By Daniel Baptiste (Nexos Comunitarios)
This past Tuesday, myself, our director Maricarmen, and 7 interns from McGill and Carleton travelled to the community of Cuncani. To get to Cuncani we woke up at 5am and took two different buses for about 3 hours from our home base in Urubamba, (the village in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, where we are based), to Lares, a remote village high up in the Andes. From Lares we walked for 4 hours, largely uphill, higher and higher into the High Andes at altitudes often exceeding 3,800 meters (12,500 feet) above sea level. The hike was far from easy, despite the extreme beauty of the rugged mountain peaks, and green fields teaming with wistful llamas and alpacas, most of our team was panting within 10 minutes of beginning the hike. Those who know me know that I am no stranger to hyperbole, so I will avoid characterising this hike as the most physically strenuous challenge I’ve ever put on my body. That said at those altitudes the thinness of the air makes even a short stroll feel more like a triathlon. Nevertheless, in the end we made it to Cuncani.
It was my first visit to Cuncani. As a coordinator with Nexos Comunitarios I was pleased to know that it certainly wouldn’t be my last. It was first time seeing the splendid green peaks that tower above the community. My first time hearing the locals proudly speaking their ancient and complex Andean Quechua language. It is difficult for me to understand how people can look down on these proud descendants of the Incas. How racism and inequality can still be so present not only in Peru, but all over our beautiful diverse world. I was fascinated by the traditional clothing, so well adapted to Cuncani’s unique high altitude environment. I was also enchanted by the energy of the children, some shy and reserved others embodying the effervescence of youth, if tempered somewhat by malnourishment.
The more I travel the more I realise that not only is every culture interesting, but every culture has something to offer to the world. Every human is fundamentally the same. That wealth is an artificial construct, which separates humans from each other. Unfortunately, racism, and economic inequality often make stalwart barrier to the realisation of a better world.
On June 3rd, our community will be walking from Urubamba to Cuncani. This will take up to 12 hours and will bring us to altitudes nearing 5,000 meters above sea level (well over 16,000 feet). We are doing this for two reasons: to show the community, and that world that the Ain’t no mountain high enough to stop us from fulfilling our commitment to partnering with communities like Cuncani, as equals to help promote Responsible Human Development, and meaningful cultural exchanges. We do not work in Cuncani to ‘fix the community’, or to ‘teach the locals’. In reality they have far more to teach us then we can teach them. Nevertheless, the issue of malnutrition persists. I proposed the idea of crowdfunding this project because I see it as a way to both bridge and conserve what I see to be Cuncani’s splendid isolation. To help the community with out imposing mass tourism our rapid uncontrollable change. Please take a look at our campaign, here. Just reading about the issues in Cuncani can help spread awareness about the Andean microcosms we work it. If you feel like contributing, even the tiniest contribution can help us to reach our fundraising goal.