photo of person from Peru Cerro de Pasco
Peru glossary


(PERU 13)








La Oroya





We are with Señora Adela Rivera de Santos who is from La Oroya. Her parents and her grandparents have also been members of the community of San Geronimo in La Oroya and all her family, as members of La Oroya, have been witnesses of the changes that have happened here in this city. She is going to tell us some stories about her life and, of course, she is going to tell us about much of her experiences in relation to the life of La Oroya.

Section 1
Señora Adela, could you tell us about your experiences and about what you picked up from your grandparents as a little child, as a young girl?
I have only gathered sadness about life from my grandparents señor because I've seen so many things here in my village, so many animals dying. That to me is very sad. See for yourself, look around you and you'll see rocks. There's nothing left, not even grass. The rivers are no longer any use in La Oroya. I'm from La Oroya and this hurts me. Before we had our own land, but one day they kicked us out, they told us that the land was sold, that it had been bought. That's the story our grandparents told us, that's the story of the plundering of the lands of the campesino community of La Oroya.

What lands did they take from all of you?
The land that is now occupied by La Oroya's smelter. Our grandparents told us that a certain Palacios sold it with documents that he had bought from the courts; all of those men are corrupt. They were corrupt in those days and they continue to be corrupt now. They'll sell out for a handful of money. They didn't just take our grandparent's land like that, but they also brought the damn smoke which began to hurt us. If you had visited us earlier, if you had been born before, you would have seen that the smoke was already damaging us here in our community. You see, all the animals were dying, the horses, the cows, the sheep... They would toss and turn, they'd go mad, they became blind and they died. That's what our grandmother told us; she told us that they all died, even the cows, all of them. So what they did was denounce the Cerro de Pasco [Corporation].

What was the denunciation like?
Of course the Cerro de Pasco was sued. The trial lasted for years, years señor, and since we were poor, where were we going to get the money from? You see, you need money for a court case, don't you? But we were poor, so each of us had to chip in our share which we got from selling little plots of land, my grandmother says, and also grass. By that time they already had to rent grassland and she says that they had a lawyer to defend the pastures and they would catch partridges for him high up in the mountains. What was the lawyer's name? I can't remember, tata (term of affection), he was from here, from Huancayo. They also killed him here, señor.
Section 2
They killed him? What happened?
They say that it was something very strange, a strange accident, but around here they say it was the company that killed him. I believe that too...of course, who else could it be? Well, the poor thing died.

What a story! Going onto something else, you told me that you use to take the animals high up into the mountains?
Yes, we had to do it, we had to do it you see because if not they died and the animals were the only things that we had left. Our grandparents told us that they had to do this to look after them and care for them so that they would fatten up, otherwise they would die.

So, your saying that your grandparents had their little farm here in this part of La Oroya before and that they grew everything here?
Oh yes, of course. Before it was just there, where you see nothing now, just rock and fumes. That's where the community farms and all its land use to be. All the farm [houses] were just made of thatch, but they were beautiful, that's what they told us. In old La Oroya they use to plant trees, they used to plant potato, olluco (?), coca (South American shrub, the leaves of which are used as a narcotic or stimulant), it used to grow and there were trees, lots of trees, and different varieties too. There were myrtles, for example.

What is a myrtle tree like? Have you seen them?
Myrtles have big leaves and they are trees. They use to grow here but there are other places around here where they still grow. Quisuars are other trees. A quisuar is a bush just like the quiguan. They are the same, but this one is used to make roofs for the houses - it's used for the roofs.

But now there aren't any, not a single one. There must have been some here a few years ago.
Now there are none. There were four or five little stumps here but they have been removed, you see. That's how it was señor. The life of our grandparents was sad in those years, for years and years. After 25 years it has been possible to rescue at least a little so that they leave us in peace because they didn't let us work in peace, they didn't let the people of La Oroya work on their land. Everything was for mining. Did we ask them to come? They just came with their chimneys and their fumes. If they bothered us then we went up, up into the hills. Others left for Huancayo or for Jauja, what else could we do? They went because they couldn’t work on their land, just there houses were left, but only on a scrap of land. We no longer had our farms to grow crops on and graze our animals - we didn't have that anymore. That's why we went to court and we won. After 25 years we won the court case.

