photo of person from Peru Cerro de Pasco
Peru glossary


(PERU 24)






leader of women’s mining assoc.


La Oroya





We are in Mrs. Ana Espinosa Pucuhuayla's home. She is the leader of the Central Committee of the Mining Women of Centromín Perú. This association brings together all the Housewives Committees from Centromín Perú settlements. She is the daughter of a veteran miner and is married to a metalworker who was recently fired by Centromín Perú. Doña Anita has kindly agreed to tell us about important aspects of her life.

Section 1
Where were you born Doña Anita.
I was born here in La Oroya on May 11, 1957.

Who were your parents?
My parents were Florentino Espinosa Cárdenas and Silveria Pucuhaila Landa. They were from the community of Tarmatambo in Tarma province in the department of Junin.

What do you know about why your father came to La Oroya?
Well he came to work in La Oroya following in his father's footsteps and also his advice. My dad's dad was one of the men who built the first hydroelectric (dam?) in Mantaro and my grandfather also witnessed the Malpaso massacre. That's when they fired all the workers, it was when my father was nearly 15 years old. My father left Malpaso because he was fired and after that he came here to work in La Oroya.

What year did your father begin work in la Oroya?
In 1945.

And where did your dad live before 1945?
They all lived in Tarmatambo. He worked in cattle-farming. From a very early age he worked with his uncles up in the highlands with the animals because he lost his mother very early on. He grew up with the cattle until he could think for himself which is when he left Tarmatambo. He began to study in Tarma and from Tarma he came to work in La Oroya.

Apart from his father's advice, did your father have any other reason to come to work in La Oroya?
The communities got no help in those days, they had nothing to invest though that's changed now. In those days each farmer had to see to his own needs, money was scarce and didn't go far enough. So my dad decided it was better to work in La Oroya to get more money to put into the cattle and the crops.
Section 2
Was your father a member of the community?
No, not my dad but my grandfather was. He was a justice of the peace and also the president of the community. My dad's dad was, but my dad wasn't in the community.

And your dad's mum?
I don't know much about her because she died, she left him when he was around seven. She was a cattle-farmer so she left her animals to my uncles and dad. My grandfather left my dad when he was small, he went to Lima. My grandfather came back again and became president of the community of Tarmatambo.

Let's sort this out a little. You said your grandfather worked in Malpaso, he was in the Malpaso massacre and then he was fired?

Tell me about the massacre of Malpaso.
Well, the people who worked around there decided to protest about the ill-treatment they got from the gringo (westerner, foreigners, in this context North Americans who ran/owned the mines) company so they went on strike, I think it was one of the first strikes. They were fiercely repressed and when they resisted the massacre ensued. Several died and those that weren't killed were fired. That's what happened to my grandfather and he had to leave.

You said your grandfather was in Lima, why did he go there?
He went. When he saw they had fired him and that there was no more work in Malpaso he decided to go to Lima. In those days there was a lot of work in Lima. In the factories, in those days there was a lot of work and there was land too, land enough to take or to buy. There was lots of work in Lima so he decided to go to Lima to find work and to have an income.

And why did your grandfather decide to go to Malpaso for work?
Because Cerro de Pasco was also taking workers and he said he was leaving here, the animals, everything. His wife looked after the cattle and he needed to find other work so he left Tarmatambo.

So he went to improve the family income?
The work had to be shared to raise the family income. His wife was with the animals and my dad was already born by that time so my grandfather more or less had to leave, he had to leave in search of work which is why he went to Lima.

So your grandfather went to work in Malpaso after your father was born?
More or less, my father was a few months old then. My grandmother died and my dad who had reached a certain age decided to go to work, he was around fourteen or fifteen so when he finished his primary school in Tarma he came to La Oroya to work.

So you're saying that when his mother died your dad had to go out to work?
Not exactly, he was raised by some uncles and aunts. When he finished primary in Tarma he came to work here in the foundry in La Oroya, they took him into the foundry plant.
Section 3
How old was he then?
He was nearly sixteen.

