The town of San Salvador sits atop one of many Andean mountains that surround Cochabamba. As our trufi ascended up the windy, bumpy dirt roads, the dust gave way to the hazy glimmer of city lights. My eyes stayed glued to the lightshow, until we arrived at the community center where we were staying. While it was a town with a view, it was a town without water.
This lack of water is not uncommon in the region. Despite Cochabambinos’ triumph over the privitization of the city’s water system in the famous Cochabamba Water Wars, there is still a lack of readily available water in homes. This is especially true in the five year old neighborhood of San Salvador. To combat the problem, the residents of San Salvador resolved to build a cistern.
We arrived late at night. After setting up our sleeping bags on the floor and eating a quick take-out dinner, we fell straight asleep, preparing for our next four days of assisting with the construction of the cistern.
The next day, we set straight out after breakfast, ready to help where we could. Upon our arrival to the construction site, there were various members of the community already well situated: the community leader, various members of the community partaking in the labor, and even eager little five-year-old Bryan. While we worked in the site, the women of the community led by Doña Edoña were preparing our lunch, and later our dinner. After the first day’s work, we gathered with the community members to do a q’oa as a symbol of gratitude to Pachamama, or “Mother Earth,” for using the land.
We had not been here a month yet, but we already had the opportunity to engage with a young community with a strong sense of autonomy. Perhaps community doesn’t come with time, but from the initiative of its members.