What year was that? Do you remember?
I don't remember what year it was, señor. I can't remember that much. My brothers and I were just little, señor, when they set up that chimney you see over there. It used to be in Malpaso before. Before it was in Malpaso and they brought it here. They brought that one that burns the minerals from Malpaso. That's where everything started and it was in those years that we got into debt. That changed our lives....
Section 3
What operated in Malpaso?
There was also a type of depot there and they would take the minerals there that were extracted from everywhere; they brought and brought all the minerals from everywhere there where they were accumulated. But then they saw that it was safer here because they could use the rivers and the streams to cover it. Surely, that is why they put the chimney here. As you may know, the river doesn't run close to Malpaso.

And did your grandfather tell you what it was like when the smelter started operating?
Well yes, he told us. He said that when it began to work nobody went out; the people didn't want to go out because it would harm them. The tests that they did were dangerous for the health and around here nobody was accustomed to go around breathing this air. So my poor grandparents had to - they felt forced to buy a little peace of land a bit further away. They bought a patch of land through their own efforts. That's what they told us it was like at first, they went further away.

They moved to the outskirts, did they go to an annex?
That's it, to an annex, because there was no land. There was land in La Oroya but the fumes wouldn't allow them to do what they wanted, that is, plant their crops and care for their animals. The majority of us though continued to defend our lands by suing the company and all that. Others would allow themselves to be cheated, they would sell and then get drunk with the money and they would be left with nothing. This is how the company built the camp for the workers and began to appropriate the land.

So where is that camp now? Is it the same one you see in La Oroya today?
No, it doesn't exist anymore.

Oh, you [the community] got it back?
We got it back, yes, but they continued building and La Oroya as you see it now is different. The company is everywhere...this happened after two years, I don't remember exactly, my grandparents told me this.

But when you were a bit older you must have seen La Oroya?
Yes, but everything was already white. There was no grass left, they had already poisoned it all, everything. That's why my grandparents took them to court, for having ruined all the grass. But, as you know this has happened in several places, in other communities in the area.

Which communities?
Sacco, Paccha, La Oroya, there's another one, Huaillay, down here there is also Huari. We have protested with them as well and we have recently beaten the company. We have gotten it back, señor, yes we have won recently, señor. Because you can imagine we had to gain respect, because they saw that we were poor, they thought they could do whatever they liked in our land. The company would fight us. They - those gringos (westerners, foreigners, in this context North Americans who ran/owned the mines) - would come on their horses, there were no cars back then, and dump all their rubbish, that slag, on our communities, in all of La Oroya, in San Geronimo. Just there in San Geronimo.
Section 4
There, where they deposit the slag, as you exit La Oroya?
Yes, of course, right there. Before there was a section right there at the exit where many of my friends used to live, so the gringos told them to sign and there wouldn't be any problems. Now it's sold. But people, as humble as they may be, are not idiots - the people of La Oroya didn't sell. My grandparents told me that they told the gringos, “We won't sign, señores,” and they couldn't get them out. As you see, they continue living there on their lands, they wouldn't allow themselves to be evicted.

Your father, your grandfather, did they all participate in these struggles?
My grandparents, my grandparents did and my father did as well. I believe that he was quite young in those days.

Oh, your grandfather was the one who was right in the middle of the struggle, wasn't he?
My grandfather, yes, he was. We wouldn't sign. Others signed and they say that there was fighting among them, there were confrontations. Some people were in favour of the company.

So there were comuneros (registered community members with rights and responsibilities) in favour of the company?
Yes, there was no lack of them. This Señor Palacios, for example, after he had sold everything, he was hired by the company. They gave him a position of authority, he was made lieutenant, like a governor, so then, since he knows how to talk a bit, he went on telling people to sign. He was trying to make the poor sign, but the poor didn't want to sign. So they say they ended up fighting and throwing stones at each other and they threw out all the their slag.

Before, did you cultivate in all this area?
Yes, we used to plant beans, oats, potatoes, also oca and olluco. They grew nicely, says a man. So we bought a little piece of land and there was a fight recently; they kicked us out and burned our hut up here, up in the altitude of the hills.

Señora Adela, have you lived here in La Oroya all your life or did you ever go to other cities?
I've stayed here in La Oroya, señor. I didn't want to leave. Of course, I have been to Lima and Huancayo, but just to visit or to wander around, as they say...I was born here in La Oroya 59 years ago....I've just had my 59th birthday and all these years I've lived in La Oroya.