But before we talk about your father I want to ask you something about your grandfather. What did he do in Lima, do you know?
He worked in a textile company, in a textile factory, they made cloth and sent it on to the buyers, that's why it went well for him in Lima and he forgot about my dad and everything else. So my dad raised himself in Tarma, without his dad. He finished his studies there and then he left because school was very expensive in those days, if you had money you educated yourself and if you didn't, you didn't. My dad was very clever, he had good marks and did well in his courses. In primary five they used too do trigonometry, maths and chemistry. My dad didn't carry on with his studies
because he didn't have the money or the support, he stopped at primary and then went to work.

How long did your grandfather stay in Lima?
He stayed a fair amount of time, twenty-four years, it was a long time. The he came back to Tarma.

Why did he come back?
Because things went badly in his life and because the woman he had then left him. He had three women. He says himself it didn't work for him.

Did he come back to Tarma or to the community?
To the community, he went back to work on his farm and he became the community authority. He worked the land into his old age and then he died.

Did you ever meet your grandfather?
Yes I did.

Was that when he was the leader?
No, no, I met my grandfather when he was quite old, nearly 62 years old. He died when he was 88...

What did he die of?
It was right when he was here in la Oroya on his way to the doctor, a car passed . The metalworkers' union had their own cars then and one of them knocked my grandfather down, I was with him at the time. His spine was damaged and never got better, he got like gangrene in his spine and he died.

How old was he then?
He stopped being the community authority at about 72. He was fine before then, he was strong and sharp and he could do community work. But from the age of 72 he couldn't do much and he left the community. He left everything then.

Did he come to La Oroya?
Yes he did, he was sensado (included in a census) under my dad. Since my dad worked in Cerro de Pasco and he was included in my dad's census he could attend the company hospital, and he had some cover that way.
Section 4
What do you mean by being in the census.
Each worker gave a list of his family, parents, wife and children. This covered them for health-care, for all the family members on the list...

I understand now, sorry for the interruption, please continue.
As he was ill he had to come here for a check-up, because parents were included in this census. So when we were on our way to the medical centre he was knocked down by the car.

But had he come to live in La Oroya?
No, he came now and again. When he would leave Tarma when he was ill, he went backwards and forwards, he didn't live here all the time.

Was he still a member of the community?
Yes he was, he lived in Tarmatambo.

Did he get married again in Tarmatambo?
Yes he had a fourth wife and my grandmother is still alive. She's 92 years old, I mean she's my dad's stepmother, she even lives in Tarmatambo. My dad's in touch with her because he'll have to bury his stepmother. My grandfather left him this duty in his will. She's alive alright, she's very old.

What was work like in Cerro de Pasco in your grandfather's time, were there any problems?
It was harder they say, it was more difficult, they didn't even have the right conditions to do the work, no safety equipment, they didn't even give them shoes and they worked in their own clothes. The company used to throw people out and then take in more, throw them out and take them in. Many started work, stayed a month or two and then they had to leave, then they'd go back in again. They didn't have good conditions, if you wanted to work you had to take your own tools. They say they didn't even get weekends off and they could only go back to their village after a year. They could only visit during the holidays. They didn't work eight hours, they worked more, they had no benefits. In those days the Cerro de Pasco Corporation, the gringos, exploited the workers.

That was in your grandfather's time?
In my grandfather's and my father's time.

Your father too?
Yes his too. Yes, yes in those conditions. He went to work there and after that he went to work in the railway section and they sent him to a settlement in Cantagallo.

