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This is July 25 in La Oroya. We are going to interview a local woman who will talk about her experiences in this area.
Good morning, to start with could you tell us your name and if you are from this community?
Good morning sir, my name is Guillermina Sandoval de Mayta. Iím not from La Oroya itself but I was born in Yauli, quite close to La Oroya.
Good, and tell me , how old are you if I may ask, if it isnít a secret?
No, itís no secret, why would it be a secret?
No, I say that because sometimes women donít like to say their age.
Well, Iím 32 years old.
And do you have a family?
Yes I do, I have a husband and seven children.
And is your husband also from Yauli?
No my husband is from Jauja, thatís where heís from and then he came here to Yauli, well really to La Oroya.
And you both met in La Oroya?
Yes we met here in La Oroya, and then we got married.
And how did you two meet?
It was through family, thatís how it was. My cousin introduced us and thatís how we met.
And how old were you when you got married, were you very young?
I was 16 going on 17, thatís how old I was when I got married.
So you did get married quite young, didnít you?
Yes, I was still a young girl when I got married and had kids.
And how old were you when you had your first child?
I was 17 when my eldest daughter arrived.
Tell me, it seems that people get married quite young here, especially women in La Oroya and the surrounding communities.
Yes I would say so, the girls get married when theyíre still adolescents, I think thatís the way here, as you say you see that a lot here.
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And why do you think that happens?
I donít know why that happens, itís what people think ought to happen.
You mean the people in your village think by a certain age a woman should be married with children?
Yes, itís a bit like that.
And what do you think, do you agree that thatís the way it should be?
Well yes thatís what happens, young people get married at a certain age, they fall in love and get married, they find their match and set up home together.
Do you think this is changing a little or is it just the same as ever?
Just the same, only young people are more independent now and they sometimes donít like to honour their commitments. You see that more now, single mothers with children left to their destiny. You didnít see much of that before, itís more common now, young men donít want to honour their commitments and they just leave the women with their children.
Is this different from when you were a younger, or in your parents time?
I think it has changed, There are new cases every day in La Oroya, young girls who have been left alone and they donít have the means to feed their children and what can they do ...
And what happens to them?
Well, their parents help out when they can and thatís why they have set up the mothersí clubs which helps them somewhat.
You mean you have set up an organisation to help each other and the mothers with no resources?
Yes thatís it, the mothersí club is one of the womenís organisations for La Oroya and the neighbouring communities and this way we do something for those who most need help.
And how long have the mothersí clubs been going in La Oroya?
Well, I think around six years. I couldnít tell you the exact date but it must be six or seven years.
And how long have you been part of this?
Iíve been in it consistently for three years.
And what does the mothersí club do?
Well, there are talks and programmes on nutrition, I mean we try to work together in co-ordination with the municipality to get milk for the children to give to the mothers, especially to the neediest ones. We also work with a social worker from the municipality who helps us and gives us family guidance.
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What kind of guidance?
How do you say that? Itís for ...
Yes, so that we take care and , mm, we plan ....
Thatís interesting and what do you think of the guidance that youíre given?
I think itís really useful, you know we have to know, sometimes you donít know everything and there is always something to learn.
And do your friends think that too, do they go to the courses and events?
Yes, we all go to listen to these things.
Tell me Guillermina is this new, you didnít talk about these things before, did you? Or was family planning talked about?
Well, no we didnít have these talks before, itís new.
And do you think that people pay any attention to this, do you?
Yes of course, you have to pay attention, the doctors say very important things...
And do you put it into practice, do women take more care than before?
They must do, I think so.
And how many children did you say you had?
I have seven ...
Seven children and still so young?
Well yes, though Iím getting old now ...
Old at thirty something ?
Tell me, and when you were young or when you got married, did anyone tell you about family planning?
No, the truth is they didnít.
It would have been helpful, wouldnít it, do you think it would have been useful to you?
Tell me, if you had had this information do you think you wouldnít have had such a big family?
Perhaps, but mostly because itís not easy to raise your children, life is very hard and you have to be ready for it. Thatís what I would say about it.
Tell me, donít you think this guidance should be given to younger women?
It would be very important to give it to the young girls too ...
But they donít give it to the girls or to the boys?
I wouldnít know, perhaps.
Imagine you have young daughters, would you like them to have this guidance?
I think it would be good for them to have it, it would help them a lot, in fact they tell us to talk to our children, thatís what the doctors who come to talk to us say.