Did you get married in La Oroya?
Yes, of course I got married here.

When did you get married, señora?
I got married 40 years ago, señor.
Section 5
So how old were you when you got married?
I got married at nineteen. Nineteen years old and my husband is here. Our life has been sad in our land, señor, but little by little we have built our little house, we've recovered some land because when we got married the council wouldn't let us build our house. Can you imagine? They said that it was council land. We told them that it was our community's land and that our grandparents had given it to us. And so in that way we recovered it and we built our home, a little hut, that's all, made of straw....and then we managed to get ahead and improved the construction. That's how we began taking over the side of the mountain. Before they wouldn't let us touch the land, the council's agents would come and try to kick us out.

But all that is here right now, all of that that is going up, up the side of the mountain, all that has spread hasn't it?
That's right, that's how it is now and our house is up there along with the rest of the comuneros. They go up the mountain, as you can see. All those people are Oroyinos (people from La Oroya), like me. Before we were the owners of large areas of land and the company evicted us and pushed us into the hills. The council didn't even want to give us that because the council didn't evict the company. It didn't interfere with it, its true, it couldn't be bothered with the company; of course because the company had the money to pay. The mayor didn't care if the city was polluted.

But how the city of La Oroya has changed! What's your opinion?
It has changed a lot, señor. It's not like it was before - it's mad now.

Has the change been for better, or for worse?
Some people think that since it has grown, since it's bigger, La Oroya is better, because now it has expanded. But what they don't realise is that Centromin, what use to be the Cerro de Pasco Corporation, has taken over nearly everything and has been expelling us. So, you see, of course it's going to grow. I don't believe that it has got better because now it's more difficult to live here in La Oroya. You have to start up a business or go to another city, so it's not better than it was before...

And your father, what does your father do?
My father is dead.

And was he a comunero as well?
He was also a comunero.

He didn't work in the smelter, did he?
No, not my father, he didn't work there, neither did my grandfather. My husband's grandfather though, worked as a miner and he also looked after the gringo's horses.

Who's grandfather would that be...
My husband's, yes, my husband's.
Section 6
Your husband's grandfather?
Yes, he said that he worked there, on the other hand my father didn't. He would raise animals and plant potatoes, all those kind of things, since he bought some land so he wouldn't need to be fighting.

So your father was mostly involved in livestock, in agriculture?
Not so much agriculture, but, yes, a bit. He was more involved in livestock, he went to the hills with the livestock and he would let them graze there and he would care for his animals, along with others from the community. That's how we use to live. He also worked seasonally in the haciendas (estate farms) of the area that were a little further away.

Did you join your father in the communal faenas (community, communal work)?
Yes, of course. Since we were children we helped the whole family with the animals.

How many brothers and sisters did you have?
There were 4 girls and 2 boys, yes two boys.

And you went with your father and your mother to work in the fields?
Yes, we went to work in the fields.

What area did you work in?
Beyond the village, in the settlements. Sometimes we went further up the hills, other times we went further down, towards Tarma, in that direction.

Is that close to Tarma Cementos Andino?
Aha, we lived near there, but there also it was also by cement. That's how we worked with my father and with my mother. We children would help our parents a lot then, not like now.

Do you think that it has changed, that children no longer help their parents like they did before?
It's no longer the same, no. Now they don't help and they even forget that they have parents. That's what it's like.

Why do you think that?
I don't know. Maybe it's the education they get. Before parents were stricter and had more authority, now they don't. Children are very selfish and only think about themselves. Education is like that, it makes them more selfish and so they no longer respect their parents. There's too much beer, cigarettes - all that is ruining the children and that's why they forget their parents. They go away and once in a while they return, that's all.
Section 7
Señora, how many children did you have?
I have had four children.

How many girls and how many boys?
Two of each. That's how it was.

And what do your children do, what are their occupations?
They don't live in La Oroya. Two are in Lima and the others are in Huancayo and in Pucalpa, in the jungle.

And why did they leave La Oroya?
They didn't like living here because there wasn't any work. They said it wasn't possible to live in La Oroya anymore and so they went one after the other, until we were left on our own.

And do they continue to see you, do they come to visit you or do you also go to visit them?
Not very often because they are far away. I've been to Lima sometimes and I've seen them. The one that lives in Huancayo I see more often, but they don't come to visit us and now I'm too old to go and visit them in their houses. They have their own families now, their children, and they forget about their parents a bit. That's what's happens I think.

