New to Peru

This summer marks the third College of Education faculty-led study abroad trip to Peru. Dr. Melissa Gibson and 11 of our students are studying and learning in Lima while also traveling the country. Their blogs are originally posted on Marquette Meets Peru, and we’re excited to share them with you!

By Gabriela Oliveras-Bonaparte

Buenas Tardes de Peru,

Those that are reading this may know that I am in Peru for a month through the education program at Marquette University. What you may not know is what exactly I am doing while I am here. In what feels like the shortest week of my life, I have been wondering the same thing. We read a piece called “The Voluntourist’s Dilemma,” which talks about the dangers in going somewhere for one or two weeks and working on some sort of project like building a school. The issue with this is that often when people do this they are not properly trained and are taking away work from locals who are more qualified. Also, more often than not these voluntourists do not think about the future like, for example, who would be staffing these schools. Fortunately, I know for a fact that this is not what we are here to do. This past week I have gotten to know the city in which I am staying, played sports such as soccer and other games for the international day for the right to play which was this past Saturday the 25th. We have also listened to many stories from various community members. I have come to the conclusion that I am here to learn as much as I can from the people I will be working with and meeting. I am also here to reflect on my experiences and connect them to what I already know and dig deeper to find a greater understanding.

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Pamplona Alta, a pueblo joven

Coming on this trip, I think I have a bit of a different perspective than my peers because of my Puerto Rican background. Not only do I compare and contrast Peru with the United States but I also do so with Puerto Rico, which is a territory of the United States. Since Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, we depend a lot on the States for aid and protection when we need it. But since we are not recognized as a state, we do not really get a say when it comes to the United States government. I never really put two and two together to realize Puerto Rico is not the only place that depends on the United States for things. Here in Peru I was having a conversation with one of the students from the University with which we are partnered on this trip. This student was asking me about my opinions on the U.S. governments and how I felt about certain political issues. Finally I asked how they knew so much about a country that felt so far away. This student informed me that Peru depends a lot on the States for certain kinds of aid. I never realized how much the United States impacts other countries but it has been interesting to see what kinds of things the people of Peru do when depending on one another.

First things first, I want to share some things I have observed during the time I have been here. We were fortunate enough to visit Pamplona Alta, which is said to be a pueblo joven (young town); this is where some of the poorest people live near the city. These towns are created usually by people migrating from the jungle trying to get closer to the city for better educational opportunities for their children and better health care. While visiting this pueblo I was very impressed with the amount of innovation I saw, such as people building their homes out of scrap metal. Although things like electricity and water pumps are more scarce than in the city, the people of Pamplona Alta seemed to have high spirits, or at least the people with whom we interacted. Our first visit was with an older woman who had a little tienda (store) with some basic snacks and fresh fruits. She originally worked long days in construction, which was rare for a woman, but then decided to open a shop close to home to protect her two daughters during the day. Her graciousness and openness to tell us her story was something that I admired and am thankful for. Next, we visited a casitas program near the store. Casitas (which translates to little house) is an after school program. Our visit to Casitas was very brief, but in the short time we were there you could just feel all the love, joy and excitement that was in the room. We were greeted by hugs and smiles from several children from the program as I am sure they were happy to have a distraction from doing their homework. Even though we were only there for maybe five minutes they wanted to show off their English skills so one boy said to me, “Libro es book, si?” Their eagerness to learn seemed so pure. Even though these people had very little material-wise, they seemed rich in so many different ways.

In terms of power, I tried to analyze this community and how power is inflicted on them and ways they are able to take back power. According to Nyberg, “A Concept of Powe,” there are 4 types of power: force, fiction, finance, and fealty. I believe one type of power to be inflected on pueblo jovenes is force and finance. In terms of force, there are literal walls built separating these communities from more affluent areas which are put there to prevent them from infiltrating. Also it is apparent that the poor stay poor so I would believe something as well known as the poverty cycle might reflect what I would say is force in terms of power. The government seems to want to have little to do with these communities except to keep them away and on the outskirts of the city. Although force is being acted upon pueblo jovenes, we know that this type of power is not sustainable, which we have seen before with terrorist groups in Peru like the Shining Path who killed in efforts to try and get the government to recognize their needs. So if this type of power is not sustainable, I wonder what lies ahead for these pueblo jovenes and the city of Lima in general.

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