You said your dad went into the foundry at sixteen, how long did he stay there?
He worked in the foundry for forty-five years. He was nearly sixty-three when he left.
Section 5
So he didn't go in and out like the others?
No, other people did that. He started and carried on for forty-five years. First he worked in the railways, he was a leader there. He tried to deal with the problems the workforce had and their conditions improved. They gave him a good home. Just like today the company began to fire workers and they fired him too but he spoke up for himself and they sent him to work in Huaymanta. From Huaymanta they sent him to the foundry and that's where he stayed.

Let's look at the sequence of events. Your father started as a rail-worker?
Yes, in the railways.

How long did he work there?
He was there for ten years, and then fifteen years in Huaymanta, and he was in the foundry for the rest of his time.

Was he a leader in Huaymanta?
Not any more, after what happened to him in the railways he didn't want to be one any more. In his experience he said it wasn't worth being a leader because sometimes the compañeros (companions/comrades) weren't very aware and let you down in the middle of a problem. He often used to talk about these kinds of things.

Did your dad stop being a member of the community when he was working for the Cerro de Pasco Corporation?
No, he was always a member of the Tarmatambo community and he still is. He hasn't left them and the community recognise this. Many people from Tarmatambo went off to work in Lima but they're still members of the community, they don't lose this.

And do they still have their animals?
Yes they do, they have their farms, their crops in the fields up in the highlands and in the community itself. The community gives them these.

How did your father manage to look after his cattle in the community and work in La Oroya?
With my mum. My mum was in charge of the cattle, the crops and everything. My father went out to work but returned to work in Tarma every Saturday and Sunday. He didn't leave his farm.

Your mother lived all the time in Tarmatambo.
Yes, we all did.

So you lived in the community on a permanent basis?
Yes and then we went to school in Tarma. All my brothers and sisters had to go to Tarma to study.

Your father lived alone in La Oroya?
Yes. Every weekend, on his days off, he would go to Tarma to work on the farm. He used to take us all to work on the farm each weekend. We never left the farm or the animals which is why we have grazing land. We've got our animals on that land.
Section 6
Are you still a member of the community?
Me, no, I'm not signed up there but my dad is. My dad and my mum. Of course now I have to go and put myself down but I haven't done that yet.

When did your father leave the company?
He left the company four years ago after putting in fortysomething years.

What kind of social benefits did they have then?
As I said they weren't very organised. Little by little they got organised in the face of the ill-treatment from Cerro de Pasco. They had no working conditions, each worker had to take their own measures, each worker had to take everything he needed. They didn't even have a breathing equipment in the plants and with all that pollution. They came out in scabs and that's how they all worked. Many people died, they gave their lives, because the Cerro de Pasco company really only wanted to get their utilities, their profit. They didn't care if the workers rested or not, nor if they had any days off, that's why they were only entitled to days off after a year. We used to go back to our community, to our home, after a year. We didn't have it easy.

Didn't they have Sundays off in the first year?
No, they didn't have Sundays off, they didn't have anything. They had a few minimum rights after the first year. It's only recently with Velasco, and Belaunde that the eight hour working day came in and that's because the leaders began to get organised. They didn't even have a trade union, nothing. So they held meetings in secret. That's why they began to go to the sacrifice marches in Lima on foot and to stand up for their rights. The government began to help a little and began to insist the Cerro company recognise some workers rights.

Do you know when your father joined the trade union?
He joined around 1953.

Was it the railworkers' union?
No it was the metalworkers' union. There was only one union then and after that they began the railworkers' union, the Huaymanta union and others.

How did your father become a leader?
He became a leader before there were even members but there were company meetings but only for workers. That's how he became a leader.

According to my information the metalworkers union was founded in 1944.
Yes in 1944, but that was after many years ... I said that there weren't any members at the beginning, union dues weren't even paid through the payroll. Sometimes the workers were conscientious and they took their contributions in cash to the union. They weren't official and the meetings were secret, the union had no office and the first meetings were in the Perú Club in La Oroya.