Do you have a lot of grandchildren, have they given you a lot of grandchildren?
Yes, of course, but I think they don't even remember their grandmother, at least they don't remember me. They don't even see me, how are they going to remember me? We should see each other more often, but no, my children have forgotten their parents. They don't even remember our birthdays, they don't come. One of them remembers once in a while but that's all. That's how it is, you see. That's what happens.

And do you think that what has happened to you happens to a lot of families here in La Oroya?
Not just in La Oroya. That's what happens now, the children forget - that happens a lot - And we, the old ones, are going to die alone. That's what happens when the children go to other places and don't take their parents with them. That's what's happened to my husband and me.

And you haven't thought about travelling to a city where your children are?
No, you see we're old now. We would be a nuisance and they have to tell us [to come], we can't arrive just like that. You can't do that. You can't go where you're not invited.

But would you like to go or not?
I would but my husband wouldn't because he's more resentful than me and he doesn't want to go to live there. He says he doesn't want to be a burden on anyone.

Well, that must be the main reason - your husband doesn't want to leave La Oroya - and not that your children have forgotten about you.
That's right, he wants to die in La Oroya that's what he says, but that doesn't excuse the fact that they don't visit us or anything.
Section 8
Well, I hope that these problems are solved and that you see your children and your grandchildren more often.
[Señora Adela doesn't respond.]

But surely your children come to La Oroya for the fiestas (festivals, celebrations)which I've heard are beautiful? The community also has fiestas, doesn't it?
Yes, of course it has fiestas and they have come sometimes, rarely, but sometimes...

Has there always been fiestas, have you always celebrated?
A lot, since way before. We came from far away to celebrate. The people of La Oroya come from wherever they have gone to and celebrate our fiestas. We had an image - the Spaniards taught us about that - an image called Santa Elena. We worship that image.

Is this the patron saint of the community?
No, the patron saint is San Geronimo, but we have several fiestas, here. The most important is Santa Elena's and San Geronimo's who is our saint. That's what we celebrate.

And when do you celebrate San Geronimo?
San Geronimo is celebrated on July 20th, every year. It is a very beautiful fiesta.

It's quite soon, isn't it?
Yes, quite soon.

You'll invite me, won't you?
Yes, of course, if you will accept to come. There are other fiestas after that for the people of La Oroya which is on the 8th of December - the fiesta of the Virgin of Cabana - we also celebrate the carnivals.

With the people of La Oroya, that's all?
No, well, it's for anyone who wants to come and celebrate with us here. They come from lots of places, from everywhere because you know that La Oroya is a crossroad to go everywhere. You go to the jungle from here, to Huancayo, to Lima. During the fiestas they come from all over.

And what are the fiestas like?
The fiestas always begin with the journey of the saint that you are celebrating, be it San Geronimo or the virgins, but they have to preside over the fiesta, that's how it begins. It's a sign of gratitude to the saints for having given us one more year of life and to ask them to give us a blessing for the following year.

Generally, the fiestas in all the villages in this area are religious - why do you think that is?
Well, you see, it's inherited from the Spanish. We are very Christian and so are the fiestas, very religious and that's how they begin. Later we celebrate with dances from the region, the huaylas (traditional dances, fast) and other dances depending on the fiesta. They prepare the food and the dance competitions. It’s really beautiful.
Section 9
What are the competitions like?
They're beautiful, they're to find out who dances best. Sometimes people come from different places, from several different places and they compete. There are very good dancers here and they go to dance in other places afterwards. Also, the artists from La Oroya who are very well known in the country are born in these competitions.

And do you always participate in the celebrations?
Yes, I've always liked to participate. I used to dance before, not now because of my age, but I've always liked the fiestas....

And do you think that the celebrations have changed or are they the same?
They have changed a little, yes, of course they have changed. Before the fiestas used to last a week. My grandparents told us that they used to last even longer because they worked the land and organised themselves better and celebrated longer. Not now, the majority of the population are from Oroya or they are miners or businessmen who can't celebrate like before. But they celebrate anyway and the fiestas are really beautiful. Now we also have bands as well that didn't come before and with their instruments they make the children dance.

Not just the children - you as well, don't they?
Well, yes we dance, we celebrate, as well. Oh, I forgot that we also had the branding fiesta before and now as well.

