On this occasion we are with the President of the Farming Cooperative which belongs to the Comunidad Campesino (the Community of Peasant Farmers) "San Antonio of Rancas".
What is your name?
My name is JuliŠn Rivera Ayala, and I'd like to thank IPEMIN for taking an interest in the progress of our community co-operative.
Don Julian let's talk about the history of Rancas. When were you born?
Well, I was born on the March 23, 1937.
What can you remember about your childhood?
Things were bad when I was 11 years old because first the big mining company Cerro de Pasco Corporation and then the big landowners took all our community's grazing lands. At that time they controlled everything. So my parents had a problem because their cattle couldn't graze freely any more. That's why many members of the Community left farming in search of other work. Me too, the minute I finished primary at 14 years of age I went to work in the mine. That was the Milpa company and they made us work like slaves. The foremen didn't think twice about us, they used to hit us sometimes because we were children. I took seriously ill after a few months and I had to go home. When I recovered I went to Lima thinking I might find a better job. But that wasn't to be, perhaps because they saw I was so young they wanted a lot of extras, like letters of recommendation, and I had no experience so I was only able to get casual work which was just enough to get by.
As I couldn't carry on that way I went back to my hometown. I was 18 then. Community feeling was strong then about getting our lands back from the landlords. It was the right time because I was able to help my father with everything, especially with seeing to the animals because I had young brothers and sisters and we had to keep the family fed.
We had a meeting one April 29 where we agreed to occupy our lands. By this time they were held by the Cooper Corporation because they had got hold of false documents by trickery. The pact was made under oath so that Community members would not go back on the decision. I helped my father to carry spades and other things that we needed. We left Rancas at 11.00 in the morning and got to a place called Paria Chico at 1.00 in the afternoon where we began to build our huts. We finished around 4.00 or 5.00, and everything had been fine till then.
That same April 29...
Yes, well, of course ...., when it was nearly 6.00 in the evening 11 Civil Guards appeared on horseback. They were led by Sergeant Rodriguez and Captain Fernandez. He said "youíve no business on this land, it's private property, part of the Paria Estate, ... and before this gets nasty you stupid Indians you better go back home, .... now, right now, get going you b..... hillbillies" In the midst of the threats and punch-ups I remember the police grabbed Amada Sanchez, God rest his soul, and they tortured him. He was kind of on their list and so they got him, horse and all, tied him up and took him off to the old Paria Estate, ... and that's when they tortured him and finished him off.
Well, nothing happened on the 30th, nor the 31st or the 1st of May which gave the Community time to think. On Workers' Day they asked the miners for help. On May 2, at around 1.00 in the morning, 500 Republican Police appeared armed to the hilt. They didn't take time for anything but started letting off tear gas. They didn't give a toss that there were old people and women with children along with their fathers.
In the confusion they began shooting at us, we fell over each other trying to escape to protect ourselves. In the midst of all this we saw Don Alfonso Rivera fighting off some police who were trying to take the flag from him, ... when they couldn't manage it they shot the President of the Community Council, Don Alfonso Rivera. Then Mrs. Silveria Tufina fell but the bullet wound prompted her to hit the policeman in the face with a rock, so they shot her again and finished her off. Further down they hit Teofilo Huama too and Teofilo TravezaŮo by the barracks. So Don Amador Santiago who was our Treasurer said to us "... go and get help kids". So we young ones went off on foot to Paragsha to tell the Community people and the folk from Cerro de Pasco. They responded straight away and began to gather together.
At that time Dr. Genaro Ledesma Isquieta was the Provincial Mayor. He went with a throng of people to meet the police but the Rancas Community had already been beaten and they had had to fall back 5 km. So when Mr Ledesma arrived all he could do was take out his white hanky as a sign of peace and we decided to go home.
You were in that episode and it must have really upset you. Tell us how it was for you?
Well, the truth is I never thought that would happen and the shooting started really quickly... At a time like that you don't know if you will live or die. I saw what happened to Don Alfonso Rivera and all the animals were either dead or running with their guts hanging out from the bullet wounds, and the huts we had put up were in flames. We were all exhausted. There was only a handful of us in the Community at that time, but we were adamant though we had nothing to defend ourselves with like the police did, we used stones, spades and picks. This wasn't enough to hold them off because they were well-armed so we retreated 5 km. We only went back to the land we had occupied when Dr. Genaro Ledesma came.
