Tuesday, October 22, 2013

More about the Village of La Raya

La Raya is an interesting village primarily because of its history and location. There’s more to say about it than was written in our original post, but before we do that…we’d like to report that as of this writing we’ve received donations of $160 toward the building of a new house for Luzmila and her girls. That’s already 10% of our goal. Also, several Chiclayanos have come forward with offers of food for Luzmila and medicines for the clinic. Hopefully we’ve got some momentum building. If you have a few dollars to spare please visit the Promesa Peru web page to donate. Okay; back to La Raya.

This is an aerial view of a small portion of the Lambayeque Valley. In the upper left corner is a part of the city of Tùcume. To the right in the center of what looks like a large white circle is Purgatory Mountain. The village of La Raya is the long, narrow strip of dwellings to the right of the mountain. The mountain is surrounded by 26 pyramids and mounds. The outline of many of them is visible in the photo. Some of those sites are under active excavation…others have deteriorated and been lost to time. 

These cows are grazing atop what may have once been a royal tomb or majestic pyramid rising hundreds of feet into the air. There is an excellent English language article discussing the history of the pyramids here.

Modern day residents of the area including La Raya are mostly indifferent to the pyramid complex and its historical significance. There is a site museum, but tourists are few and little to no income is generated by the ruins. In fact some residents in La Raya resent the ruins, because the area was declared an official historical site not too many years ago, which means land use including new construction is strictly governed. Residents also claim that the historical designation is used as an excuse by government agencies to ignore their needs. While there may be some truth to that, it can’t be denied that La Raya has a modern medical clinic staffed by a full-time doctor, and an impressive school… two advantages that many larger villages don’t have.

And speaking of the school, we were impressed with the vision and candor of the teachers we met. They voiced the opinion that there are some aspects of Peruvian culture/customs that need to change. They hope someday to have the electronic equipment to “…show educational videos to the students and residents about hygiene, trash disposal, nutrition and respect for the environment.”

I took this photo as we were leaving the school grounds. Shortly after, the woman holding the plastic jug asked Maribel if people in the United States would see the picture. When told that people in many countries of the world would see the photo she seemed momentarily stunned, but when Maribel asked her if there was anything she wanted us to say to the people who would see the photo, she quickly recovered and holding up her jug said, “Tell them I sell chicha!” So someday if you happen to be in La Raya, look her up. She sells chicha! For those who aren’t familiar with chicha, in our area of Peru chicha is a beverage made from boiled ground yellow corn to which sugar is added. It’s a refreshing drink sort of like lemonade, however if it sits awhile it ferments, and then you’ve got an alcoholic beverage with a wallop to it.  The making and selling of chicha is an activity common to many women in small villages.

Agriculture in the form of rice, sugarcane and corn is the area’s economic base, though there are also small scale industries including broom making and adobe brick manufacture. Adobe brick is the primary material Luzmila’s house will be built of. It is easy and inexpensive to make and will last for many years. If protected with a coat of plaster it could last a lifetime.

Many of La Raya’s residents also have a fair number of goats and pigs, which they sell when money is needed or keep for personal use. Nobody is wealthy in la Raya, but people seem generally content with their lives. We’re looking forward to our next visit.

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