photo of person from Peru Cerro de Pasco
Peru
 
GLOSSARY
Peru glossary

Ignacio

(PERU 31)

Sex

male

Age

71

Occupation

electrician

Location

Huaranccacca

Date

1995

 

transcript

Section 1
This time we are in the Huaranccacca Campesino Community. We are going to speak to one of the comuneros (registered community members with rights and resposibilities) What is your full name please?
My name is Ignacio Poma Verastegui and I was born in 1924. I was very young when I began to work in the ďEl BrocalĒ mine which is where I met the two engineers Mr. Murillo and Mr. Huertas. Huaranccacca was very beautiful, the hillsides of the mountain range were pure pastureland so we were able to keep cattle and also plant crops. It was great fun because everywhere was good for games .... and even for sports. Thatís what my early days were like, with nothing to worry about. But if you look around now .... thereís no land to be seen, it was pampa (grassy plains) and now thereís a mountain there, but itís a mountain of pure rubbish from the mine, the silt left over once the minerals have been washed. All this land belongs to the Campesino Community, nevertheless the ďEl BrocalĒ Company is taking over our land without ever asking us.
I have worked in the company for many years so I have witnessed the change in the way they treat us. Despite the fact that the mining company has grown rich from the minerals in Huaranccacca now the new owners, the new engineers, forbid everything. They trick us and we feel they take advantage of us even though we are all old now. You must remember that when we worked for them we always co-operated and we tried to preserve peaceful relations for our work and for the benefit of our community and our villages. We have worked with the engineers and the previous owners, I mean the Campesino Community, because they used to let us carry sand and stones to make lime, and they used to pay us right away, we didnít have to wait. When I began to work there was no village yet, we only had farms which were very far apart, but over time we have all built our houses together because we needed to live close to our workplaces, the Lime and the Concentrate plants. So then we had to legalise the new village and the title deeds for each of us.
The new owners havenít wanted to recognise or value the support our community has given to the company. Theyíve been very overbearing and have violated the countryside by dumping all kinds of silt and mining waste on our land and itís been much worse in the San Juan river. Apart from all this, the company has continued to expand the plant and the mining area but doesnít want to continue giving us the benefits weíve always had, such as transport to take the students to Cerro de Pasco. Now they want to prohibit it all. There used to be transport for the village too but thatís gone. Another example is electricity, we used to have energy all day and now itís rationed even though our Community bought the transformer and did all the negotiating and organisation needed to get it installed. Itís easy for them to use all the electric current and all they say is ďthereís not enough energy...Ē
So whatís happening then, people quite rightly get on to the leaders and accuse them of being conformists. And when the leaders go and speak to the company they are well received but they get palmed off and the situation is never resolved. The authorities donít get involved either...
Section 2
Looking back to when you were a child tell us about the river in those days.
In those days we used to make our living from the waters of Lake La Cocha, but thatís impossible now because itís polluted. I remember when the river San Juan which comes from Jupayraga and Cerro de Pasco used to be crystal clear, we used to have a kind of mill on the river where we fished for trout and the water was useful for other things too. There used to be a channel which went direct to the old Smelter foundry in Tinyahuarco and the channel was our drinking supply so we all looked after it. When mining began in Cerro de Pasco they must have started to dump waste in the San Juan river because the waters went turgid and the trout disappeared. We could no longer drink the water and the animals got sick when they drank it. At first we thought it was a curse from God because we couldnít understand what had happened, because it changed the landscape. Since then weíve had to rely on mountain springs. Itís much worse now, the water is full of chemicals which enabled vegetable and aquatic species to grow. If the water evaporates acid rain falls and burns the grazing land. We thought the land was exhausted until we understood what had happened.

When you saw all this disaster did you report it ... have there been any court cases?
As I said, no one listened when we took our case to the authorities. We couldnít do anything when our animals began to die and we got into a dispute with the company when they took over the Carmen Chico area. They used to lease the land and they ended up owning it. Those of us who were community members became targets for all kinds of aggression. The best lands ended up in Fernandiniís hands through deceit and fraud and our community ended up as tenants. So we began to have talks with the company to see if they would co-operate in controlling the pollution. In the end the old owners, the Fernandinis, offered some favourable conditions which the new owners refuse to acknowledge. The older ones feel embittered about what has happened.