How old are your children?
The eldest is going on 15, then the lad is 13 ...
The eldest is a young woman, are you giving her advice now?
Well, Iím trying to so that things will go well for her in life, I tell her protect herself, to study, her father and I both try to tell her this.
Would you like your daughter to marry young or not so young?
I would like her to try to achieve something. Young girls study too nowadays, thatís the way it is now, I would like her to study to be a nurse or a social worker. Because things are so hard now and you need training to know how to work. Thatís what I tell my daughter, thatís not the way it used to be and that she should make an effort.
Guillermina, do you think things have changed for women that theyíre not the way they used to be?
I think so. It used to be harder for women to work or study for example. Now thatís more common, its normal, and since life is harder you have to study, you have to help out with the house, bringing up the children and with their schooling. The girls are more independent now. Thatís why I think you have to help young people to take advantage of the opportunities. In the past we didnít know much of what young girls know today.
What for example?
Through education. Our parents didnít bother to educate us, we barely learned to read and write. In my case I only got to primary five and no further. I would have liked to learn and at least finish secondary. Of course when you are young you donít realise the importance, until later.
And was it possible to study?
Yes it was, but it was a little difficult, there were less opportunities, less schools...
Do you think men had more opportunities than women in the past?
Of course I do, men have always been able to do more and women were affected by this. Women fell pregnant and their children were left to the grace of God. That used to happen, and it does now perhaps even more than before.
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Do you think that within the family boys had more priority over girls for education, what was it like in your family?
Thatís the way it was. Parents used to say that the boy had to finish his education whereas the girls stayed home to do the housework, what use was education to them. Thatís the way parents used to think.
And do you think things have changed a little or are they just the same? I ask you this because you are also a mother.
I think so. As I was saying, you see women have studied, even beyond school to further education institutes and universities, it has changed a little.
Would you like your daughter to finish secondary and do a degree?
Yes, thatís what I say to her. Her father and I want this, I hope she can carry on studying.
Her father also thinks this way, excuse me I mean your husband agrees with you?
Yes, ... of course you need the money, resources as they say, to educate your children. itís a sacrifice which parents have to make for our children.
So there are better opportunities for children to study?
I think so. You know in my village there was no secondary school so you could only get to fifth grade. Now there is a full secondary and the kids can go to La Oroya too, so from that point of view itís easier.
And for the young girls? is it easier for them too?
I think itís easier for them too ...
And what year is your eldest daughter in?
Sheís in second year of middle school (secondary) .
And has she said what she would like to study after?
I think she doesnít know yet.
And what would you like her to be?
I would like her to be a doctor or something like that.
A doctor, so you would like her to do medicine?
Yes, but if thatís not possible then I would like her to study something that she can do or that she likes.
That seems a good idea. Tell me then, to go on to something else - what does you husband do?
Heís a bricklayer, he works in building though heís also something of an electrician, thatís the way he makes his living. Sometimes he has work and sometimes he doesnít. I help out too by selling my knitting.
So you knit.
I knit sweaters, woollen socks and scarves.
Who taught you to knit?
I learned from my grandma and also from my mum.
From parents and grandparents to their children.
Yes thatís the way it goes, and I knit for my children and I sell too so I earn a little money for the house.
Do you like knitting?
Yes I do ...
And is your husband from Jauja, did he ever work in the mine or in the Centromin foundry. How did he come to La Oroya?
He was contracted to Centromin for a while but it didnít last long, he didnít want to work in the foundry.
What was this contract business, could you explain it?
How can I explain this? itís when you only work for a limited period, there is no stability. They contract you for a job and then nothing after the job is finished. So your time ends and you are out in the street again, thatís the truth of the matter.
Ah, now I understand. But you said that your husband never really wanted to work in Centromin.
No the truth is he didnít want that.
And why do you think he didnít want to, I imagine he must have told you?
He says he canít get used to the idea that people who work in Centromin get lung diseases. And it must be true because we know of several cases in La Oroya of people who have taken ill and they never get better.
Itís because of the fumes, because of the pollution in the plant?
They say that the fumes are worse in the foundry, you only have to breathe them in and the poor men all get ill. Of course some say that they earn good wages...
Who says that, the miners?
The ones who work there, they say itís very risky ... Thatís why my husband never wanted to work in Centromin...
And do you think that the fumes only affect the people who work in the foundry or the whole population?
