Creative Writing Major
International Development and Community Service in Peru
Summer I short-term, faculty-led
Over lunch, I finally worked up the courage to talk to my host mother about education. I told her that I was only asking because it was required for class. I was scared that approaching that subject would be offensive. I didn’t want her to think that I was judging her, or maybe dig up some long-buried insecurities. Fortunately, she was very open and receptive.
I found out that she is a nurse by trade, but works for the local transportation department and her husband, Pepe, has a degree in accounting. They are both well educated by all accounts.
I asked her about the education system in Urubamba, and I was disappointed to find out that it wasn’t very good. “They try,” she told me, “but there aren’t sufficient resources for the schools.” I decided to ask her if she was scared for her children’s future with a sub-par education. I only felt comfortable asking because she was so willing to talk to me. When our eyes met, I could see her pain and fears, but she sat in her chair, grounded. I could tell that she had no desire to leave or end the conversation. “Yes,” she finally said. Her oldest son, Marcelo, enjoys math and wants to be an engineer. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to get accepted to a university if you can’t speak English. He’s studying English and Quechua in school, but not a sufficient amount. It’s a strange
position for her to be in. If Marcelo becomes an engineer, he’ll have to work in Lima, most likely, since Urubamba doesn’t have that type of work, and those who get degrees rarely return to their hometowns. This slow loss of talent, Yance tells me, is making Urubamba a less desirable place to live. The influx of tourists is both good and bad. There is a stronger presence of drugs in the city now, and everything bad that comes with that.
When I asked her what she would change about Urubamba, the only thing she said was, “the corruption.” It runs deep in Latin America and you can see its effects in the faces of the people subjected to it. She spoke of the corruption like she had been defeated, given up; as if it were impossible to right the wrongs. A few days ago she told me that she would have to pay 5,000 soles under the table just to get accepted to the police academy. This corruption supports the cartels operating in the area, which attracts unsavory kinds of tourists. She has strong reservations about the “mochileros,” backpackers that are always passing through. There is no way to know their past or their intentions.
The future of Urubamba is yet to be seen, but she believes that the work ProPeru is doing is a good aspect of tourism in the area. She thinks that the difference for us is that the students who come here have genuine intentions to learn the culture. The villagers we are helping, according to Yance, have nothing. Some people still have thatched roofs and live near the snowline. In Chinchero, one of the villages we worked in, they received electricity for the first time just 5 years ago. How does it affect the development of the country as a whole to have a simultaneous battle for modernization and battle against the negative repercussions of modernization? The villagers are caught in the crossfire, and without an adequate education system, many of the youth may be sucked into a life of crime to support the cost of living in a modern world.