Did your father suffer from any illness from the fumes?
Not then, but he did begin to get saturnismo (lead poisoning) when he worked in the foundry. He repaired the chimneys in the foundry and the smoke began to irritate his nose, it was itchy. He still has treatment now and that was from working in the foundry.
Section 7
How much lead does he have in his blood?
He had more than forty degrees and even then he carried on working. He's still having treatment for this.

You said that he got scabs because there was no protection?

Did you and your father talk about any cases of this?
He used to tell us about this because most of them didn't have breathing apparatus, or helmets, or goggles, even the plant didn't have any protection and they made them work this way. Most workers had enormous scabs on their faces.

Most of them?
Yes, most of them, all of them, had them.

And was there any cancer?
Lots of people had skin cancer, many of them developed it. The people that started work in the foundry in the early years were the ones who paid this price. The foundry in La Oroya has killed a fair amount of people, especially when the gringos owned it, that's why when people forget and say things were better with the gringos I tell them they've forgotten how they used to exploit our grandparents, our fathers and our husbands. People tend to forget but I don't.

And now?
Well it was like that then, but with time people began to get organised and they built up a good trade union. They made better decisions and became more aware of their rights. They organised around their own needs, began to use some pressure and make demands and so they got some benefits through the bargaining agreements. They got milk, clothing, overalls, footwear and housing for the scab plants. They managed to get a lot but with considerable struggle and a lot of strikes, it was a very strong organisation.

Going back to your mum. Do you remember or did they ever tell you when they got married?
My mum and dad got married in 1943, but my dad had been working for years but they weren't organised then. They worked like this, coming and going all the time.

Yes but I'm asking you about your mum now.
Yes, my dad was already working and he was older than my mum.

How did they meet?
Well since my mum was also an orphan she went to live with my grandfather and she also lived with her aunts. Since my dad came from La Oroya he used to see my mum and his father used to see her in Tarmatambo. So they spoke to my mum's dad and they got them married de concierto.
Section 8
What do you mean by de concierto? Did the parents come to an agreement?
Yes, they made the match. Well my dad was already able to take this step, he was twenty-five and my mother was around fourteen. She was inconsciente (literally not conscious, meaning not mature enough to make up her own mind), she was very young...

Your dad was more worldly and he wanted to get married but your mum didn't, is that the way marriages were then? The woman more or less didn't make a decision?
Yes, my dad wanted to get married but he couldn't say so to my mum, he had to do it through his parents. His dad spoke to my mum's dad and that's the way they did it then. They made them get married.

And your mother didn't know?
She didn't know why she was getting married, I'm sure she didn't know what marriage was about. At fourteen, she was very young.

So this is an agreed or arranged marriage?
Yes. It used to be an agreement between parents, they didn't know about it. Well, it wasn't as if they got married because they loved each other or because they wanted to set up home, there was none of that except for the parents.

Did everyone in the community get married this way?
Most of them did. Not everyone of course, but most did. Many of my aunts got married this way.

And do you know how they got married?
Well, they brought the godparents in, the godparents were the elders who would set them a good example and look after their godchildren. Only the parents paid though, not the godparents. They paid for it.

Did the godparents also have a role when the bride's hand was sought?
No, no, just the parents. The parents decide on who they want as godparents.

Was there a special ceremony, a special way to ask for the bride's hand?
Yes, they went and had to do it the right way.

How, how did they do it?
They would chat, drink together and decide which day they would go and then they would get everything ready. For example, my dad's side took different alcoholic drinks and meat with them when they went to ask for her hand. And then they celebrated, they made food, drank and had a party.

And if the father refused to accept the proposal or did they go knowing that it would be accepted?
No, they had already talked about it, all they did was to agree that they would go and ask for the bride's hand. So when they went they would go with liquor, meat and potatoes, ready for a party.
Section 9
Was this a big celebration?
Yes, you see the fathers did this knowing the implications but the mothers didn't know, nor did they know what would happen. Well, that's what my mum told us.

