I miss about my birth country, but the food and the Pacific Ocean are probably the two I miss the most.

The only way for me to solve this is to travel back home, but since it’s been almost two years since our last trip there, I have to settle for the “encargos” my mom brings with her to Denver every time she goes back to Peru.

Through the years, the list hasn’t really changed much: alfajores, ají amarillo and Pisco. But ever since I became a mom, my list also includes children’s books in Spanish, chompas de alpaca (alpaca sweaters) and polos de algodón peruano (T-shirts made with Peruvian cotton), and most definitely the kind of Peruvian candy that reminds me of my childhood and that my kids have somehow learned to love too.

Doña Pepa - Peruvian candy

Vanessa’s favorite is Doña Pepa.

Cua Cua - Peruvian candy

Santiago’s favorite is Cua Cua.

I love seeing them enjoying these candies of my childhood because it makes me feel closer to my beloved Peru. Same thing happens when I see them enjoy un buen plato de arroz con pollo or devour a triple — a Peruvian sandwich made with avocado, hard boiled eggs and tomatoes and one of Vanessa’s favorite dishes.

But I also feel like many of these “encargos” show my kids how important it is for me to continue to stay connected to my Peruvian heritage. I tell them how they won’t believe how warm their Alpaca sweaters will keep them (and after wearing hers during the bitter cold we experienced in Denver this weekend, Vanessa agrees); I tell them how Peruvian cotton is some of the softest in the world, which is one of the reasons why many clothing stores worldwide get their T-shirts done there; and thanks to some of the books my mom has brought back, I can teach them more about Peru’s traditions, culture and customs.

Chimoc en Machu Picchu

This time around, my kids favorite book was “Chimoc en Machu Picchu,” which belongs to a beautiful series written and illustrated by the very talented sisters Andrea and Claudia Paz. My kids have almost every book in the series and what I love the most about them is how they introduce Peruvian music, food, traditions and, this time around, one of the places my birth country is most well-known for: the unparalleled Machu Picchu. Plus, each book in the series comes with an audio CD which includes not only the story, but a series of songs specific to the story composed, written and performed by the Paz sisters and their brother. A real gem! (Sadly, I haven’t found the books in the U.S.)

What kind of things do you ask for from your home country?

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