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Photo by Tom Pablo, South America Semester.

Changes in Q’eros

In Q’eros our guide, Siwar told us his story, told us how things had changed in his homeland. 40 years ago there was no spaghetti or rice to put in that night’s soup. There was not even salt. Chuño or freeze dried potatoes, and the potatoes themselves were the only ingredients. There was no access to the city, nobody wearing Nike pants or Abercrombie sweatshirts like there are now. Only hand woven tejidos in bright patterns. Siwar remembers fewer illnesses, longer lives, a people connected to the mountains. At one point there were 5000 people in Nacion Q’eros,now the children are leaving to go to the city. The white apus (mountains) are turning black as the planet warms.

30 years ago when Siwar was the leader of Q’eros, the Nacion decided to open the community slightly, finding no other option in the growing world. At first they receive more government aid and more teachers but recently they have been seeing the more negative effects of this modernization. Siwar wonders if they can sustain staying in their beautiful home, or if it is better to join modern life and change everything.

But as Siwar says, “Somos hijos y hijas de la tierra y las montañas, nos cuidan y también cuidamos por las montañas.” I find it hard to think of these people ever being apart from this place. As resilient as they are they will find a way. The mountains here are giant, lonely and rugged. For all but the people that live here that is. Pachamama loves them because they loved her first, and when she dumped snow or rain or wind on them they persisted with purpose. There is something indescribable about the way they live, feet in sandals completely frozen but also in rainbow colored skirts and hats. They live their lives so full, so much fuller than the people running around at work with their cell phones out, brain not entirely present constantly comparing. They do not know how exceptional they are.

After leaving Qeros I do not want to go forward with a greater sense of privilege because after all they live weller, fuller than me. It is the most difficult thing because these people deserve everything, and everything in me wants them to have that; more educated, warmer, with hot showers, and fluffy pillows. But why is this everything? Whos to say that they do not already have it all? What do THEY want?