Archive for the ‘Chakana’ Category

Vegetables or values?

It was sunny Sunday afternoon yesterday in Cuzco. After the hills training session in the morning in Sacsayhuaman, and a cup of coffee at Plazoleta San Blas, I thought that watching a football match at the Garcilaso Stadium of Cuzco would be the best way to spend the last hours of the Easter Holidays. One of the local teams, Deportivo Garcilaso played the Peruvian Cup against the youth team of the biggest team in the city Cienciano. Only five nuevos soles (approx. 2 US$) and I could be entertained for two hours while sun bathing on one of the grades of the stadium. I chose the side of the supporters of Cienciano hoping that, because it is the youth team, I could share the afternoon with enthusiast relatives of the young talents. I also expected less people on that side, waht would make my afternoon even more relax. But like the project I work for, the reality is not exactly the plan.

View of the Garcilaso stadium from the area of San Blas

Just 20 meters from me there were two men shouting racist comments against the number 17 of Deportivo Garcilaso, a strong right back defender. Like these two men, he has two legs, two arms, but you can imagine he is black, what for some people (like these two stupid men) may be a reason to be insulted. I let 10 minutes pass by, but I could not resisit it any longer so I addressed one of these two men. I also asked a police man to intervene, instead of laughing their “jokes” and participate of the racist shouts from time to time. Apparently nobody in my surrounding (except a second police man of the 5 that were following the match there) seemed t0 share my frustration. If I did not know about sports I could just go to the other side of the stadium. I felt really incapable; was I the stupid white man who does noet want to understand and integrate into the local culture? I also thought of the many Peruvians around the world that must suffer discrimination in other places of the world. How would they feel if someone in Germany called their national star Claudio Pizarro Indio or chicha? I am also sure that these two men and the policeman would love to have an autograph of their other star Jefferson Farfan, a black Peruvian that sport has helped to escape of poverty. I left the stadium angry and thinking that, may be, instead of growing vegetables and building greenhouses I should do something about values and education. Or use that big fields in the stadium to grow vegetables? (read a past related post here).

The only positive thing out of the experience is that I had 45 minutes left in the afternoon, what I spent in a second training in that day… just to learn as much about sports as my fellow football watchers…


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It is short after midday; we have just had lunch in Ccapi and we travel by car towards Uyllullo, one of the two rural communities of this district where Chakana implements a food security project. It is my first visit to the field since I arrived to Cuzco two weeks ago, and in my mind it is the preoccupation of whether we will finish the project in the decided terms, perhaps because it is my main responsibility, but mainly because it is necessary that things come out well for this Andean community, far located from the rest of the world. Watching at the deep cliffs on the right hand of the road, I think of Sergio and Silvia, two friends who had an accident in these roads last year.

View from the road between Ccapi and Cuzco

After crossing a small river we encounter two ladies. One of them is riding a small pony that walked with great difficulty, and the other one hauling the pony as if the poor animal did not carry a tremendous weight on his back. Perhaps she was afraid that the pony escaped downhill, making that his precious load fell on the ground. Following the two ladies walks a kid of about twelve years, surely to make the pony return. They raise their arms as they see, asking us to stop.

–        Ladies, good afternoon, where are you heading?

–        We are leaving to Cusco, “ingeniero”. Can you bring us close to the main road?

–        Yes sure. What are you going to do in Cusco?

–        We are teachers in one of these communities. We have training in Cusco.

–        Training? … But, it is still Tuesday.

–        Yes, but we also have some arrangements to do in Cusco before the training. We are directors at the school; the rest of the teachers will travel tomorrow.

–        Oh, yes, I understand. Jump on the back of the pick-up.

Commenting this happening, Silvio, the leader of the community of Uyllullo, adds: “they always do the same; in the past the teachers lived in the community the whole month. But now it is no longer like that. Our children are left behind, sometimes they don´t even want to go to the school”. Another villager, who has been silent the whole drive, adds:  “the other day, they called to us to assembly of family parents. I attended in representation of my son, because he had to work in the ´chacra´. The teachers told us that they would be absent for a whole week. They had to send our children´s registrations to Lima, but internet was not working. Who is that internet, ingeniero, who does not want to receive the registration of our children? Because of that reason now the teachers have to be a whole week away and our children will have nobody to teach them”.

Inhabitant of Qehuayllu in front of his future vegetable garden

In his glance and his words one can read the loss of hope, while he takes some coca leaves out of a plastic bag and begins to chew, as if in each coca leaf he found forces to fight the abandonment of his community. “But hopefully now with this project you will take care of our necessities, ingeniero, because my community has been left by all the authorities of our district and of our province. We are the forgotten ones”.

Uyllullo, a forgotten community of 143 people that are only visited by the local authorities during electoral campaigns. Uyllullo, a forgotten community of 143 people who are descendants of Spaniaards who decided to stay in Peru after the war that leaded to the Peruvian Independence. Qehuayllo, a forgotten community of 172 people with sometimes no teachers but with a soccer field since 2010. The construction of this soccer field destroyed part of the irrigation system that was installed months before. “Why?” I dare to ask. Nobody had asked them whether they wanted that irrigation system, and what the irrigation system should be used for. Nobody had planned to integrate it with the development of new crops of vegetables.

Uyllullo and Qehuayllo, forgotten communities, soccer fields in exchange of votes.

View to the soccer field and the school of Qehuayllo

Uyllullo and Qehuayllo now have the enthusiasm of their young leaders, who promise to work together with the objective to come out ahead, to become a strong organization, to work in a united form, recovering their traditional “ayni”, their customs, their celebrations, their traditions. Uyllullo and Qehuayllo, no teachers, but new irrigation systems, new crops to feed their children and soccer field where we may gather to celebrate a new future.

Based on the original text Virgilio Paredes Ccasani, Agrarian technician of Chakana Perú.

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