Not only them, they affect all of us. The fumes come out of the chimneys and affect all of us. They say they even affect the fields. Look around, all the hills are bare here. Do you think it was like this before? I say this because my community has asked Centromin to look into this several times and nothing has been done. The fumes do affect us. Who knows what we are breathing in and itís even worse for the little ones.
And is anything being done to stop the pollution?
They say there is but itís only hearsay, in the end they donít do anything and people are still taking ill.
Taking ill, what do you mean?
The workers, my husband saw that when he was in there working.
And how long was he on contract there?
Well, it must have been for two months ..., no maybe it was only one month, yes only one.
And what was his job there?
I honestly canít remember, I donít remember well, it was some time ago. I do remember that he couldnít get used to it. He said he preferred to work on his own, to be freer, thatís what he prefers and thatís the way he has worked till now ...
And how have things been for your husband in his line of work?
Fair Iíd say. Sometimes he has work, and other times we are short of money because there isnít a lot of work. So Iíd say itís so so depending on the moment.
Tell me why you decided to settle down in La Oroya?
I have been here more or less all my life with my family ..
Your parents are locals arenít they?
Yes, although theyíre not from La Oroya itself but from Yauli ...
And what did your dad do?
He used to travel between La Oroya, Huancayo, Cerro, thatís the way he lived though we stayed in La Oroya.
And what merchandise did your dad carry?
Well, he carried a little of everything, sometimes vegetables, fruit, potatoes, meat, it depended.
And did he have his business in La Oroya?
What do you mean?
Did he have some sort of retail shop in La Oroya?
No he didnít work that way. He used to take things back and forward between La Oroya and Cerro, he sold things between the towns, thatís what he did.
Ah, now I understand. And no-one has followed in his footsteps? Does anyone in your family work in commerce?
My brothers, I have several brothers in ..., who are traders, I would like to too because of the situation...
Here in La Oroya or in other places?
One is a trader here in the market, I have another two in Huancayo...
And what do they sell?
One sells clothes and the others foodstuffs, those kinds of things.
And do you see your brothers often?
Quite often, of course I see the ones who are living here in La Oroya...
How many of you are there?
There are five with my own parents and three more through my father. My father has another commitment.
And how many of them live in La Oroya?
Three of us.
And of the five how many are women?
I have three brothers and a sister, and myself.
So you are mostly a family of traders, and tell me has no-one in your family worked in the mines?
Well, I have some uncles and cousins who have worked in Centromin, and one who is still there, he lives in the company houses ...
In La Oroya?
Yes here in La Oroya...
And why did none of your brothers decide to work in Centromin, itís a little strange for an Oroyan family not to be involved in the mining industry, isnít it?
Yes it is, itís to do with circumstances, as I said I have a few relatives but no more. Theyíre all very involved in trading.
So you are rather a family of traders, that would be your family tradition?
Yes, something like that.
And what did your grandparents do, were they also traders?
No, they worked in the chacra (small farm) in farming. They were more in farming in the Yauli area.
Were they part of that community?
Yes, they were.
But because of their work people in that community were also traders, werenít they?
Yes of course, because they had to get their own produce out and sell it. They used to go to Huancayo and to other places. My maternal grandfather used to go as far as Allis to sell his produce.
And where is Allis?
Itís in Yauyos province and from there you can go to Lima via CaŮete, itís over that way.
And how did he get there from here?
He would go to Yauricocha, then up and then down towards Allis. Thatís where my grandfather used to go.
And what did your grandparents produce?
Well they had their cattle and they used to do a bit of planting, like potato, depending on the year. I think thatís the way it used to be.
And whatís it like now?
Well thereís not much agriculture, not like it used to be, according to my grandparents there used to be a lot.
Why is that?
As the community was close to La Oroya it was affected by the fumes and with these fumes you canít even keep a few animals. It affects everything.
So thereís no-one in your community now?
I donít know, but they live there though thereís isnít any agriculture. The farms donít work these days, thatís a thing of the past. Now they do other work.
They do a bit of everything, theyíre in transport and trading.
But I imagine that most of them settle outside of Yauli?
Well yes, most of them come to La Oroya and others go to Lima and also to Huancayo.
And do any of your family still live there?
Yes of course. My uncles and aunts and my grandmother live there in Yauli. But Yauli is very close to La Oroya.
Coming back to your family, is there a tradition of trading and farming, animals and agriculture, in your side of the family, and what about your husbandís side?
My husbandís from Jauja. They also have their little farm and thatís how they earn a living.
