Eliane Karp
Eliane Karp Toledo a French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

-born anthropologist
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

 and economist
Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek from + , hence "rules of the house"...

, she is the wife of the president of Peru, Alejandro Toledo
Alejandro Toledo
Alejandro Celestino Toledo Manrique is a politician who was President of Peru from 2001 to 2006. He was elected in April 2001, defeating former President Alan García...

. She is a prevalent academic, specializing in the study of Andean indigenous cultures.

Early life

Eliane Chantal Karp-Toledo was born in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 in 1953. Throughout her youth, Karp was involved in the movement supporting Israel's statehood by volunteering her time abroad. She studied economics at the Lycée Français in Brussels, and earned her B.A.
Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts , from the Latin artium baccalaureus, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both...

 in anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

 at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem ; ; abbreviated HUJI) is Israel's second-oldest university, after the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. The Hebrew University has three campuses in Jerusalem and one in Rehovot. The world's largest Jewish studies library is located on its Edmond J...

, specializing in Latin American Studies
Latin American Studies
Latin American studies is an academic discipline dealing with the study of Latin America and Latin Americans.-Definition:Latin American studies critically examines the history, culture, politics, and experiences of Latin Americans in Latin America and often also elsewhere .Latin American studies...

. She holds a Master of Arts in Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

 from Stanford University
Stanford University
The Leland Stanford Junior University, commonly referred to as Stanford University or Stanford, is a private research university on an campus located near Palo Alto, California. It is situated in the northwestern Santa Clara Valley on the San Francisco Peninsula, approximately northwest of San...

. Karp has taken courses on indigenous communities at the University of Mexico, and has done graduate work on Anthropology and Economic Development at the Catholic University of Peru.

At Stanford, she met Alejandro Toledo, the were married in 1972. Karp first came to Peru in the late 1970s to study Indian (indigenous)
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

 communities while working on her Ph.D. In 1992 Karp and Toledo divorced and she returned to Israel with their daughter, Chantal. There she worked at Bank Leumi
Bank Leumi
Bank Leumi is an Israeli bank. It was founded in London as the Anglo Palestine Company on February 27, 1902, by members of the Zionist movement to promote the industry, construction, agriculture, and infrastructure of Palestine.-History:...

 in Tel Aviv, Israel, and was in charge of developing relationships with foreign banks. The couple remarried and returned to Peru before her husband's 1995 campaign.

Karp has also worked for the European Investment Bank
European Investment Bank
The European Investment Bank is the European Union's long-term lending institution established in 1958 under the Treaty of Rome. A policy-driven bank, the EIB supports the EU’s priority objectives, especially European integration and the development of economically weak regions...

, the OAS, UNDP and UNICEF. She has also advised for multiple banks and financial institutions, both in Peru and abroad, for development and investment projects.

Karp speaks seven languages: French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

, Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

, English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

, Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

, Portuguese
Portuguese language
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

, and Quechua, a native Andean language.

During her husband's 2001 bid, Karp contributed to a campaign which drew deeply on Toledo's indigenous heritage. She donned traditional Andean costume, rallied voters in Quechua, and demonstrated the couple's commitment to indigenous issues. According to the New York Times, "her flaming red hair and fiery speeches made her a popular and controversial fixture at campaign rallies.”

Political Contributions

In 2001, Karp became the First Lady of the Republic of Peru when her husband, Alejandro Toledo, was elected President of the country. She served as First Lady until 2006. During this period, Karp became the Honorary President and Founder of the Fund for the Development of Indigenous Communities of Latin America and the Caribbean.

During the campaign, Karp proved to be an influential if divisive figure. Her activism in political-particularly indigenous-issues unsettled many, and, along with her continued support of her husband through several scandals, strengthened comparisons in the media to Hillary Clinton.


Many Peruvians hoped that the election of Peru's first indigenous president would lead the way for assertion of indigenous rights and addressing the issues most affecting natives. Shortly after inauguration, the Toledo administration created the National Commission on Andean, Amazon and Afro Peruvian Communities (CONAPA) of Peru, which Karp served as president. The agency was meant to establish a development agenda for indigenous communities, provide representation of indigenous interests within the government, and lead the way for multi-cultural constitutional reforms. Some critics viewed these actions as a state co-optation of indigenous identity, mockingly dubbing the agency the “Karp Comission.”

