Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Village of El Horcòn

A ‘horcòn’ is a sturdy forked tree limb used to support a horizontal beam...usually a log. The term implies strength and the ability and willingness to ‘carry the load’. There is a horcòn to the left in this photo. Whatever it once supported is no longer there. Sometime long ago this tiny little village was christened with that grandiose appellation. No one we spoke with could tell us when or why.

El Horcòn and other near-by caserios sit in the middle of corn country. I’ve never understood why, when traveling around the Lambayeque Region I can be surrounded by sugar cane fields, and then 20 minutes later rice paddies dominate, and then change 30 minutes later to a different crop. With the many rivers in the region it seems that irrigation opportunities are equal, and I see no difference in drainage or the soil. Anyway, I assume that corn is the reason that cows, goats, pigs, turkeys, ducks and chickens running free in the village streets outnumber the people.  

One distinguishing feature El Horcòn has is what remains of an ancient Moche temple.  A thousand years ago it was probably the site of extravagant ceremonies with Moche nobility and religious practitioners in attendance. These days it’s the domain of pigs and goats.

El Horcòn is not picturesque by any definition. It is typical of most (not all) caserios that appearance doesn’t count for much. If there are rocks, bricks, the remains of a collapsed mud hut and other rubble in the streets…so what…who cares? Interiors are clean, organized and maintained to the best of the owner’s ability. Outside appearances don’t matter.  

That same thinking applies to primary school I.E.10800. Judging from the exterior we expected to see malnourished kids in breechcloths scribbling their school assignments on the floor with pieces of charcoal. That’s not the way it is at all. When you step into the school you leave the village behind. 

Victor Chavez is the school’s director. He has been there 8 years. He and his staff of 5 have a progressive ‘can do’ collective attitude that is reflected in the physical condition of the classrooms and the enthusiasm of the students. Notice the huge whiteboard on the wall behind him. It’s really not a whiteboard in the classic sense. There is no hardwood frame, metal trim or rails to hold markers and erasers. It is a thin sheet of acrylic laminate screwed directly to the wall. Every year each school is given a small amount of money to be used toward maintenance or improvement. This year Victor used his money to buy the acrylic sheets. The sheets were also used to refurbish the table tops the kids are sitting at. The same improvements were made to each of the 6 classrooms.

Our biggest surprise occurred when Victor escorted us to the computer education classroom. There were 12 computers, and each looked like they had just come out of the box. In 2010 during the administration of Alan Garcìa a program was implemented to put computers into every primary school in Peru. The program was reportedly completed the following year. This is the first time in all of our school visits that we have seen these computers or even heard them mentioned. I can only assume that during the past 3 years the computers in other primary schools have either been stolen or stopped working and were disposed of, and yet here were 12 computers looking as if they’d just been issued. El Horcòn does not have internet access, and even if it did it is doubtful that the school or parent’s association could afford the monthly cost. Applications on the computers included Wikipedia, math, language and writing programs.  

Another condition that caught my attention was the windows. All of the classrooms and administrative offices have windows facing the interior schoolyard and in the exterior wall. Of all the hundreds of glass panels, not one was broken or missing. We have never seen that before in any primary or secondary school.  

The only problem Victor has is identical to one that we recently resolved at the school in Tùcume Viejo…he has government donated food but no cooking equipment. At present lunch is prepared in individual parent’s homes and carried to the school. The problem is that the time is not coordinated and occasionally mothers do not show up causing the child to go home to find out what happened.

We’d like to supply the school with 2 pots, 1 pan and two skimmers. That would be about $100. The problem is we’re broke. We blew the budget last week in Tùcume Viejo and Payesa. If you can help us please visit the Promesa Peru webpage. We’d appreciate it.


  1. Wonderful and informative post.

    1. Thanks Linda....I'm always glad to hear that someone found a post worth reading.

  2. I think your post are worth reading.