For Rosa Feria, the day was shaping up to be another 17-hour marathon, like most days since she came to Washington from Peru 20 years ago.

The single mother had put in eight hours at her modest Machu Picchu restaurant in a small building that she rents in Takoma Park. Now the cook hadn't shown up at her other restaurant in upstairs, rented space in Georgetown.

It would be hours until she could get home to her small apartment in downtown Washington and her 12-year-old son.

"You have to be tough," she said.

Feria is among an estimated 10,000 Peruvians who have relocated to Washington seeking a better life. Many of them have settled in Arlington and Takoma Park.

"Peru is so poor, we think of parts of it as fourth world," said Georgetown University's Timothy Wickham-Crowley, an expert in Latin social dynamics.

Wickham-Crowley said there are very few jobs there; triple-digit inflation has racked the economy for decades; and tens of thousands have died in random violence perpetrated by a group of revolutionaries called the Shining Path.

Peruvians here are restaurateurs, construction workers, secretaries, physicians and other trained professionals who have been able to scrape up the $700 for the air fare.

They arrive with little, but it isn't long before they are financially secure, said Carlos Chocano, third secretary at the Embassy of Peru.

"They are hard workers, used to a struggle," he said.

Soon after arriving in this country, Feria had worked two jobs, busing tables in hotel restaurants, before she managed to save up enough money to open the first of her two restaurants.

Washington and several other American cities draw Peruvians, said Wickham-Crowley. "The combination of jobs and an international community attracts them," he said.

Word about opportunities and Washington has filtered back to Peru. Immigration has doubled to the United States in the last five years.

Among the new arrivals are college-bound children of Peruvians who can afford tuition at American schools, some of them in the Washington area. Many of those graduates stay and flourish in the Washington work world.

Despite their increasing numbers, Peruvians still find American culture difficult to fathom. The throw-away mentality of some Americans especially bemuses them.

"Because there's so little money in Peru the first impulse is always to fix something that's broken," said Chocano.

Some Peruvians find Washington's regimented traffic laws inhibiting. "We struggle to remember not to act on impulse," he said.

Understandably, Peruvians scoff at Americans' talk of recession. "It's all in your minds. You don't know how good you have it," one said. Several others agreed.

And some believe Americans are too lenient with their children.

Feria doesn't allow her son to sleep over at American children's homes.

"When he's not helping me in the restaurant, I know exactly what he's doing," she said.

Like other Peruvian parents, Feria wants her son to grow up knowing about his Peruvian heritage. She saves enough money to buy a roundtrip plane ticket for him to spend a month every summer with her relatives in Arequipa in the Andes.

Peruvian families here are very close and often work together in businesses. Members bend to the family will in almost all matters, observers say.

In Arlington, the Solano brothers own and operate a Peruvian-style chicken grill solely with family members.

Eight husbands, wives and children do the cooking and cleaning, and cover all the shifts for the seven-day-a-week operation.

Even the brothers' 80-year-old mother does her part. Each day she bakes round after round of alfajores, a doughy Peruvian confection that's become a hit with customers.

"Yes, we fight," said Victor Solano, who gambled his life savings to launch El Pollo Rico three years ago. "But the family backed the idea. We're very strong together."

But Peruvian families don't back every notion that occurs to one of their family members, especially any seen as threatening to the family.

Elsa A. Espinoza chaffs good-naturedly at her family's latest dictum. The divorced mother of three grown children owns four restaurants in the Washington area that support the entire family. However, the children are deadset against her non-Peruvian male friend.

"They will leave her if she does {marry him}," said Lorena Velarde, who plans to marry Espinoza's son and works the bar at the downtown El Chalan. "That would kill her."

Espinoza nods in agreement. "I'm very strong for work, but I'm not very strong for my life."

The issue, as it frequently is, is economic.

"The children are afraid she will stop caring for them," said Velarde.

Peruvian parents take care of the children as long as the children stay single. In return, Peruvian children take complete responsibility for their elderly parents.

Typically, a Peruvian family in Washington will have one or more senior members in the household.

The protective impulse extends to the faraway slopes of the Andes. Many of Washington's better-off Peruvians have formed associations to raise money for Peruvians left behind.

"They need medicines, food -- the list goes on and on," said Jose A. Quiros, a Bethesda internist.

Last year Quiros coordinated an effort among local Peruvian physicians to donate a day's earnings to help Peruvians.

"It's a small way of showing how grateful we are for the opportunities we've had here," he said.