Others lament the ineffectiveness of the organization. Noting its lack of funding, its low level of representation of the state sector, its ad honore members, and lack of implementing powers, Diana Vindling calls the commission "no more than a space for dialogue." On the other hand, despite the lack of tangible outcomes, Oxfam's Martin Scurrah points out the agency's good work. Noting that in addition to promoting a chapter on indigenous rights in the new constitution, Eliane Karp has "intervened on numerous occasions in support of or in defense of indigenous initiatives." She also opened the "Desamparados" train station as a cultural center dedicated to the country's first nations, and organized numerous other exhibits around the world.

Some critics viewed the very creation of the commission as a step backwards for indigenous Peruvians, noting its leadership by a person with no official place in the government rather than a Ministry head. The commission also absorbed the former SETAI (office of indigenous affairs) which led to a loss of autonomy and dynamism for that agency. Others cited a conflict of interest in Karp's leadership of the commission's public works and her private NGO, Fundacion Pacha.

In 2003, partly in response to these criticisms, Karp resigned from CONAPA, which was subsequently restructured as a national institute rather than a commission.

Macchu Pichu Artifacts

Throughout Toledo’s presidency, Karp participated in negotiations with Yale University for the return of over 350 indigenous artifacts. The museum pieces were excavated from Machu Picchu around 1915 and sent to Yale on a twelve month loan. On this matter, Peru had the support of the National Geographic Society and Senator Christopher Dodd
Christopher Dodd
Christopher John "Chris" Dodd is an American lawyer, lobbyist, and Democratic Party politician who served as a United States Senator from Connecticut for a thirty-year period ending with the 111th United States Congress....

 of Connecticut. Negotiations stalled when the university refused to acknowledge Peru as the sole owners of the artifacts, but resumed under the García presidency.

In a New York Times op-ed, Karp accused Yale of waiting out “Peru’s first elected indigenous president, until Peru had a new leader who is frankly hostile to indigenous matters.” She also criticized the ultimate agreement made in 2008. Under the terms, Peru must build a museum and research center near Machu Picchu to Yale’s specifications before they will receive a portion of the articles for display and study. She continued her public criticism of the deal which left most of the artifacts with Yale, even as President Garcia celebrated the centennial of Macchu Pichu's discovery.

Pacha Foundation for a Change

In 2001, Karp started Fundación Pacha, a non-profit organization overseeing development projects for indigenous Peruvians. The foundation “places special emphasis on the design of sustainable development projects based on traditional and communal organizations and the development of productive skills to promote the comparative economic advantages of the Peruvian biodiversity and its rich potential for ecotourism.”

Karp remained the head of the organization until 2006. Pacha’s micro projects have included vaccinations for Amazonian peoples against yellow fever, hepatitis B, and malaria, building basic community institutions, and providing equipment for basic medical care centers in rural areas with indigenous populations.

Current activities

Karp serves on the board of several organizations. She is the Honorary President and Founder of the Fund for Development of Indigenous Communities of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Since leaving the Office of the First Lady, Karp has been an active academic. Initially, she was at Stanford University, where she was a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology, as well as a Distinguished Fellow in Residence at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.

She currently lives in Washington, D.C., where she is an Adjunct Professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University
George Washington University
The George Washington University is a private, coeducational comprehensive university located in Washington, D.C. in the United States...

. She teaches classes there on the culture and social organization of indigenous peoples in the Andean countries, and their struggle for greater rights and participation in public life and democratic politics.


  • Karp de Toledo, Eliane. Los pueblos indígenas en la agenda democrática: Estudios de caso de Bolivia, Ecuador, México y Perú. Corporación Andina de Fomento, 2006.
  • Karp de Toledo, Eliane: Allin Kausaynapaq, Interculturalidad y participación: Para vivir mejor con nosotros mismos. Office of the First Lady of the Nation. Lima, May 22, 2006.
  • Karp de Toledo, Eliane: La Diversidad Cultural y los ciudadanos del Sol y La Luna – Propuestas para la inclusión social y el desarrollo con identidad de los pueblos originarios del Perú. Office of the First Lady of the Nation. Lima, November 30, 2004.
  • Karp de Toledo, Eliane; Lema Tucker, Linda (eds.): El Tema Indígena en Debate. Aportes para la Reforma Constitucional. Presented in the Congress of the Republic of Peru. Office of the First Lady of the Nation. Lima, April 2003.
  • Karp de Toledo, Eliane: Hacia una nueva Nación, Kay Pachamanta. Office of the First Lady of the Nation. Lima, July 2002. Second Edition, October 2002. Third Edition, June 2003.
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