Faustos arrives punctually at the arranged time (a miracle in Peru!) to pick me up for our visit up country. I am not sure what to expect but soon find out that we are traveling to a village called Samana in the Socos district of Ayacucho. Faustos does not have a car so he negotiates with several taxis until we find one willing to take us up the mountain for a reasonable price.
The trip up the mountain is simply breathtaking and, if possible, even more beautiful than the one to Huana. Up and up we travel passing green pastures and waxing crops until we reach a village called Samana
We park the car and climb another hundred metres or so uphill where a group of women is clustered, working on a variety of handicraft products. Faustos and I are greeted warmly. The group leader, Esther, points for us to sit down on two low rattan chairs covered with colourful cloths.
We sit down and start the conversation. Well, sort of. The women only speak Quechua ('qheswa'), the native language (or regional variants thereof) spoken by between 6 and 13 million indigenous people (estimates vary widely) throughout the South American Andes. Quechua was the official language of the Inca Empire. Faustos ~ speaking both Spanish and Quechua, but no English ~ is my translator. I understand Spanish reasonably well, but have limited speaking ability. Good thing I've come prepared with a list of questions in Spanish ~ the setup works surprisingly well.
The women talk about how life has changed for them since they became part of the Hilos & Colores Association, which also includes villages in other locations. Many of these women are single mothers and victims of violence and abuse by their former partners. They speak about life being more stable, more dynamic, of food security now that they have a regular income and of a possible future for their children. One of those children, a ten-year-old girl is sitting working with the women. Her mother 'esta enferma' (is unwell) and she has taken it upon herself to work on behalf of her mother to maintain their income stream.
|Esther, Group Leader|
I am touched by the strong community spirit, social support and simplicity of their life. Some of the women have mobile phones, but the signal up the mountain isn't strong so they don't get much of an opportunity to use them and clearly there is no computer connectivity. The 10-year old says she has used computers in school (in a neighbouring village) but nobody else has.
We talk about their dreams for the future. I ask the 10-year old. She is reluctant to answer, but eventually says she wants to become a computer scientist. One woman gets up and says that despite the fact that things are a lot better now, she has great fear for her children's future because of climate change. The area has been experiencing drought and crops are ailing. If they can no longer grow their own food, conditions in the village will rapidly decline. I am reminded of Bangladesh and the lack of income the women farmers experience a large part of the year. I am also reminded never to underestimate rural women. They are au fait with global conditions and they know what they want and need.
Faustos says it's time to go and I reluctantly say goodbye to this great group of women. On the way home Faustos and I talk about the work with the Hilos & Colores Association. He is a true social entrepreneur ~ much more concerned about the welfare of the women than profit, although he and his wife run a high quality boutique and sell well through trade shows. He does some direct export but isn't interested in working with Peru's governmental export body as the focus is solely commercial. I am impressed with his dedication and feel like I've been in touch with real life in rural Peru.
My days in Ayacucho have been packed with great experiences and it's time to head to the bus station. True to her word, Tania is there waiting for me with the video (which I have had no luck uploading due to lack of bandwidth) and after the usual kisses from her and her sidekick, I board the bus for the 10-hr ride back to Lima.