So they didn't consult the women?
That's the way it was, they didn't take the women into account very much. Thankfully that's changed now ...

Later on we'll come back to the role of women and the way this has changed. What was the wedding like?
The wedding. Well we have a very funny custom here in Tarmatambo.

Carry on.
Well the wedding lasts two days, one part for the man and the other part for the woman and the night is for the godparents. It's a kind of competition between whoever serves best. At night the godparents pay for everything and they make the culuche.

What is the culuche?
Well, they lock the bride and groom in a room. Everyone in the party is dancing, the whole family, they do it in someone's house and celebrate until dawn, dancing. Culuche means making the couple sleep together. Well, it really means rousing them so they'll consummate the marriage.

What kind of food do they have at the wedding feast?
We make guinea pigs because there are too many of them, with chicken too.

How are they prepared?
The guinea pigs are done with peanuts, so are the chickens. Then there is patasca (traditional food – soup) and they give the godfather sheep, chickens and guinea pigs. They make a lot of the godparents, they make them a paypay (?) as they say because it's a great expense for the godparents. They have to provide the band, the rings and the cost of the night because they have to make sure the people get drunk and dance all night. That's what they do there. That's why both sets of parents make such a lot of the godparents.

And are there presents for the bridal couple?

What kind of presents?
They give them a farm, lands, animals, other people give covers and everything they need for their home.

What presents did your parents receive?
The main present was, his dad gave him his house to live in. That was the best present. Then they gave them a bedcover, blankets, pots and pans and spoons. The uncles and aunts also gave presents.
Section 10
And after the wedding?
Well, after the two day wedding party they each went off to work to see what they could do, so that's when they began their life together.

Was it a civil or religious wedding?
Both civil and religious.

Where did they have the religious wedding?
They had to do that part in Tarma and the civil part too because we didn't have either a mayor or a priest in Tarmatambo. So they went back to Tarmatambo for the party. Tarmatambo is a district now and the mayor can marry people.

Anita, you were born in La Oroya but you lived in the community. Where did you go to primary school?
I did primary in Tarmatambo and secondary in Tarma.

Did you do anything else in Tarmatambo apart form school?
I used to help my mother in the grocery store and with the animals and the farm. All seven children did this.

What did you do on the farm?
In the higher lands we planted potatoes, wheat, barley and beans and in the irrigated part we planted corn and vegetables. We sold everything in Tarma, all the produce went to Tarma, the animals too, which is where we bought everything we needed, not round here. It was all in Tarma.

Apart from helping your parents did you have much time for playing, for relaxation?
Not much, we hived off now and again and forgot about mum. Mum didn't let us go out to play very much.

And what did you play?
We used to play volley ball, sometimes we went to play with friends, when we washed the clothes we'd play with the water. But our parents didn't give us much scope for this.

And when you were at secondary in Tarma?
Yes, I had a bit more freedom there. I spoke to my parents because I like sport and then I began to play, I played for the school, I represented the school. So then they let me go and play on Sunday afternoons, but that was in Tarma not in Tarmatambo.

Did you go to different places?
Yes, we went out to the districts when we were invited. To the districts and provinces around Tarma.
Section 11
Did you live in Tarma?
No we did it all in Tarmatambo.

How could you live in Tarmatambo?
We used to leave Tarmatambo at six in the morning to be there for ten or quarter past seven because school started at twenty past seven.

And when did you get home?
We used to get home at two, two-thirty or three in the afternoon because school finished at half past one.

Did you take a snack with you?
Sometimes, sometimes I had some pocket money and we had lunch when we got home.

Did you finish secondary?
I finished secondary. I met my husband when I was in my fifth year of secondary.

How did you meet him?
As I was saying before he also used to like playing football and he used to go with a friend. His friend was from Tarmatambo and he was a relation of ours. He also used to like playing the guitar and he used to play when he went to Tarma. So when I went to school he would go with us and that's how we met. We used to go and cook for my dad during the holidays so we'd see each other then too.

