Meet Gabriel Battaini, a pioneering Sacred Valley expat and ambitious entrepreneur
By Chere Di Boscio
Viva Peru is one of the most popular hangouts in the Valley, especially for those who live in and around Huaran. But who’s behind it? And why on earth are there so many gringos living in Huaran?
It’s pretty much down to one guy: Gabriel Battaini, the founder of the cafe and an expat pioneer in the region.
Originally from Argentina, Gabriel has been instrumental in shaping the Valley as we know it today – from getting wifi here to setting up the best meeting place ever.
Here, we interviewed Gabriel about what the Valley was like 15 years ago compared to today, the inspiration behind Viva Peru, and more.
SVEP: What brought you to the Sacred Valley in the first place?
Gabriel Battaini: I came 15 years ago from Buenos Aires hired by a hotel in Huaran. My idea was to come for a while…but I never left.
SVEP: How has the Valley changed since then?
Gabriel Battaini: It has changed a lot! First of all, with access to simple daily things we give for granted now, such us internet or phones. I had none of that in Huaran when I arrived. Work was hard, as was keeping in touch with family.
It was also much more untouched. Lots and lots of corn fields and open land everywhere! It was lovely to walk around the neighbourhood and be in contact with so much more nature.
Then, as expected, many more foreigners and Peruvians from other/bigger cities came to stay or build properties here. So for example, forests you used to enjoy walking through before just disappeared.
Also, our relationships with locals, the access to house supplies and “comfort foods”, mail, house rentals….too much has changed in these last 15 years.
But the landscape changes are the biggest ones for me.
SVEP: Why did you open the cafe?
Gabriel Battaini: I opened Viva Peru after years of having a bed & breakfast and being one of the only places in town for the expats to meet and gather. We used to be the focus point of reunions and gatherings as well as the point of reference for many.
When I sold it, I needed to have a place to keep this happening, especially with a growing community. What a better place than a cafe?
Also, it was a dream of mine to do so after all the experience I gained cooking at the B&B. And finally, the house where the cafe is located today was my first house back in 2005! So it was a perfect spot to start again.
SVEP: What’s the best thing about living in the Sacred Valley for you?
Gabriel Battaini: Living in the Sacred Valley has a lot of ups and downs. The best thing…mmmm…maybe the weather!!!
SVEP: And the worst?
Gabriel Battaini: The worst for me could be the fact that I never felt like a “local”. You are always going to be a foreigner and the constant fight with locals for simple things just for the fact you are a gringo and you ways will be.
SVEP: Where are some of your favourite places to visit in the Valley?
Gabriel Battaini: Things are changing fast! And I don’t live permanently in the valley anymore since the last year so I am not sure I know all the new places around anymore. Ollantaytambo is my favourite ruin, Huyapo lake is the place that I most enjoy, as well as anything with a view to the Pitusiray. And to eat…of course, Viva Peru!
SVEP: What projects do you currently have in the works?
Gabriel Battaini: Shhh…I can’t tell yet!
SVEP: What do you think the Valley will be like in say, 5 years?
Gabriel Battaini: Interesting question…but honestly I have no idea! I just hope it doesn’t lose its essence