Have they been affected over there in the Manataro Valley the way they have here in La Oroya?
No the landís good there, they grow their own food and they also have their animals.
Has your husband followed his familyís farming tradition?
No he preferred to leave his village in search of something else and he settled here in La Oroya.
But your family left the family tradition a little, donít you think?
What do you mean, could you repeat the question please?
I mean that you have made your living a different way.
Yes, thatís true.
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And tell me, Iím a little curious, what made you decide to set up home in La Oroya as you didnít have much to do with mining?
As I said, I have lived here since I was very small and my husband came here looking for work.
Yes of course, you explained that, but whatís interesting is that you could have settled in another city as your links with La Oroya arenít as strong as those of other families where the husband works in Centromin for example. So my question is if you have ever thought of going to live anywhere else like Huancayo or even Lima?
Yes we have. We went to Lima for a year and a half when my children were still small. I had four children then and my eldest stayed here with my mum.
So you went to Lima to see what it was like?
Yes, my husband wanted to try his luck there. Some friends of his told him they would help him find work there. He wanted to work in building and he said there was more work in Lima than in La Oroya.
You went to Lima and where did you live?
My husband had gone on ahead and then I went with my children.
Did your husband find work quickly?
Only casual work and it wasnít enough for us. Sometimes there was work and sometimes there wasnít any.
And what did you do when there wasnít any?
Well, I began to work too ...
And what did you do?
I began to work in someoneís house ...
As a domestic?
And how did that go?
Well, I canít complain, it wasnít bad but the problem was that I had to leave my children with relatives, but sometimes I couldnít and the problem was they were very small ...
But was it difficult to get used to working in a strangerís house, how did they treat you?
I canít complain, they were good people. I even used to take some of my children there, the smallest ones. It wasnít bad in that sense because sometimes you hear stories of young girls that work as domestics who are treated badly, they treat them like slaves and they even hit them.
Yes, thatís true, thatís why I asked.
No, I canít complain I worked in two places but the owners wanted me to sleep there too, but I couldnít because of my children. So I worked in another house on an hourly basis after that. But I was fine, the only problem was the children.
And how did your husband get on?
He couldnít find work easily. It was a little better at the beginning but with inflation and terrorism and everything there wasnít much work and people preferred to take on people they knew better. The trouble is that maybe thereís more work in Lima but there are more people so itís harder.
And how long did you stay there?
About a year and a half... My husband said weíd be better back in La Oroya because we were better known than in Lima and people sought him out for jobs, and so we came back.
Tell me what you thought of Lima, what did you think of life there?
Well Lima is very big. You know I lived in Comas and worked in Miraflores for a while which took me more than an hour in the evenings. Nothing is close by but it also has good things.
You liked some things there?
What did you like?
Well in Lima we were able to go to the beach for the first time. We went to the beach a few Sundays in the summer.
Did you like the sea?
Yes, I did ....
And do you think that if you had stayed in Lima you might have done better with work, you and your husband?
Perhaps. I think if you have a little capital in Lima you can set up a little business and get on. But we didnít have the capital to start off with.
What did you like least in Lima?
Itís not safe, itís dangerous. They attacked me twice where I lived when I was on my way to work. Thereís a lot of delinquents and you have to be very careful.
Doesnít that happen in La Oroya?
No, you can relax here although we have the odd lout.
And when you came back to La Oroya was it difficult to settle in again?
A little, but relatives lend a hand and little by little you settle in again.
How has it been for you since the Lima experience?
Well, we get by more or less.
Do you think the time in Lima was useful? I imagine the change must have been good for you.
I think so. I used to work and look after my children and now I try to do the same, knitting and working in the mothersí club to help my family out.
You mean that your life has changed somewhat since you went to Lima, you found out you could work and look after your family and also do other things apart from the home and the kids?
Yes and now my husband and I have a few plans.
What are you planning?
Well Iím saving a little money to set up a shop in the market...
Thatís very interesting
My husband and I will both see to the shop but heíll carry on with his work too. That should be a big help.
Well, congratulations. I see you have plenty of plans and I hope they come to something quickly both for you and your children, and I particularly hope you carry on with the womenís organisation.
I donít know if thatís going to continue. I hope the municipality and other organisations help us out because Oroyan mothers need this and so do the children.
Letís hope they do and that your efforts are rewarded. Thank you for the interview, your testimony is very rich in stories and experiences. Until the next time