Did Dr. Ledesma defend the Community?
He wasn't a lawyer then, I think he had just finished his degree. Dr. Honorio Espinoza Mandujano was our lawyer so they were after him too and he had to go to Lima to get protection. At that time Dr. Ledesma was Mayor and also a teacher.
What do you remember about the way the landowners behaved?
Well, the landowners and their staff, their foremen, used to really take advantage of us. I remember when I was a child I would sometimes cross onto estate land with my animals. As a punishment they took my little animals and me to the big house. They used to whip us and make us work to get our animals back. They wouldn't just leave us alone, they took advantage of us and no one stood up to them because they were so powerful. I also remember that sometimes the estate staff would maim the animals that ventured over the fence onto the lands. They would take the cow or the sheep and cut off an ear or the tail ... to make them suffer. We used to call these bad men who worked for the estate huachhua, a quechua word meaning cropped ears.
Did the Rancas Community people work on the estate too?
No, no ..., but we had been practically surrounded by the estate. If we wanted to move our animals from one place to another we had to do a little job for the owner first and they used to ill-treat us. It was fear that made us somehow or other keep our animals alive but stop them going onto estate land, so they wouldn't do any damage and get taken from us.
What kind of cattle did the old Paria Estate have?
Well, they used to raise Cordiodalla. But when we managed to get our land back there wasn't one left. We don't know what they did with them but since the mining company had other farms we think they took them to one of them. The same thing happened during the Agrarian Reform. We did get 500 head of cattle from the Pacoyan Estate but only after the Agrarian Reform intervened. Nothing from the landowner, the Cooper Co-operation in this case. We heard afterwards that the mining company preferred to kill their cattle rather than transfer them to the communities, and they took hundreds of thousands of sheep to Chile.
Don Julian, many people think the gringos have been good.
The truth of the matter is the gringos have always been good if Community folk or anyone else were company employees or if they co-operated with them. Since we didn't, they were nasty and abusive to the whole community. No landowner has ever worked with any of the Communities and the gringos (westerners, foreigners, in this context North Americans who ran/owned the mines) were inhuman even to their own farm hands. Production was all that mattered, if people didn't produce they were told off and punished and their wages were way below what the poorest miner earned. Nothing escaped the gringos, if they found any worker wasting time, no warning or anything he was out, they gave him his tamshke (marching orders). As for the Community, they didn't care at all about co-operation from our members, all they wanted was unconditional service.
After the clash with the Republican Police how long did it take to recover the lands?
We had to wait quietly until 1969 to get them all back. Our community authorities were careless because we shouldn't have accepted the Agrarian Reform settlement which made it look like they were giving land for the first time. No Sir, we recovered the lands that had always belonged to us and three of our brothers and sisters gave their lives for that. The mistake was that they accepted that Agrarian Reform Law No 17716 applied to us and our community authorities were party to this. So our struggle was pointless because with this law we have to pay for the land and the animals.
I didn't agree with the settlement, we shouldn't have paid anything because we had already lost a lot. We even went to court over our people's deaths and got nowhere, we didn't get any compensation for their families. The debt was still hanging over us in 1983 when I was community leader because I refused to pay. That year the Debt Waiver Law was passed which annulled all campesino debts. That was good for me because I no longer had to pay more than 1,000...
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The Huauacancha massacre is ever present in the minds of anyone from Rancas or the Cerro. Just talking about Rancos brings back their heroism. But returning to that time, how did people in the Community feel just after, a few days later? What was the atmosphere like?
Help from the miners and the people of Pasco was so important to us. But then we had to accept the real situation. We were a little happier because our court case was also progressing. This gave people confidence to return again and the number of Community members grew: many Rancas folk had left because they weren't allowed to work on the estate.
When was the Cooperative founded?
