American woman going blind missing in Peru
An American woman who is legally blind and eventually will totally lose her sight is missing in Peru, where she was touring after attending a wedding.
Carla Valpeoz, a 35-year-old social activist and experienced traveler from Detroit, was last seen December 12 in the city of Cusco, where a cab driver dropped her off near an area where people can catch buses, her brother Carlos Valpeoz said.
Carla Valpeoz had expressed interest in visiting Písac, a Peruvian village about 35 kilometers (22 miles) northeast of Cusco, he said.
There isn’t any record of her getting on a bus or any account from a bus driver, the brother said.
“Carla is a very determined person, a humanitarian in her community, a leader devoted to life, to travel and immersing herself,” he said Tuesday. “Since an early age, our family has prepared her for when she would lose her sight and that’s why she wants to see so much.”
He added that his sister would not put herself in a position that was dangerous. She now has what he called very low vision.
Alicia Steele, a friend of Carla Valpeoz, became concerned when she didn’t show upon Thursday in Lima, where the two were to fly back to the United States two days later, Carlos Valpeoz said.
Steele stayed in Peru and Valpeoz’s father arrived Monday.
“Call me, my child. Let us know where you are,” he said in Spanish, according to CNN affiliate TV Peru. “Or ask someone near you for help. Have them call the TV station, have them call the police.”
Police from several different jurisdictions have been working the case since Saturday, Gen. Max Iglesias, chief of the 7th Macro Police Region Cusco-Apurimac, said.
They are working from two hypotheses. They think she might be near Pisac, a village famous for its pre-Columbian agricultural terracing and a hilltop Inca fortress towering over the town. She might be participating in experiential tourism where she is deeply involved in the community, Iglesias said.
Police are also working from information that she was seen in a region near Cusco called Madre de Dios.
The US State Department said it has no greater priority than the safety of US citizens abroad, and that they’re aware of media reports about the missing woman, but can’t comment further at this time.
She wants to bridge cultures
In videos posted last year to YouTube, Valpeoz says she was diagnosed with optic nerve atrophy when she was 10 years old. The American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus says the condition is “mild to severe damage to the optic nerve that can adversely affect central vision, peripheral vision and color vision.” There is no treatment that can reverse optic nerve atrophy, it says.
Valpeoz, who uses a cane when she walks, says on one video: “I want to create a platform and I want to bridge communities of cultures … so we can learn to work together.”
She says she has traveled to many parts of the world to see how diverse cultures live. Her brother said her travels had been to Egypt and South America, and that she also has lived in Papua New Guinea and Yemen.
“She has had a challenging life but she doesn’t fall in the category of just being a blind person and wants to experience the world before she can’t see anymore,” he said. “She has always had a great heart. She sees the world in a positive light.”
In another video she says she is writing a book about her perspective on life.
Valpeoz works at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, according to a tweet from the group.
She had been to Machu Picchu
While in Peru she had ascended Huayna Picchu, overlooking the famed Machu Picchu with a group of people, her brother said.
They got back to Cusco about 10 p.m. December 11 and she went out with people from the group to a club. She and another woman she had met that day returned to their hostel around 4 a.m. and Valpeoz slept in a room with nine other people.
She left the hostel in a cab about 9 a.m. December 12, according to surveillance video. She sent her last message on WhatsApp about that time, her brother said.
There have been no credible sightings of her since. It is unknown whether she headed to Pisac,