When do they have this?
In February, during carnival.

Now? Will they have the branding fiesta this month?
Yes, we're going to go up, up there.

What is a branding, why don't you tell me about it?
Branding, señor, is when they put the shoes on the small cattle, on the ones that have been born and are growing.

What else do you do?
That's all. Its just when we're going to brand the cattle. As they are older we have to put the name of the community on them.

On their ear, on their little ears.

What do you put on them?
We cut it with a knife and then we put in an earring.
Section 10
What are the earrings like?
We make them from wool. Sometimes we buy wool and we make the earrings by doubling the wool. We put them in by cutting all the livestock with scissors; we have about 30 or 40 parchitos (?).

And how many days does this last?
Just a day, that's all it lasts.

You don't have a fiesta?
No, no, we have a bit of a fiesta, a little pachamanca (meat and vegetables cooked in underground ovens). We eat a piece of meat, we peel the habas (broad beans), the potatoes and have mote (a type of maize); then the old people have to drink so that the livestock will fatten up - that's the tradition.

Does each small holding do this or does the community organise it?
The community organises it. The community has it's own pasture. It's the community that organises it. It's a beautiful fiesta although now, as I said, there are less cattle here in La Oroya and this spoils the fiesta and the tradition a bit, but we continue it.... It's a very old fiesta that hasn't died. Once, our grandparents say, the police wanted to ban the branding fiesta when the community was fighting with the company because of the fumes. The police always work with the company and the company didn't want us to have the fiesta because they thought that we would go and protest afterwards. They said that there was a state of siege in La Oroya and that gatherings were prohibited.

And what happened?
Well, we had the fiesta anyway, they couldn't prohibit it, and we continued to protest so that they could see we weren't going to chicken out. We, the people of the community of La Oroya, protested because we had a reason, because of the contamination, of the pollution, because of what was poisoning the grass and everything that there was. Here in the hills grass use to grow, now nothing grows. That's what happened, we have maintained the fiesta of the herranza (branding of cattle) until now, despite the fact that there is such a little bit of livestock.

Did you live through this experience that you have just told me about?
Yes, I remember, yes, I was a little girl during that fiesta. I remember that we used to eat habas (broad beans). That's exactly why there are trials, because of the pollution. You see, now there's grass further away, over there, but not here. They would have liked us to leave but we have our title deeds to the land and we're not going.

How did the trials turn out?
As I told you earlier, almost in nothing because here in this country to win you have to have money and our enemy is powerful. It's a powerful company, big. It use to be foreign, now it belongs to the state and then, they are saying, they're going to sell it to other gringos. Whose ever it is, it's always powerful and they're not interested at all in the destiny of us poor people and so the trials are withdrawn or they pay you a ridiculous amount of money that's no use for anything. Some communities think that they have beaten the company because it has paid them money, but with this they can hardly recuperate their pastures, their livestock or any of that. That's what happens with the trials, they're no good for anything. It doesn't matter who we talk to or if we win the trials...
Section 11
Tell me, has anyone in your family worked for the company?
Well yes, my husband, yes he worked there. He worked there for five years and then he left.

In what year did your husband work there?
In what year would that have been? He left 22 years ago, or 25 years ago

During the time of the gringos? Didn't he work there in the 1970s?
Not then, no. He worked there for five years, that's all. My grandparents didn't want him to. They didn't want him to go and work there. They would just say, "Let's carry on taking care of the animals. If you work in the mine, it's too sad in there." That's what they would say.

Why did they say that, because they didn't want him to work?
Because it was dangerous. In those days it was worse than it is now.

What used to happen?
My husband came back with a scarf tied around him, he had spots all over the place - my grandparents said it was because of the pollution in the smelter.

Are you saying that the grandparents of the old Oroyinos were against having their children work in the smelter? They didn't want that.
Yes, of course, especially the grandparents. The smoke has too much pollution, you're bound to get ill there, you're lungs will be damaged, they would say.

They had already realised that was happening here?
Yes, they knew, but other poor people continued to work in La Oroya, but my grandfather told my husband not to work there and that's why he didn't work

How long did your husband work there?
Five years, yes, five years.

And he suffered the consequences - illnesses during the time that he worked?
His lungs, more than anything. He coughed a lot but my grandfather cured him.