Our forebears were concerned to put an end to a longstanding difficulty. As we didn't have the means to go to court with the landowners, especially with Cooper, our leaders decided in 1948 to set-up a Public Works Farm with community cattle. By 1960 we had 1,500 head of cattle and our Public Works Farm was well organised with good quality animals like the Junin Cordiadallas. After the settlement, the law established the right to set-up co-operatives. 50 Community members opted not to participate in the Public Works Farm and they formed their own co-operative. In the end both groups joined to make one farming co-operative and we put the animals on some land called Yuragcancha.
Despite the difficulties you managed to obtain good quality cattle and develop the Community Farm in the spirit of the 1948 Co-operative.
Well, initially each member gave two chusquito (local mixed breed) animals which they fattened and sold and then we bought Junin cattle. We began preparing the place. First they were chusco animals. We started in Huandahuasi opposite Yuraghuanca, from there up to Shuco opposite Cerro de Pasco and then down to Ocoroyoc which is now part of Centromin Peru.
Those lands were already fenced and improved. Around 52 we built an artificial insemination house for the cattle we had brought from Junin. They were already inseminated though. Little by little we grew and faced the confrontations with the Cooper Corporation because we got no help from the authorities. We didn't even have any technical training and we had to learn from our own work.
So how did you go about learning the technical side?
Through our tenacity we managed to get assistance from the Banco Agropecuario (Farming and Cattle-breeders' Bank). We often remember Engineer Guillermo Vergara who was from Junin. He came with a technical team to train us in cattle management...
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What sort of problems has the Co-operative had to face over the years, 50 years already?
There have been problems, ... with the animals. There was a serious problem when the Yanahuanca Community invaded 1,557 hectares of land. It didn't matter what we had paid for it. We have problems with them from time to time but not with other Communities, no.
What are the Co-operative's achievements?
Well, the Co-operative is for its members, its workers and it does public works in Rancas. We support education and health and we also give support to some public entities for example, we make donations to the National Police station, when the Sub-regional Office asks us we are there, even if itís just with a little help.
How have the technological aspects gone?
Looking back to 1983 when I was in charge, that year the outgoing authorities hadn't protected the community's boundaries. Centromin had made Ocoroyoc their new deposit for the waste from the washed minerals. They already had their plan and had buttered up the Community leaders when they invited them over. When the authorities changed I took over the helm. During the hand over of responsibilities a message from the Prefect arrived telling us that the Ocoroyoc lands belonged to Centromin Peru and we would have to vacate them, and if we didn't there would be repression. We went to the head office of the mines in Cerro de Pasco and told them we wouldn't sign the missive because that land was not for sale and it was the duty of community leaders to protect the Community's patrimony.
We had to appeal to Lima even though the official resolution favoured the mining company. Even Community members were pessimistic because they said it was pointless to fight against the law. Me, yes I was adamant, at least during my period of office I was going to persist. I had another surprise when I realised that the price per square metre was 3 Intis, 545 hectares. Only 700 Soles for all that land. I was against it all and had to appeal wherever I could. Seven years passed and then the company tried again. They offered the leaders a new agreement so the debate was reopened. It was proposed that the company take the waste to Romanilla. They said no because it would be very expensive to rehabilitate the area. They wanted to give us two million dollars which would give them the right to use Ocoroyoc for 20 years.
The leaders liked the idea thinking it was a very large amount of money. I said it was peanuts and apart from that we were not going to hand it all over. They have done us enough harm already. I don't accept it but if the majority do, what can you say? But since I had defended us against all odds how could I accept? In the end they signed the agreement which gives Centromin Peru the use of the Ocoroyoc land for 20 years, then they are committed to return it the way they found it. I don't think that will happen. The money has been used to buy machinery and heavy transport vehicles and set up a transport firm.
And did Centromin take the land in the end?
Centromin and the Community have an agreement. The company will have the land for 20 years with 2 million dollars as payment which is for the transport firm and for machinery to rent out.
Do you have problems with Centromin right now?
Conflicts or something, no. The general complaint is that the company pollutes the water and does nothing to stop it, especially because this endangers the animals.
As the President of the Co-operative what are you aiming to do to improve its running and efficiency?
Well, as the President and Representative of the Community our first task is to look after the soil as its the basis of our future progress; well cared for land benefits the cattle. I have the support of the other members of the management committee and all my brothers in the Community.
The Co-operative is going to take part in the important exhibition Expo'95. What will the Co-operative do there?
