Sunday, June 24, 2012

Little Blogging Gets Done in the Peruvian Sierra

I've just arrived back in Arequipa after more than two weeks in Cabanaconde and am suffering from mild culture shock, mainly in the sense of having to remember that in the city you do not salute every person you pass in the street with a "buenos días" or "buenas tardes".

So far, I 've managed to post even less frequently than I thought I would during this trip. It's a combination of a lack of adequate internet access in Cabanaconde and being extremely busy   I'm going to have to make do with a brief summary of what I've done so far.

I've spent quite a lot of time just soaking up the daily life in Cabanaconde and  I've participated in a number of aspects of village life, from a baptism and a syncretic ceremony involving tying flowers to a cross on top of a hill to working in the chacras (fields) in several different activities. The latter is incredibly hard work, partly owing to the nature of the work itself and partly to the fierceness of the sun. So far, I've observed and participated in the harvest, cutting the maize transporting it both by truck and by donkey (the former harder work, details in another post); I've also learnt something about the irrigation system and the barbecho (ploughing or tilling). The next big phase is the siembra (planting), which begins in August. I will aim to provide a more detailed description of the maize cultivation cycle in another post. For now, a gratuitous picture below.

I've made some quite good progress with a project to link tourism more closely with local people/local life through an alternative where tourists can make a visit to the countryside with local farmers and a local guide. I've made several appearances at community meetings to explain the concept, have organised my own meeting, and have established a "support committee" of two local people who will hopefully take over and run the whole thing when I leave. We've signed up about 25 people to participate and have obtained the support of the local mayor to develop a pamphlet and other publicity. I've set up a dedicated email address, web page and facebook page. Will post the links when they're a little further advanced.

At the other end of the spectrum , I spent a few days in Lima with a Peruvian colleague interviewing some functionaries from the Viceministry of Tourism for a book chapter we are (supposed to be) writing. I also attended a regional workshop in Arequipa run by the Viceministry of Tourism to update and revise the PENTUR (national tourism strategy).

Finally, with some local contacts in the regional government and a local NGO, we've developed some ideas for a couple of research projects that I'm quite excited about