Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Plain of the Bull

Pampa del Toro (Plain of the Bull) is one of many villages on the outskirts of the city of Tuman. The name dates back several hundred years when the area was a vast plain populated by domestic bulls. No more. The plain was long ago replaced by sugar cane fields, and the bulls by cows, burros, chickens, pigs and people. Pampa del Toro is not a pretty village, nor are its neighbors Miraflores and Acapulco. As is the case with most sugar cane villages, poverty is extreme and life is a struggle.

We were at Pampa del Toro this morning at the invitation of Cristina Cabrales(center right) and her daughter-in-law Rosani Delgado. Cristina is the ‘Mother Teresa’ of several villages. She acts as an intermediary between the villagers and authorities in Tuman; she mediates minor disputes, and every Monday she and friends walk through the villages inquiring about conditions and reading the bible with those who request it.

Cristina had assembled a large group of women in her home, many with children, to meet with us and tell us what life is like in Pampa del Toro. Each of them had a story to tell. Maribel filled many pages in her notebook, and later commented to me that she became depressed listening to some of these women and the conditions they’re facing. After general discussion a large group of women took us on a walking tour of their neighborhoods.

A typical Pampa del Toro street scene. Kids playing at the door (until we got too close and then they would run inside) and mothers peeking out from Windows. I never have understood why or how the men manage to disappear.

This is Nelly Herrera with her children inside their one-room home. Nelly has a job sweeping streets in Tuman. Her husband, like most husbands does not have a steady job. Steady jobs don’t exist in Peru…not in the outlands at least. A man earns a living by cutting sugar cane today, perhaps working on a construction project tomorrow, and maybe doing odd jobs the next day….if he’s lucky. That’s life in these villages…it’s day-to-day.

This is Jessica Saavedra in front of her home with her son Eduardo and daughter Olenka. Eduardo is epileptic and has recently been diagnosed with skin cancer. Olenka has an eye condition and is unable to attend school because of it. Health problems run rampant in settings like these. Often it’s the kids who are sick, and often nothing is being done about it. It’s not that these parents don’t love their kids…they do. The problem is they don’t see a solution, or don’t know how to look for a solution, or don’t have the resources for treatment so they do nothing. They often need someone like Cristina to take them by the hand and guide them.

Here is certainly one of the causes of health problem . This well and others like it are scattered throughout the communities. They are the only source of water. We were told that municipal water will soon be available after main connections are completed. That doesn’t mean that connections to the homes, which are the home owner’s responsibility will be made any time soon.

We had an unusual incident occur during our walking tour. I had noticed that a police vehicle had been following us wherever we went. Shortly after I entered Nelly's home to take photos, the truck pulled up in front of the house and one of the officers got out; approached the house and asked what we were doing. Cristina and Maribel were explaining when I asked if there was a problem. The officer said, “No, there is no problem, but we are very concerned about you (me) walking in this area, and especially showing your camera.” He went on to say, “There is much crime and drugs in this area, and too many young men with nothing to do.” Informed of our plans, he said he and the other officer would feel more comfortable if we would ride in the police vehicle while completing our tour.

And that’s what happened. A bunch of kids piled into the bed of the truck while Maribel and I road in the rear seat. Afterwards the officers drove us back to Christina’s home, and suggested that we call them if we return so they can escort us to insure our safety. Their action speaks well for the police. Unfortunately it doesn’t speak well for a segment of the community.

We do want to return to Pampa del Toro. We want to sponsor a medical campaign to help with the health issues, and would like to give the kids a Chocolatada (Christmas party) in December. Any donations to help us accomplish these goals would be appreciated. Please visit the Promesa Peru webpage if you are able to assist us with a donation. 

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