Día del Mar march in La Paz, to commemorate Bolivia’s lost access to the sea during the War of the Pacific against Chile. The landlocked nation is now suing Chile at the International Court of Justice to try to get the territory back. In a similar suit, Peru recently won some ocean territory whose ownership was disputed with Chile.
From the family farm near Cochabamba where I WWOOFed for two weeks. It was an amazing place: a large variety of organically grown crops and animals to help sustain a family of five, run by a stay-at-home agronomist dad and his working biologist wife. The site produced almost no waste. Food scraps get composted or fed to animals, urine and dishwater are filtered for irrigation, dry toilets are cleared out every few months to make fertilizer, and inorganic stuff like plastic is stuffed into empty coke bottles that are then used as construction material.
I wrote this blog post back in, like, January and never posted it. Better late than never:
Cuzco’s Plaza de Armas is beautiful, but walking through there as a tourist wears on your patience pretty fast.
As a gringo, you’re a walking dollar sign, constantly declining pitches for restaurants, nightclubs, textiles, trinkets, massages (or perhaps “massages”), weed, cocaine, and info about Machu Picchu.
After four months of living in Cuzco and frequently passing through the Plaza de Armas, this got pretty annoying. After a certain point I unfortunately got in the habit of avoiding eye contact and giving cold refusals, or ignoring the hawkers altogether. This was partially a deliberate tactic to minimize intrusion, but also partially just because I was past the point of containing my irritation. I’m actually frustrated with all the previous people, but today I’m taking it out on you, sir.
Of course, the sellers themselves have it even worse. To earn their paycheck, they have to repeat the same pitch over and over and over, nearly always to be rejected by rude foreigners who obviously have money to spare.
I don’t know what the solution is, but it struck me as an interesting example of how economic inequality creates an animosity that feels very personal to both parties, even though it isn’t at all.
Global warming-induced glacial melt is expected to eventually threaten the water supply of 80 million people in the Andes. I talked to some young people in Cuzco who are going to be around to see this happen:
Across the Andes, people are preparing for the coming increase in scarcity. Mira-Salama’s World Bank project used a three-pronged approach to climate change adaptation.
First, knowledge generation: creating climate models and trying to predict the impact of glacier retreat on important crops. They also installed high-altitude ready weather monitoring equipment in the mountains of Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia. And finally, the Bank tried to help with “on the ground adaptation” in select Andean communities.
“We’re working with farmers [in the Santa Teresa region of Cuzco] in showcasing better irrigation practices that are more water efficient, working with them in organizing them in water associations so that they can irrigate with pre-defined schedules, working with them in finding more climate-resilient crop varieties […] and also increasing the diversity of their crops,” Mira-Salama said.
Not all communities will have World Bank help facing glacier retreat, though. As future leaders, AYP students will have to build a viable future for their communities in a glacier-parched world.
“We need to start now to make people aware of what’s going to happen, that there’s not going to be water,” Karina Jimenez Suma of Ollantaytambo said.
One idea: plant more Queyña and Chachacoma trees, which are native to the area and do not rely heavily on water.
“We can have a campaign to plant more trees in our communities, avoid wasting water, and do more sprinkle irrigation. You see very little of that [in Ollantaytambo], only a few people know about it. I think sprinkle irrigation is one of the things that can help not use much water,” Jimenez said.
Some possible solutions are more outlandish. One Chilean geologist is exploring strategies to artificially reduce glacier melting or even create new human-made glaciers.
More, including climate changes already underway, how to help from the United States, and the first completely melted glacier, at Generation Progress.
The Potato Park is using Valentine’s Day to revive and adapt an Andean tradition. Young men demonstrate their value as potential husbands by preparing a potential field for sowing, and young women show their ability and tenderness as wives by deftly peeling a really bulbous and bumpy potato. Elders in the community judge each contest.
The Inca Trail is the most popular hike in Peru. Four days, several hundred dollars, and limited space: tourists typically have to book months and months in advance to secure their spot on the trek to Machu Picchu. The memories, insights, and photos that hikers take from the trip are made possible by the group of local porters who carry most of their stuff, set up their camp, cook their meals, wash their dishes.
I hiked the trail in November 2013 with two friends. We had a great time, but were disturbed in a variety of ways by the inequality of the situation. My friend Gustav and I wrote about one facet, the colonial roots of the current porter system:
In 1552, Dominican friar and human rights advocate Bartolomé de las Casas wrote, “[Spanish settlers] used natives like pack animals. They have sores on their shoulders and backs, like much-abused beasts.”
Las Casas and his supporters inspired the Spanish crown to issue the New Laws, which outlawed the encomienda forced-labor system and forbade the “lading of Indians.” Although these laws were widely ignored, they reflected Spanish authorities’ uneasiness with using people as beasts of burden.
Five centuries later, Peru passed the Porter’s Law. The 2001 legislation limited loads on the trail to 20 kilograms (about 45 pounds), set a minimum wage of roughly $16 per day and required tour companies to provide porters with adequate food and clothing. A 2012 article in La Republica found that the law is routinely flouted, with porters sometimes forced to carry up to 40kg.
The whole thing at Seattle Globalist.
Virgen de la Candelaria festival in Puno, Peru. Dedicated to the patron saint of Puno, Peru, a region where Christianity took hold especially strongly in the early years after Spanish conquest–the region’s Aymara population had always chafed under Inca rule and eagerly adopted the religion of their enemy’s enemy.