Did your husband live in la Oroya?
Yes, he did.

Is he from la Oroya?

Did his parents also work in Centromín?
Yes they did.

Was he working or studying when you met?
He was already working when we met, he was working in Centromín. I met him through sport when I was in Tarmatambo, we would go backwards and forwards.

Did he have any relations in Tarmatambo?
No, just his friend as I said. He had reasons to go there because he also had other friends. He used to play at the parties. We met when I was in fifth grade of secondary and I didn't finish it in Tarma but here in La Oroya.

What year did you finish in?
In 78.

And when did you get married?
In 78, it was a civil ceremony and we only had the religious one seven years ago. My dad wanted us to have a civil wedding.
Section 12
You fell in love so it wasn't an agreement between parents?
We fell in love, we were in love. But my dad didn't like that. He was a little, he thought like many fathers and it's a bad habit, it's defamatory. For example, I had gone to the river for water when he saw me talking to Alfredo and then my dad said to him that he wanted to talk to his parents. Alfredo immediately brought his dad and mum and right then they made us get married. We got married in the registry office just six months from when they asked for my hand.

And the religious one?
That was nine years ago.

Did you have a feast for the civil wedding?
Not much.

What did you do?
We got married in Paccha, my uncle, my mother's brother, were the witnesses. My parents and Alfredo were there. His mother didn't really agree with it because Alfredo was the eldest son, the one who helped them, the breadwinner of the house. So they were a bit upset but she came later. We had the party in a restaurant, a little toast, then the meal and then everyone went home to rest.

And when you had the religious ceremony?
We did then, so we did. My mum did it Tarmatambo style.

What was it like?
My mum was sharp. She said that as parents we (they?) were to do our (their?) part. That way the couple practically don't give a penny, the parents cover all the expense. We had the party here one night and the next day we all went to Tarmatambo with all the guests, they even laid on a vehicle to go to Tarmatambo.

And was it the same food?
My mum made pachamanca (meat and vegetables cooked in underground ovens) with pork and guinea pig and patasca (traditional soup). That's just about all our traditional fare.

And did you give the godfather some presents?
Yes we also gave him his due, guinea pigs, chickens, sheep, pigs cooked in azafatas (?).

Did they give the wedding dress and the rings?
My godfather gave the rings and the band. We paid for the clothes. We paid for just about everything as Alfredo doesn't have a father and he was working. His mother said "my son works and he has to pay himself", that's why we did it in La Oroya, not in Tarma, my mum and dad did it all.

What did you do in La Oroya?
We had a wedding party in La Oroya parish with a band. Well, I have something to say about this wedding. Alfredo was a councillor at that time. Most of the municipal people were there, the mayor and all his workmates. It was a lovely party, good food, and everything turned out well. We went to Tarmatambo the next day. I was in bridal dress, with terno (set of three jewels) and all the guests. There were two bands. The godfather brought a band from Huancayo and my eldest sister brought a salon orchestra. We were up the whole night until dawn. A vehicle was there for us. The vehicle was rented. It came down from the community and took all of us, even the ones who were wobbly.
Section 13
And which bands did you have in Tarmatambo?
The godfather's one.

And did you have the culuche?
No not this time. That would have been too much, no time for that, there had already been quite a lot of culuche before.

Was it a weekend?
Yes, a Saturday and Sunday. For example they also have presents competition from the guests. Well, my godmother in Tarmatambo didn't want this. She was against it because she said Alfredo was alone, he didn't have much family and we didn't want any problems. But we had a lot of relations on our side.

So there was no competition between families?
No we didn't accept that, so there weren't as many presents.

Did the party finish on the Sunday night?
The band went back to Huancayo and we stayed until the next day to tidy everything up and look at the presents. The godfather stayed on too.

