Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sugar Cane Towns

To my knowledge there are five sugar cane factories in the Lambayeque Region. Four of them are cooperatives located in Cayalti, Pomalca, Pucula and Tuman. The fifth is privately owned by Azucarera Del Norte SAC and is located on the route between Chiclayo and FerreƱafe.

Sugar cane towns share a common appearance and purpose. Those we’ve visited resemble raw frontier towns that exist solely to support the factory by providing labor and whatever else is needed. There are no malls, cinemas, chain stores or other niceties. Thick dust on dirt streets is constantly kept airborne by trucks hauling cane to the factories. There is usually no attempt at esthetics either collectively or individually, as if surrender to the desert’s constant onslaught had taken place long ago. An exception we saw yesterday is the town of Pucula.

The center of Pucula adjacent to the factory is as described above, but on the fringe where houses abruptly end and cane fields begin we saw an orderliness and cleanliness lacking in the city center and other towns. There is no liter in the streets. Many of the houses are freshly painted. Beautiful flower gardens butt up against attractive verandas. In talking with some of the residents we found there is a feeling of individual and neighborhood pride.

One woman we spoke with said she had lived in the same house for 49 years and that she and her neighbors have always tried to keep their area “limpio y tranquilo” (clean and quiet). She said that in December they erect a nativity scene in a small square surrounded by their houses and invited us to come back to see it.

We have no idea why these pockets of neighborhood pride exist in Pucula and not in the other towns. It’s not likely that these folks are better off financially. Perhaps we can learn more when we return in December.


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