Do you remember what he cured him with?
Yes, I remember. My son, who was small at the time, collected four toads and killed them. He boiled them and he made my husband drink quite a lot of it for a few days and so he made him quite well. That's how he cured him. He also gave him herbs.
Section 12
Herbs as well, mulanca (medicinal herb) from higher up [in the mountains], my husband also took that.

What's that herb like?
That herb is spread throughout the altitude of the mountains and it has some purple fruits, like tiny grapes. When you eat it stains your mouth. Making a soup, he made him eat this as well, along with the concentrate of little animals, but he wouldn't tell him [what it was] because otherwise he wouldn't want to drink it. We would just tell him it was made from a dry branch or a white dove. Poor thing, he would just drink it. He didn't like it but it helped him a lot and he got better like that. Otherwise, he thought he was going to die.

And in what section did your husband work? Do you know?
Well, to be honest I don't know what section is what in the smelter but he used to work close to the big chimney that you can see over there.

Did it just affect his skin or his lungs as well?
Yes, he coughed as well. You see that's why he used to take the frog soup, but the spots that he would get!

And how did he cure the spots?
We cured them using a cream that my grandparents knew how to make out of pig - from the pig. We killed the pig, then we took out all that part from its stomach, a piece of fat - sort of round. We called that sinsal. It was painted with bollon de la bicharra (charcoal).

What is bicharra?
We cook it with shrubs, with wood, señor, then the smoke that blackens the wall turns black and we make it from that.

So the bicharra is cooking with....
Cooking with wood, when it turns black, that is bicharra.

Isn't bosta cattle excrement?
Of cattle, of the cow. My grandfather cured him with that.

He got well?
He got well, he got well quickly.

I didn't know that.
I didn't know about it either but my grandparents knew how to prepare it.

So your husband returned to the countryside faenas.
Yes, he's still planting.

Is your husband alive?
Yes, he's alive.
Section 13
Where is your husband now?
He has gone to Huancayo, señor?

Is he a comunero here?
Yes, he's a comunero.

Has he been a community leader?
Yes, he was the treasurer there in La Oroya, in the village. My grandparents would cure him when he had scabs on his face; they were all over his neck, that's why he put on his scarf, that's what my husband looked like. Sometimes he didn't want to go to work and my grandparents would tell him not to go to work, to support himself with the farm, to eat from there. They said, don't go there, you'll just damage your health in the chimney. Support yourself with the farm, with the animals, they told us, and so that's how we supported ourselves.

You lived with the bare essentials?
To survive, that's all. In our little house we killed the lamb, we planted potatoes further up, we planted barley... We lived from that - just enough to eat. We also spun wool from our sheep to make, to keep us warm, you see. That's how we lived.

And, for example, what did you do about potable water - water to drink or to wash up - where did you get this water from before?
We had a river here, a stream.

What river?
That river came from Huchimachai, I think it's called that...

But it came from Huchimachai?
It came from Huchimachai, from the altitude. It was a river that use to go to different place, but now they have covered it.

All of you would drink from there?
Yes, we would drink from there before because it was clean water from Huchimachai.

What's in Huchimachai, is it a lake?
It's a spring, yes it's a spring and the water is clean and clear. Centromin hasn't got there and it hasn't contaminated it like so many other lakes and rivers that they've contaminated around here. Those waters are very clean because they are from the snow capped mountains.

They haven't contaminated it like they have managed to do with the Mantaro River, for example, which goes through La Oroya?
That's right because before, for example, we use to drink from the river, we would even wash our clothes in the Mantaro River, but we don't any more because lately it's contaminated.
Section 14
How many years is it since you haven't been able to do the laundry in the Mantaro?
I haven't washed clothes there since...phew...I don't remember very well, but for many years. We use to do our laundry there before, it was clean there you see, now its worse, the clothes come out dirty, dirtier than when you take them to be washed...but it's been more or less thirty years. Before we would go and wash clothes in the river because it was fairly close for all the people of La Oroya and we use to go on Sundays, but not anymore. Now we have to go further. We also go to the Huchimachai, where the water falls regularly. It comes here regularly.

So, the spring is still there?
Yes, it is coming right now here to La Oroya.

But it doesn't provide for the whole city?
No, it's just for this side. The other side, you can see, gets it from the pipe, from another place, it is coming from that place called Tundimachai which we all know.

And where does that water come from?
It comes from Tundimachai.