Another growing problem is castle rustling.
We didnít know what rustling was before the company came here. According to my grandfather the Campesino Community had great tracts of land where the animals roamed peacefully, there was land to spare. Along with the company came vigilantes who stepped in if there were any problems, however, usually there was no theft or the like, but now you just have to drop your guard for a moment and theyíre in your house or your farm and ruin all your efforts to build up your cattle.
Who did you lease land from ... what were you talking about?
You must have grazing land for cattle in this area. The thing is the company took over the best lands, ďCarmen ChicoĒ was one of these. The company let people use this land but comuneros who werenít company employees had to pay rent, whereas company employees were allowed to graze their animals there.
And how much rent did you pay?
My parents left me some land with a farmhouse but the land where we had some cattle in Huachuhuaccacca was poor and because itís quite isolated the cattle are forever being stolen. Thatís why we had to resort to company land and paying rent monthly according to the number of head of cattle we had. If you had 15 or 20 head of cattle you paid 15 soles (Peruvian currency) a month. Then it varied, we eventually had to pay 12 soles every 6 months and also a quota of work in Carmen Chico, the mining companyís estate. We used to work there and the pay sometimes went to pay our rent arrears.
Section 3
And how did the estate treat you?
The mining company which belonged the Fernandini family was also the landlord, but the cattle farming part was called ALGOLAR because it was part of chain of their companies or factories in Lima. So we could only talk to the owners occasionally. They treated us with affection and understanding if we had any problems. On the contrary, if any vigilante or administrator was nasty, abusive or overbearing they used to pull them up in front of us. Weíve been there when they have shouted at them ď ... donít upset my people ... they know how to work, you should be helping them instead of upsetting them ...Ē. Itís because our elders never let anything go by. I was young but I could see they were always going there with issues and as my dad sometimes went too as part of the community delegation, I got to know how these were resolved.
But, excuse me for insisting Don Ignacio, were you happy about paying rent?
Everyone paid here, we all agreed that it was better to pay rent than to have nothing. This was what happened in other places where the landowners closed off their land with wire mesh and fencing so no animals could get through, no one could get through.
I still have some of the landlordís receipts. Unfortunately in 1961 I was seriously ill and they took me to the hospital and since they thought I would die they burned everything without telling me. Thatís why I lost the whole set of receipts. The problem began with the Agrarian Reform and I couldnít justify anything because the law covered everyone who could prove they were working the land. Just as well the ďCarmen ChicoĒ Estate backed Huachuhuaccacca (?) so I was able to get a favourable settlement.
So was the Estate dismantled with the Agrarian Reform?
When the town of Huaranccacca was finished they more or less stopped charging us and the land was less controlled. The truth of the matter is we had very few cattle compared to their thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of sheep and they were more worried about them than us. So there was no problem when the Agrarian Reform was enacted.
You worked in the company, ... but did you ever work in the mine?
No, no ... I began working at 16 and I learned a few trades. I was an electrician, a driver, I used to drive the train which carried the minerals, ... I never carried a pick and lantern in the mine. When I left the company I had to rely on other jobs to keep my family ... and I still do despite my age, I have to look for any cachuelo now.
What does cachuelo mean?
Cachuelo means any job you do for money, any old thing, the important thing is to feel useful. They send you off to do something which you get paid for: moving coal, building houses, putting up walls for fences, now there are bricks and other
things so itís easier, we used to have to do it all from earth and carry lanterns and picks. We have several lime ovens now so thereís always work carrying stones and lime.
Don Ignacio, tell us about your parents, what were they like?
Now, yes ... I do remember something. My fatherís name was Aurelio Poma Oces. My uncles were rich because they had a lot of cattle, I mean sheep, because they also used to transport merchandise or minerals thatís why they were called riquipito (rich) They used to live off that and they always went through the hills by the stream. Whereas my dad was already working for the Cerro de Pasco Cooper Corporation in the Smelter foundry in Tinyahuarco. Thatís when they stole all his animals on the farm. This neighbourhood belonged to the Cooper Corporation then, and it had boundaries and was well separated from the other company, El Brocal. But they got on well and I never saw any bad feeling or the like from when I was a boy, and I understood more by the time I was 12 or 14 (???). I remember that time well because my dad died then.
Section 4
And what was your mumís name, and what was she like?
My mumís name was Lucila Verasyegui. I grew up with her and she was with me for many years.

