“…it’s a miserable town and a nowhere town and I am leaving this town.” Those are some of the lyrics from an old Frank Sinatra song that were going through my mind as we walked the main street of this Morrope District village. The village straddles one of the busiest roads in the district, which could excuse some of the paper, plastic bags, banana peels and other trash lining the street, but not the fish intestines and other garbage that had been thrown into the road from the houses, or the rubble that seemed to have been randomly dumped and become part of the landscape in front of many buildings.
Morrope is one of the poorest districts in the Lambayeque Region and is statistically categorized as being in extreme poverty. We can understand private property not being in like-new condition, but being poor doesn’t need to equate to being slovenly. We have seen many poor villages where individual and community pride is evident…where streets and public and private property are free of trash, and are maintained to the best of the owners ability. That’s not the case in this village, where to an outside observer it almost appears that the community is deliberately making the statement …”we don’t give a damn.”
This is one of two primary schools in the village. A kinder occupies the far end. The remainder of the building has classrooms for first and second grades. The building has been freshly painted, but don’t credit the community for that initiative. The Minister of Education in the Lambayeque Region has mandated and provided the money to paint every public kinder, primary and secondary school in the region. And they must be painted pink as opposed to the historic maroon.
Out of view behind the kinder is a pile of adobe bricks. Several years ago the school director asked for a wall to be built to prevent the younger kids from playing in the road. Some of the families donated bricks that are now slowly disappearing and disintegrating because, at least in the opinion of one man, the director and parent’s association don’t care enough to get the wall built.
There was no staff present on this day at either of the primary schools which is a little unusual given that schools officially open March 2nd, but in fairness we should say that while peering into a school window we saw chairs and tables neatly stacked, and storage cabinets that seemed to be well stocked and organized. What did seem strange was that villagers on the street didn’t seem to know much about the schools or the staff. In most villages we’ve visited the school and staff plays a central role in community life.
Perhaps it was the two days of rain that dampened people's spirits, but the usual small village friendliness we'd come to expect wasn't there. For the most part we were ignored, except by the woman who apparently assumed I had come to the village for the express purpose of posing for a gringo souvenir photo with every single member of her family. It took about an hour for that smile to disappear.