LIMA — To the Peruvian crew on the Costa Concordia, a job on the Italian cruise ship was an economic plum that earned them a high wage along with free food and lodging while crossing the seas of Europe in style.
One Peruvian crew member was earning almost $1,500 month, six times the minimum wage in Peru.
But the 44 Peruvians who signed up to work aboard the ship didn't count on the disaster that killed at least one from their ranks when it slammed into a reef and flopped on its side Friday off the Italian island of Giglio. One other Peruvian crew member was still missing Wednesday. Another eight Peruvians were traveling on board as tourists.
Rather than get rich, some of them lost everything.
"He lost his laptop, the money he earned, the clothes he brought from here," Carmen Burga, mother of 28-year-old crew member Angel Paredes Burga, said Wednesday in Peru where the surviving 42 Peruvian crew members were returning to their homeland with the help of the Peruvian consulate in Italy.
"Now he only has the clothes that the Red Cross gave him," the mother.
Paredes Burga is an Italian and French teacher who was recruited by the Costa cruise ship company in October.
In Peru, there is a huge demand for cruise ship jobs that command monthly salaries ranging from $712 to $4,000, said Patricia Betalleluz, general manager of CRC-Peru, a company that recruits workers for those positions.
Betalleluz said there are between 8,000 and 10,000 Peruvian applicants for every 1,000 cruise ship job openings.