Is that what the spring is called?
That's what it's called. There's a big cave up there and that's why it's called Tundimachai. The people from our community know all this because it's our land, everything you see down below and everything you see up above. That cave that I told you about is really big and crystal clear and pure water from the snowcaps comes from there. It's the community of San Geronimo in the city of La Oroya.

And why have they given the city the name of La Oroya and not San Geronimo?
There's a story to this which my grandmother told me about. Before, they said, I don't know what they called it, others also said that it didn't have a name. They said that once, a long time ago, a few comuneros came down from the hills, they were old people, very old, they came down on what is now Tarma Street, you know, a bit that way, past the bridge, and the old people came down and they were blocked by a bull. It was lying in the middle of the path - there was a dead bull.

As I said, where they were walking, now that we have become modern it's Tarma Street.

And what happened?
Well, you see the bull was dead and the old people said, one of them said that he was going to bring a knife...let's cut a piece for ourselves and so they cut a bit off. At least two little bits, they said, and we'll take it for our dog and our cat. They say that they cut a bit off and as they carried the piece of meat it weighed more and more and when they looked at it again the sack was full of gold, so that's why they called it La Oroya. That's the story my grandfather told me and he said they were scared because that piece of meat was not meat but gold. They went back with the news and the whole village dashed to the road but the bull was no longer there, the dead bull had disappeared. Can you imagine that, señor? Because of this it is called La Oroya, that's what my grandfather told me.
Section 15
And even now it continues to be called La Oroya?
Even now, yes.

Do many people know this story?
Well, some people know, yes, mainly those who have been told by their grandparents...

And have you told this story to other people?
Yes, of course, to my family, to my children and some friends, like you.

In this way you go about maintaining your stories, the stories of the village?
Yes, that's how it is, señor....that's why before there was the fiesta of the bull.

What was that fiesta like?
They used to look for the treasure that were guarded by the bull. Our grandparents told us that the bull guarded the rest of the gold in some place in La Oroya, you know. That's the way it is, that's the story and the village commits itself to looking for the treasure of the bull until the one that finds it wins, that's the fiesta....

Do you continue the tradition?
Yes, even now we still have that tradition.

Do you always have it on the same date?
Yes, always the same, it's the first of January, but there are years when it doesn't get organised because we also celebrate the new year and it clashes with the fiesta. And it is also being lost because a lot of people have left the community, you know that this has happened as well. The old Oroyinos go, the children as well and some of the traditions are lost, but we try to keep them. And what's more the company has fought so much with the community that some people have even had to move to the annexes.

What is this about the annexes?
The annexes are nearby pieces of land which have been incorporated into the community because of the need to find somewhere to graze our cattle and to plant things. When we protested to the company, the community of San Geronimo of La Oroya won against the company, against the Cerro de Pasco Corporation and so, as a result of the compensation, the community organised itself to buy an hacienda located in Tari which is a sort of annex of La Oroya, but it is very close. Our grandparents told us that they pitched in their share in order to buy it.

So, in addition to the compensation everyone gave their share?
Yes, they collected more to buy this piece of land, it's just a bit, it's not very big, you see it's not really enough as there are quite a lot of us comuneros. And so that land was annexed to the community of San Geronimo of La Oroya. A lot of comuneros have gone to work there.
Section 16
Why did they work there?
Of course they did...some of them stayed there, although it wasn't very far from here and in the new land of the community they used to cultivate and they took their animals there. They had their farms.

And did your grandparents go there as well?
Yes, and my parents as well. I was born there in the annexes and so were my brothers and to this day we cultivate, we look after our animals, we plant potatoes for our community. That's how it is, young man, this has been the story of our community. As you see there are a lot of ups a downs, a lot of excitement, but here we are, still working at this age, but working and living. Look at La Oroya now. No, it's different, it's bigger but it's not like before. Before it was much more peaceful. Now everyone wants to do the same thing, they want to trade, be traders or miners, to work for Centromin. Fortunately, none of my children work for that company. We don't owe anything to that company. Neither myself nor my family have made a living from that company. We are comuneros and that's the way we have brought up our children. On the contrary, this used to just be the campesino of San Geronimo of La Oroya, but now it is different. Now we don't even know each other with all the people that come and go. This is all I can tell you for the moment. Maybe another day we can carry on talking, señor...

Señito, thank you, this has all been valuable and I hope to come back another day.