I'm afraid this blog has been a bit of a disappointment lately, given that when in Peru I usually churn out posts fairly regularly. I've headed up and started posts on the following: the serendipity method of social research; first impressions of Sibayo and the upper Colca Valley; the peculiar style of public conferences in provincial Peru; and the complex problem of informal mining, which with its contradictory relationships to Peruvian social, cultural and economic issues, would be worthy of at least a PhD thesis.
Obviously, however, none of these have been finished: I've spent long periods away from reasonable internet and computer access, and when in Arequipa have had to prioritise transcribing what I can from my notebook and giving a helping hand to Hugo and Lizbeth with translations and various other things. I've been back and forth between the Colca Valley and Arequipa several times in the last couple of weeks. In the last week of April I was in Chivay attending a conference on "The Municipal Management of Tourism", which was very enlightening as well as partly frustrating, and deserves its own blog post.
Tonight I'm heading to Cuzco to help guide the Salkantay trek with Gelmond (a favour to Hugo), and in the next couple of weeks may have to go to Lima, as well as leaving the country before the 17th of June to comply with immigration requirements (I will go briefly to Bolivia or Chile and come back after a couple of days). In addition, we now have a pretty firm date to go to Ampato -- the 28th to the 30th of May.
With these various movements, not only will I have very little time for blogging, but I'm beginning to get slightly anxious about my research schedule. I have done reasonably well in relation the institutional perspective and Cabanaconde, not so well with regard to the ethnographic approach and Sibayo / the upper valley. It's easy to get distracted here, and not always easy to distinguish between genuine slacking off, and necessary maintenance of friendship links, which are ultimately the most valuable means of obtaining insights in a foreign culture.
So, for now, all I can offer is a couple more photos from a day last week in Cabanaconde when I went to help harvest corn with a couple of local acquaintances, Liliana, and her mother Señor Prudencia.
The chacras (fields) were about 40 minutes walk from the village (like most villagers, Señora Prudencia has several other chacras scattered around other sectors of the Cabanaconde campiña). There were four guys working; all of them migrant labour from Chivay and the upper valley, and they were paid in corn. I and Mateo, a French guy who is staying in Cabanaconde, also put in a few decent hours and helped clear the fields, and we also received a quota of corn for our troubles. Mine is currently outside on the terrace here in Arequipa drying in the sun, waiting to be degrained and turned into canchita, toasted corn kernels which are exceedingly popular here and can accompany almost any meal. Corn from Cabanaconde, maiz cabanita, is fully organic and is considered by many to be the best in all of Peru.
The first photo is at lunchtime; I'm sitting next to the Señor Prudencia, while Mateo, is seated on the rock with his dog Chewbacca (long story, another time). In the second, I'm carrying my corn back to Cabanaconde in the lliclla (woven blanket used by local people to carry everything from potatoes to babies; men wear it slung over a shoulder as I have in the picture; women over both shoulders with the weight thus falling in the middle of the back, which strikes me as more practical. )