In the first place as sons of Rancos we will have the opportunity to show our progress. We want to prove how advanced we are in production and so we're preparing our sheep, alpaca and cows.
Which Co-operatives will be competing?
The co-operatives are San Pedro de Raco, Huayllao, Huayllai, Chacamarca, Yuraghuanca, Quiulacocha and Chichaosire. The communal farms are Ninaccacca and Huayre and there are also forestry companies. There will be 150 organisations altogether between community companies, farming co-operatives, firms, communal farms, etc.
Don Julian, could you tell me about Expo' 95's programme?
Four institutions have worked together on the organisation and the budget. This time each of us has had to set apart 3,000 Soles, a total of 12,000 Soles. This will cover all the participants and give them all the services they need in food and shelter. We also have to cater for all the animals in the exhibition. Thanks to the President of the Republic we have prizes, the first prize is a tractor, we also have a thresher and a milling machine. The top animal wins a selection of animals including sheep, alapacas and cows. The organising commission has also arranged small prizes for all participants whether they are individuals or from collective farms. This way everyone in Expo'95 will be happy.
This exhibition shows how much the co-operatives participate, nevertheless none of them has collapsed or broken up. What do you think about this break down into individual lots?
Thanks for this question, ... I don't agree with this tendency because I have seen that it was bad for the people of Conoquisqui and Los Andes. We prefer the collective use of the lands and the cattle to belong to everyone. The same thing has happened to the people of Yanahuanca, they don't know what to do when each farmer hasn't got enough land to plant and raise cattle. Their situation has got worse because their children are growing up and the land isn't enough for all of them. We have had some very hard times in our Co-operative but we have always had something to share out amongst us.
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How do you market your meat, wool, skins and milk?
We take animals every year and share them out amongst the members. The remainder go to the Co-operative's farmworkers. We also pay a large amount to the State each year. We make this payment by putting out a tender to sell our animals which covers the taxes and other legal duties. We just about have enough to cover all the work with no shortages, there is always a little surplus which we share amongst the members.
Moving on to another issue. We'd like to know what young people think as they are the future of our society, our future citizens. How does Rancas treat its children?
Young people don't seem to be concerned about doing their bit for the town's progress. They all look for a job or a way to leave here ... But a small group does work the land.
What about the Patron Saint's Feast, does Expo'95 happen during San Antonio de Padua's Feast?
Yes, each year we have San Antonio de Padua's Feast. Each community member or villager organises his own table for this feast. We usually have a Chonguinada for the town dance and we drink jora (maize) beer.
And how do you make jora beer?
Well, ... first you need jora corn and several community members get together to make it a couple of weeks before the feast. Others peel the dry corn for the tripe and the offal. That's what we usually do, everyone does something and takes something.
What other feasts are there in Rancas?
We have a feast for the Virgin of the Rosary in October and December. Since November is the month we remember our dead but May is the month we pay homage to our fallen heroes with several activities, horse racing and dancing. The main day is May 2 when we take flowers to where our Community brothers were slain.
Does the Co-operative celebrate the animals' feast in February?
The Co-operative, no ... but all the huagchillero farmers do it because it's a family feast more than anything else.
What is a huagchillero?
It's an individual farmer.
Why do they paint the animals?
For us, it's important to be in harmony with the animals and the land. Every year, we put ribbons on the animals ears so that they're happy and grandfather, the land, also gets a table, coca and cane alcohol. We can't forget these customs because they're part of our lives our beliefs, our faith. And if something happens like animals go missing, Grandfather mountain must be complaining about something.
What does the table that you offer to the mountain, to Grandfather, have on it?
Grandfather's table always has sweets, biscuits, cigarettes, a portion of coca, a quart of wine, a quart of aniseed liqueur, another of cane alcohol, a little candle, some fruit and a cloth or paper to lay it all on.
All this is for the Mountain?
Yes for the Mountain, for Grandfather.
To finish, what do you think of Rancas now Don Julian?
First of all, it's a pleasure to have answered your questions and I promise I will tell the Community authorities and the members about this opportunity to talk about our co-operative. I would like to invite you to our party and drink a little jora beer with us. Thank you for having remembered this campesino.
Thank you Don Julian.