Don Ignacio, you told us your dad worked in the Tinyahuarco foundry. Did he have any illness from that job?
My dad ... he started working in the Cooper Corporation very young, when the company first started in Cerro de Pasco, then he came to Tinyahuarco to work in the foundry and stayed for several years until he left because they stole his farm and everything. So he had to leave the foundry to look after the farm himself and start raising animals again. The he went to work in El Brocal which was called Fernandini at that time. He was a first-rate bricklayer and he worked on the Jupayragra Hydroelectric Plant. But he fell from one a height and they didnít rescue him very quickly because they didnít have the means then they have now, especially transport. They took him to hospital but he was permanently ill after that because he had damaged his spine. In the end my dad had to cure himself which is why he left the job. The owners, the Fernandinis, didnít even stop by to find out how he was.
Are there any customs here in Huarauccacca, like feasts?
Yes ... the campesino community has feasts like the one we celebrated just a few days ago. In my parentsí time there was the Jija, the Baile Viejo (the ďold danceĒ), they used to dance the Baile Viejo, the Jijas. I know, a lot about these dances or recollections, I wasnít as aware then (???) In those times the village already had its own church, we had our patron saint, Sr Cachapisca. Heís the one we venerate in Carnival each year and the one who unites all comuneros. Each year they decide who will organise the feast and if they donít do it thereís a punishment, we say ď ... if youíre not a man why do you get into this...Ē because we canít let God down and we canít miss his feast. Iíll tell you something about how things have changed. We used to do the Baile Viejo, then the Baile de los Chonguinos (type of dance) but for the last six years thereís only been the Baile la Negreria (type of dance). The young people only dance this one for the six days of Carnival.
Section 5
Don Julian, ... How do they organise the feast?
Iíll tell you about it ... When we receive the feast we offer a pachamanca (meant and vegetables cooked in underground ovens) to the Trucay.

In other communities they make the offering to the mountain, do they do this in Huaranccacca too?
Well, ... our women do the shopping for the table for the mountain and the traders know they have to sell them a quart of each product to be taken up to the Jirca on the eve of Carnival.
The owner of the animals goes into the countryside with all the shopping to await the guests. Meanwhile we get ready to spend the night drinking and chewing coca. We have lunch at 12.00 and take things with us to eat during the night.
When we get there we dig a hole to bury the offering to the Jirca in the name of our sheep and llamas so we can be sure that nothing will happen to them and they wonít be short of the main thing, grazing. We bury some coca, cigarettes, sweets and liquor for the Jirca. We chew coca and drink spirits to please the Jirca so he will look after our animals.
Does the Jirca cure illnesses too?
I donít really know ... but yes, I have heard this is so but I canít explain it any more. If we are ill we go to the doctor and we buy medicine to treat the animals, weíve also learned to treat them with home medicine, like borrajas (borrage) and escorsonera (?) which grow round here, thereís also sinecasha which is ortiga (nettle)... in Quechua itís sinecasha.
Do you treat yourselves with home remedies too?
Sometimes we donít realise we are ill and when we feel bad we go to Cerro de Pasco to the doctor, to hear what he has to say though we know doctorís canít do everything. He always tells us not to eat fat and milk and we have to take medicine. The truth is we donít last long and we only take the medicine for four or five days at the most and then we stop. Thatís because thereís no shortage of people who say sort yourself out we have a lot of natural remedies here. Those who know about this tell you what to take. For example if you have a bad stomach and you canít eat, drink lemonade and then you can eat. Lemon is very good for your health. Sinecasha is another important herb for cramps. You rub on some alcohol and then you rub in some nettles, this is our only alternative when weíre on the farm.
November is the time for visiting the dead, whatís it like in Huaranccacca?
Yes, ... this has been celebrated for a very long time throughout this region, thatís the way our parents taught us. We usually go to the cemetery on the 1st and 2nd of November, we sing and pray. At night we lay a table with all the foods the dead person liked: a mazamorra (maize porridge) all their favourites. We also believe that on the 2nd at 12.00 noon the dead personís soul comes to eat at the table so you have to leave it free for them whether itís a corner of the living room or one side of the dining room.
Don Igancio, what do they do here when a baby is born?
Women usually stay in hospital for three days and all that has to be done is look after them until they get better. Well, ... the family on one or other side always takes part because the arrival of the new addition is a happy time and because the mum came out of it well too, thatís it. Itís rather when the baby grows that we do the Haircutting feast which is linked to the Baptism because thatís when we name the godfather for the Baptism. In the Haircutting ceremony the godfather begins by giving a present and then he cuts the first lock, then all the guests follow with their presents which is usually money. There may be 2 or 3 sessions throughout the night. The babyís family provide the food and drinks for all the guests. The godfather comes out of this feast committed to the Baptism. If they donít have the Haircutting feast they have a family gathering with guests where they choose the godfather. Thereís sometimes a problem if the child doesnít have a birth certificate which used to be the case for most children. They only got one when they were older because they needed one. They only used to worry about that when they wanted to work or study. Theyíre very strict on this nowadays in the hospital, everywhere, they always ask for this document and if you donít have it you have to pay a fine. Theyíre more conscientious about it now.
How did the Huaranccacca Campesino Community develop farming?
With the Agrarian Reform the Fernandini Estate was broken up into lots and their cattle which were all pure breeds, were distributed. Our community was one of the beneficiaries along with other communities such as Raco and Sacra who got several thousand head of cattle out of this. Over the years they have become co-operatives and they keep their cattle by Lake Jumasha ..., I doubt if they could give away 100 or 1,000 animals now ... no they couldnít. The Sacra community is doing fine because they got very good pastureland and all the comuneros and farmhands have done well. Whereas, our community didnít make good use of this and what we have is a product of our own efforts. Each of us gave what we could to set up the co-operative, like five sheep, etc. At present, we have 50 cows but itís hard going and we donít have anything to invest. The forty of us who are members also have our community responsibilities to look after our animals (???). We donít get any help from government employees...
How about milk production?
We make cheese mostly to sell in Cerro de Pasco and we buy it ourselves at 5 Soles each cake of cheese.
Section 6
And are any profits shared out, does any benefit come out of this?
When the co-operative can afford it we get a little blanket or a throw and if times are good we get a sheep each. Weíve had paneton (sweet bread eaten at Christmas), chocolate and a bag of foodstuffs for an aguinaldo (extra monthís pay bonus after 12 months work common throughout Latin America), and you know we have to pay the accountant and the herders ....