Why didn't the party carry on?
They had to go back to work. Most of the Oroya folk worked in the company and they had to work Sunday and Monday but the ones from Tarmatambo stayed on until Monday. The ones from here went off to work. It was really lovely.

What has married life been like for you?
Well, it has been quite varied. You know I didn't want to be a leader, I've never liked being up there at the forefront of all the work. My dad tried to talk to me about it, I didn't like it and I thought differently from him. I only began to like it when we all felt the same way in all the settlements, when there was so much injustice, when the leaders were arrested, and Alfredo was a leader! I began to think about things, it was almost to be able to go along with him, then little by little I began to like it. So I already had my own meetings on organisation and little by little I began to like it.

You learned about trade union activity through Alfredo becoming a leader?
Yes when he became a leader.

How many times was he a leader?
Almost all the time since he began work. He became his section's delegate.
Section 14
Was he already a leader when you met him?
Yes, he was already a leader and he introduced me to his compañeros, from the delegates to the leaders, I met them all. I got into this work about three years after we met.

You took a little time?
Yes I did. I was even against him on this at the beginning, I didn't like it.

What were your first responsibilities?
Well since they already knew me because I went to the union, I began as president of the ladies committee in the metalworkers union.

You were president right from the beginning?

When was that?
That was in 1982

And what offices have you held since then?
After the union I became secretary for organisation in the metalworkers' union. Then we began to co-ordinate with the idea of forming a steering committee for all the mining women in Centromín. We did this because all the leaders began to receive threats, there were disappearances and murders. That was both from Sendero Luminoso and the para-militaries. That's when the Centromín wide organisation was founded, when they began to kill the compañeros from Cerro de Pasco and they killed a leader from Morococha called Cajachahua. That's when we began to organise around self-defence and human rights. We started out as an organising commission which is where the first convention came from. Since then we haven't managed to have the second convention of mining women from Centromín.

What did the ladies committee of metalworkers do when you were president?
Well, we women generally met on Tuesdays. There was a lot to do. The company owned its own stores, medical centres and butcher's shops. So we worked on what to do about this. The other part was with the union to begin to train the housewives. We co-ordinated all this work and we obtained agreements. The women were well organised and disciplined and were becoming more aware of the situation. At that time there weren't any popular organisations like there are today. The women organised themselves out of necessity and conviction, and they knew why they participated. This has all been lost now because the popular organisations like the Vaso de Leche (literally, Glass of Milk, welfare organisation aiming to ensure all children receive milk daily), the Comedores Populares (Collective Cafeterias) and the other popular organisations corrupt the leadership and the women. Their work is not sincere.

Do the rights your husband has compare with those your father had?
Well, when I got involved in organisation they had won most of their rights. The organisations were well structured and most of their rights were stipulated in the agreements. So our task was to ensure these agreements and rights were respected, that the agreements were adhered to. My dad's job was tough but when I got involved it was all there. We had a home, safety measures had been taken, they even gave us milk-rations and health supplies like soap and towels. There were many perks, even fuel, though the company sometimes held that back to the next week so we used to pressure them to comply with the quota.
Section 15
What was the house that they allocated you like?
Well, I first moved into the house my father was allocated. Then my father left and since then we have mostly lived in that same house. I spoke to the company, made a few arrangements and they gave us that same house. It was four metres by four metres and we put in a divider to make a bedroom and then we divided it further into a kitchen and a living room.

Was that where you lived when your husband was working for Centromín?
That's right.

When did your husband stop working in Centromín?
In 1992, it was the result of a government measure and mainly privatisation. He was known as a trade union leader and apart from that I was also a leader of the housewives committees. At that time most of the key people were fired in a big pay off, and my husband was fired even though he was a production worker, in the foundry's anodic waste plant. The government said they were only to pay off the ones who worked in the workshops and the watchmen, but they didn't respect this at all this time. Many had to leave this way.

