Far Reaching Dreams in the Mapacho River Valley
When we ask Andean families, and specifically parents, what they want and what they envision for their children’s future, the most common answer we get is “we want them to be professionals; we want them to receive an education so that they may have a better life while helping their family and community.” In direct answer to this collective goal, Mosqoy’s mission is precisely to provide access to higher education to indigenous youth leaders from rural communities in Peru. Mosqoy started seven years ago, working only with students from the Ollantaytambo district in the Sacred Valley. It has since expanded to work with students from various other communities in the Sacred Valley and, most notably, with students from the Mapacho River Valley, which is the last valley before the Andes Mountains slope downward to become the great Amazon rainforest. The Mapacho River Valley communities are so isolated that some of them have never seen a foreigner that does not arrive for work with either Mosqoy or its textile partner organization, Q’ente, and this isolation is a large barrier for students to access higher education. In no other place where Mosqoy works is the need for its programs so apparent and so great, and in no other place have I, as a Mosqoy volunteer, had such a spectacular and unforgettable experience. The following is a brief account of Mosqoy’s Mapacho River Valley visit, and an explanation of what it means for Casa Mosqoy to welcome students from these rural, indigenous communities.
I travelled to the Mapacho River Valley with a group of Mosqoy and Q’ente volunteers, and a Mosqoy student who joined as translator for Q’ente meetings with weaving associations. The group set out from Cusco on a Wednesday, and after an overnight stay in Calca, began a slow and steady ascent in a three hour bus ride over a mountain pass at 4300 meters above sea level. After 75 kilometers of winding roads, we reached the second mountain pass, where, at 4000 meters, we began our three day walking tour of three communities in the Mapacho River Valley. Mosqoy’s objective was to visit the homes of the two youth from Parobamba (our first destination in the trip) who had been pre-selected to participate in the selection process that this year awards eight scholarships for the most promising and committed students. These students have the opportunity to join Nataly, Mosqoy’s first ever student from the Mapacho River Valley, who will begin her Mosqoy career this March. After the Parobamba visit, Mosqoy Andean Youth Program manager, Kristina, would return to Cusco to continue with her administrative duties, while I joined the Q’ente group in the remaining communities to assist in the weaving association meetings, and discuss details about Mosqoy’s Kallpa K’oj (community service) program with those associations (Learn more about Kallpa K’oj at: http://mosqoy.org/kallpa-koj/).
From the 4000 meter mountain pass, we began a 3 hour descent towards Parobamba, at 3300 meters, amidst a thick and refreshing fog, so thick at times that we could barely see 10 meters ahead, yet kind enough to periodically disperse, allowing us to marvel at the beauty of the valley below. Once in Parobamba, we visited Luz and Melchor’s homes, met their families, and talked about their dreams and determination, and about Mosqoy’s responsibilities regarding the support we provide for students through the Andean Youth Program. These home visits are an essential part of Mosqoy’s selection process. The visits allow us to learn about and experience the students’ family background and lifestyle, while assessing the families’ economic situation to ensure that Mosqoy indeed provides assistance to those with the greatest need. After our conversations with the families over afternoon tea, the group set in for a night’s rest anticipating the tiring, yet incredibly rewarding activities of the following day. The night was magical. Illuminated by a full moon behind the clouds, we could see in the distance the movement of the fog through the valley, making its way like a river of clouds, which we were fortunate enough to see from our look out spot on the balcony. We were above the clouds, flowing with their rhythm and sounds into the night, still in awe at the beauty and magnificence of this valley, and wondering if we would be able to match them in our forthcoming dreams.
The Q’ente meeting in Bombon, the second community we visited, was at nine the next morning and a three hour hike away. After a nutritious breakfast, we began our ascent to 3400 meters in a dense fog; undeniable evidence that we were just a mountain pass away from the cloud forests of the Amazon, the most bio-diverse place on Earth. The road to Bombon was full of landslides, making us wonder how long ago the last car travelled from Parobamba to Bombon. We luckily reached Bombon just before a torrential rain added to the already humid atmosphere, and conducted the Q’ente-Bombon weaving association meeting, where, among other subjects, we discussed the upcoming Kallpa K’oj projects. Mosqoy students had previously helped build a textile center in Bombon, and the community is interested in employing Mosqoy’s help to finish construction before the rains cause irreparable damage. Shortly after the meeting, and after waiting for a fruit truck that was supposed to take us to the next town and never showed up, we again set out on a four hour hike to Pitukiska, our last stop on the trip.
This hike entailed a constant uphill trek to a 3900 meter pass, again over multiple landslides and with only three sightings of fellow human beings, before a short descent towards the community located at 3700 meters. By far the most challenging part of the trip, this hike was also incredibly rewarding, as it allowed the two Q’ente volunteers, the Mosqoy student, and myself to bond and build a truly special friendship. Equally important, this hike would take us to a paradise above the clouds, a small community where Spanish is hardly spoken, and where the mountains, clouds, and the multiple rivers that flow down the steep slopes fuse together to create an unimaginable panorama. Without power, an only with the heat from the traditional wood oven to prepare our dinner and keep us warm, we bonded with the family who welcomed us and set in for the night next to an egg laying duck and sheep and alpaca skins set out to dry. The following morning, we held an early meeting with the Pitukiska weavers, and discussed the Spanish lessons that they requested from Mosqoy’s Kallpa K’oj program. After rejoicing one last time with the community’s physical beauty and emotional peace and warmth, we began our seven hour trip back to Cusco. We hiked up towards the 4000 meter pass, running up the last 100 meters and down another 100 in order to catch a cargo truck to drive us to the next town, Amparaes, where we would find transportation back to Calca, and finally back to Cusco.
This Mapacho River Valley trip was an opportunity for us volunteers to travel to and discover a very remote location that very few foreigners get to experience. It was an opportunity to bond as a group, to meet new people and build new friendships, and to see first-hand the need for and the benefits of Mosqoy’s and Q’ente’s programs. For Mosqoy students like Nataly and the two new Parobamba applicants, Mosqoy presents an invaluable opportunity to receive a higher education, which they would not receive otherwise. By providing the necessary financial aid via scholarships, the capacity building and skills students need to succeed in today’s job market, and the personal support and housing necessary so that rural isolation no longer inhibits them from accessing their education, Mosqoy gives these students an opportunity to follow and achieve their and their families’ dreams.
For Mosqoy as an organization, and Casa Mosqoy as a community home for indigenous leaders, it is a challenge, an opportunity, and an honor to welcome students from the Mapacho River Valley. Students from this valley are still extremely connected to their indigenous and rural community roots, and thus have enormous potential to teach other Mosqoy students and volunteers about their heritage. In addition, being some of the first students from their isolated communities to gain access to higher education, they are conscious of their responsibility to use their new skills and knowledge to help their families and communities. Mosqoy is honored to enable and support this type of community driven development, whereby young leaders can safeguard their heritage while driving sustainable development that brings culturally appropriate, environmentally viable, and socially equitable economic growth to indigenous communities in rural Peru.