Section 7
Don Ignacio, do you think the co-operative should continue?
Yes of course I do.... We all lend a hand here and everything we have has cost us all something. Of course we donít always have money for extras so we have to work and thatís our solution. We even have to save for other expenses, we bought the transformer for the electricity supply which even the company uses now, and even then it doesnít provide us with electricity because the company has brought in bigger machinery, more powerful ones which consume a lot of electricity so thereís little energy left for the village.
So the co-operative has helped the mine out.
Of course, ... we sold our bulls to buy the transformer and now they think itís their property. I donít think any other mining company has had more help than this one, whereas itís doing us a lot of harm, particularly in terms of pollution and because theyíre taking away many of the benefits our village used to enjoy.
What do you think about the young folk in Huaranccacca?
Itís hard to talk about the youngsters. Just look at my children, two have gone to Lima and hardly come here any more and when they come they find their home in a sad state. We havenít got anything and we live in the worst backwardness. They tell me off because they say that as a father I should leave to seek better opportunities, theyíre right to some extent. So I understand what some young people do but there are others who donít put their mind to anything apart from having fun. Theyíre never serious about anything.
Don Ignacio, have you ever been a leader of the Community?
No, no..., the truth is I havenít. Itís because Iím not very learned and if I do know something itís because I have made an effort to learn myself. Sometimes they want to put you into one of the office bearing positions but whatís the point if itís going to mean trouble afterwards. When I was younger they made me Teniente Gobernador (Governorís lieutenant).

And do you agree with your children that you should leave Huaranccacca with them?
No, ... itís impossible, ... what could I do at my age out of this place? Besides, my son went to secondary in Huancayo and wants to carry on with his studies. Itís good that he wants to get ahead and heís in Cerro now working and studying. He wants to become a professional as he says, itís good that he has to make some sacrifices for this. Once heís got what he needs to live and has his family, his children, heíll have other things to worry about. Itíll be the same with my daughter, sheíll have her husband and her children. I know that leaving here means lots of expense which I canít afford so Iíd be as well to stay put because I know how to get by here.
How old were you when you got married Don Igancio?
I was 33 years old..., I was well looked after by my mother and my sisters. Iíve had seven children, but three of the women and two of the men are in my care. My son Fernando is working on contract in El Brocal, he finished secondary and is working now. I told him that I had done what I could but now itís up to him if he wants to get on more.
Section 8
What would you most desire for the Huaranccacca?
It would be good if the co-operative were to develop and if the company stopped taken advantage of the village. Itís a help when we can get meat at low prices and isnít that good for the whole town? We have also built a health post with everyone in the villageís help and we asked the company for materials which we got. Weíd like to improve the village by doing more repairs but we need wire mesh and corrugated sheeting. People here are willing to put in the labour. We also need some finance for our leaders. It costs money to go to Cerro on our business, fares and documents...
Has the government ever helped the community out?
Yes of course ..., we have had some help even though itís not been much. They gave us a dumper recently and the engine runs on petrol and we asked the company to give us work with the dumper. They said yes but we asked them to change it for one that uses diesel and they didnít want that so our dumper is still not in use. We use it now and again to move loads for the lime ovens but thatís not very often.
Do you have anything more to add?
If the company were to hear this interview I would say donít be bad to us cutting our electricity and water, donít take away our transport. You know many people here that work in the company are afraid to speak up. If they say anything the get fired so they prefer to shut up, so you can never complain and our leaders waste their time always going up there to get the company to do something.