Reflecting on Peru
Heading toward Bolivia land stretches out around us. Unfinished roofless houses line the roads and women sit on heaps of dirt piled by the side of the road, colorful trash scattered about them as if fragments of their traditional dress clashing with modern times and new challenges. Machupicchu didn´t feel like a ruin in its grandeur and polished nature and yet the communities in Queros didn´t seem like decendents of royalty either, at least not in the way they lived. But perhaps that´s because of a hard life more than anything else, because of the need to sustain themselves. But in the simplicity of how they lived in the way of the Inca day to day, there was an ingeniousness found in it. Of a bent pipe to blow through to strengthen the fire or the flat stones that sat within every house to rock another against to grind chuño. There is such beautility in it, in how we connect with the world.
We sit on colorful blankets in the shade with late golden light stretching out around us and a breeze that raises goosebumps. Valentina talks of land needs, cultural needs really, to sustain the land. Her children play somewhere in the Chakra among the trees, happy and free, wise connected to their roots. She talks of the land with the same verb one uses to raise children, because it is understood that land needs to be nurtured and that those who care for it are in turn cared for. As she speaks of the divides education creates here, I cannot help but think of Queros and of Quinoa. The obligations education creates to find a ¨better¨more modern way of life. What is important changes and to protect the old ways of life, the traditions you need to be able to understand how the world of the city and lawyers and laws work. But to do this first you must leave to learn it. And as fewer people return to Queros to defend and live that way it is slowly degraded. Just like the Quinoa fields that are planted by city dwellers who still hold onto their land for its security, but leave it to grow on its own, uncared for. These places are being degraded as people are no longer a part of the land, no longer connected in the same ways. Because we have found that we can buy food instead of growing it ourselves. But we forget that 70 percent of the worlds food is grown by peasants, people of the countryside. In this way as quinoa comes into the spotlight its profitability further divides people, and makes it easier for the government to justify supplying farmers with tractors. However in the vertical environment of the mountains here, we must be careful of this modernization. For as Valentina says, ït is not that tecnology is bad, the Incas had amazing tecnology, but its about how we use it. Everything is connected, every action is part of something greater. ¨
As we enter El Alto, Bolivia, colorful words are sprayed across the walls saying ¨mi ciudad esta cambiando¨ (my city is changing). Mateo says it´s for the better. I hope somewhere in the middle between past and present, Machu Picchu and Queros, the mountains of plastic bottles in Aguas calientes and the sign in front about reducing, reusing and recycling there is a middle ground. Like what I saw in the magic of the balck and white photos in the museums of the first encounter with Machupicchu, overgrown, preserved but worn.