And are labour rights respected these days?
Well, they've lost most of their labour rights. This was the government's doing and in this government's second term they have ratified nearly all the measures and decrees he had imposed (? I think this refers to the president). They're stepping it up now, more than 700 workers have been fired including some from Centromín.

Do you have any friends or neighbours who have been fired who also have work-related illnesses, illnesses from the fumes?
Well there are a lot of them. Several workers are ill and others are still working for the company. For example, here in La Oroya a man I know quite well worked with anodic waste, his name is Huaynate and he has more that 75% lead in his blood, his blood is lead now. Compañero Jesús Montalvo is the same.

And the ones with trade union experience?
Most of the trade union sections have lost their leaders, the ones who were delegates of the different sections. They mainly got rid of the ones the government thinks are troublemakers. They fired the ex general secretary of the Centromín federation, Donato Tácuna, and compañero Carhuas who was a national leader and now heads the Centromín Federation, compañero Crisóstomo from Morococha and compañero Adán Suárez from Cobriza. The well-known ones have been fired.

What have you done since your husband was fired from the company, how have you re-organised your life?
Well we began to co-ordinate to see what we could do. He got his money for his years of service but unfortunately we haven't been able to enjoy the cash because we lent it to someone in our family, to my brother so he could buy a vehicle and then it fell more than 500 metres into a gorge. About ten people died in the accident and we haven't been able to get the money back, so it was all for nothing and we haven't had any benefit from the money. We had the chance of getting a little shop and buying a photocopier. Since he's a leader and most people know him he was put on a list and became a councillor in the municipal government. So we're trying to get by with the little business.
Section 16
How many children do you have Anita?
Three, two boys and a girl.

How have your children been affected by your husband losing his job?
Well, it's been a little difficult because as their mum I've told them they're not going to suffer and somehow or other we're going to cope with these problems and that they'll be able to stay at their school which belongs to the company. Since my son was in fourth grade of secondary it would have been tough on him. We let them carry on there. They're all going to finish there and we'll pay for it. Last year we paid 60 soles for each child which is 180 soles each month. Handing over the house also affected them. We've lost all these rights but education affects us now.

Do you think your children want to be miners in La Oroya?
Well, my son for example, the eldest one, has seen what happened to his dad and he doesn't intend on returning to La Oroya. He wants to be something else, he wants to study and get out of La Oroya. He's had a bad time. The second one says he wants to continue with his studies, he wants to do a technical-practical course, he wants to be a SENATI student (a middle grade technical school) and then to go to work elsewhere once he's qualified.

He wants to leave La Oroya?
No he wants to leave Perú, he wants to go abroad. He wants to go abroad and be a good mechanic or electrician or any other of the many things he could do. They don't see a future in La Oroya, they don't like it.

How do you see your future?
We're here to see to the little business we have set up and also because my husband is in the municipal government but next year we think we'll join our eldest son, so we can all be together.

Is your husband still on the council?
His term ends in December.

Was he fired because he was an authority?
Yes he was, he was fired in May and he won his place in January. He's had meetings with the company as a leader and now as a municipal authority. They're still meeting with the company because of the water problem so he's still using his contacts a little. He hasn't had many problems till now. Once his term ends we'll see what we can do. Maybe we'll go to Lima.

What do you think you'll do in Lima?
Well we'll still look after our business here and look for a place to set up the same kind of business there. Alfredo and I are looking for something else to do. We don't know what else yet so we'll begin with what we know.
Section 17
And have you considered going back to the countryside?
We can't because we have to look after our children while they're studying. We have to be careful for them, watch over them and make sure they study. You can't make enough in the countryside to cover all the family expenses. You can't do it ..., it's a shame but it's the reality of mining families. You give so many years of your life and then end up with this insecurity for the future and the future of the children. My husband was fired by the company and we haven't had much stability since then. I hope we have some luck.

We hope your luck changes too. Thanks so much Anita for sharing your life with us.
Thank you. You've made me remember things which make me feel like crying.