Tomorrow at 9:00am we are heading towards Sacsamarca, Gisela said, who is the office administrator of the Equipo Peruano de Antropologia Forense (EPAF). As the sun was shining the next morning, we put our luggage in the microbus and headed towards Sacsamarca. Although I was excited to explore new regions of Peru, I did not know that the day would be so eventful.
Sacsamarca is four and half hours from Hualla, the province of Ayacucho where we spent the last four days. After two and half hours of driving, we reached the community of Carhuamayo, which is 4,500 meters above the sea level. We stopped in front of a school, and Gisela invited us to visit it. The school was very small without proper light and heating system. The walls had many posts. Some of them had the alphabet, others the Spanish grammar, and others had the numbers.
Gisela introduced us to the teacher, and to the ten students who aged between five and twelve years. Looking at them, I noticed their great needs. Talking with the professor, he said that the children need clothes, winter shoes, and proper nutrition. He also said that in three days it is going to snow, which will cause the temperature to go down, and they are not prepared for it. Additionally, the school needs a heating system to be installed. With tears in his eyes, he said, “the government forgot about us, no one is visiting us, we need help, these children need help.” After distributing the school supplies that Gisela brought, and some chocolate, we left.
On the way to Sacsamarca, the images of those children stick in my mind. Although the temperature was very low, and some of the children did not have sacks on their feet, they were eager to learn how to read and write. I committed myself to buy winter shoes and clothes and ship to them as soon as I will get back to Lima.
After forty minutes of driving, we arrived at Putaccasa where we had lunch. During the lunch, I was introduced to Hector, a local man who grows alpacas. After telling him about the income generation project that The Advocacy Project wants to do in partnership with EPAF, I asked him the possibility to have a meeting with all people in the area who grow alpacas. We agreed to have the meeting in two says at 8:00am. After saying goodbye, we continued our travel towards Sacsamarca.
We were twenty minutes away from Sacsamarca when I observed a group of people in the middle of the road. As we approached them, I noticed that about twenty-five women were holding posts with different slogans protesting against a multinational corporation that was nearby. The protesters said that nobody is allowed to pass. “We are protesting against this company, which contaminates the air that affects our lives.”
Then, I asked where were their husbands. They began to laugh and told me, “ buen chiste Gringo,” nice joke Gringo, a common name used to call white people in Latin America. I said that I did not mean that they were all widow, but I wanted to know. They told me that their men are coming soon.
Walking a short distance from the protesting site, I could see Sacsamarca located in a valley surrounded by the Andes. While I was enjoying the picturesque panorama, I observed a truck full of people coming towards the protesting site. Behind the truck I could see a big cloud of dust, and at that moment, I understood the reason these women were protesting.
After approximately fifteen minutes, the truck reached the place where the women were. About forty men, old and young, jumped down from the truck. Then, the driver parked the truck in the diagonal of the road that no car could pass. I approached the group and was told that no one is going to pass until they reach an agreement with the company. They were protesting against the pollution that the company was creating. Because it was a dusty road, the daily traffic of tracks coming to the company were creating dust which affected the lives of people in the area, and the animals which were pastoring.
We realized that the protest was not going to finish soon because people came prepared to stay many days. In fact, some of them brought pots to cook the food. After two hours of waiting, we decided to go back to Hualla. On the one hand, I was angry because we drove four hours and fifteen minutes in a dirty road, and now we were not allowed to pass. But on the other hand, these people were standing for something that was right. In fact, companies earn millions of dollars at the expense of the poor people.
On the way back, as we were reaching the altitude, the sun began to hide behind the clouds. It began to rain and then to snow. As we were driving, I heard an unusual sound at the rear part of the microbus. This is a flat tire, I thought. I did not say aloud because I did not want to crate panic. If he is a good driver, he will notice immediately because besides the noise that a flat tire makes, the engine power decreases when driving with a flat tire.
After a few minutes, the driver stopped and checked the tires. I was right! There was a flat tire. Changing a flat tire at 4,500 meters altitude in a cold weather, and a muddy road, is not a pleasant experience. Fabio, the driver, immediately took the keys and was ready to change the tire. I jumped from the car, I rolled my sleeves, and I went to help him. After thirty minutes of struggle, we changed the tire, and continued our travel to Hualla.
About at 9:00pm, we reached Hualla. Everybody was tired and ready to rest. Tomorrow we are going to use other route to reach Sacsamarca, Gisela said. The next morning we embarked again in the microbus, and we chose the route towards Huancapi, which led us to Sacsamarca without any incident.
Posted By Daniel Prelipcian (Peru)
Posted Jul 4th, 2016