photo of person from Peru Cerro de Pasco
Peru glossary


(PERU 1)













Sr. Juan Santiago, we would like to start by talking a bit about you, what could you tell us about yourself?
Section 1
How old are you now?
I’m currently 45 and five months.

Tell us about your family. Are you married? Do you have children?
Yes, I have five children and I’m married. My wife’s name is Ernestina Lazaro

Is your wife also from the community of Rancas where you were born?
No, she’s not from Rancas. She comes from Cerro de Pasco, the town of Cerro de Pasco in the Yanachanca district. When we got married I had to make a new home with her, and that’s a story in itself. She’s the daughter of an old miner from the Cerro de Pasco Corporation, and I’m the son of a peasant farmer.

Tell me, Juan, a moment ago you were telling me about your parents who come from the community of Rancas. Your family, grandparents, great grandparents, were they all from of Rancas?
Yes, all of them. The families of Atencio and Gavilan were born and raised in Rancas. Today you’ll find the Atencio and Gavilan families scattered all over the place. It’s a huge family. On my father’s side though I’m not sure were they’re from because their surname’s Santiago. But on my mother’s side they’re all from Rancas.

What can you tell me about the Rancas community? We know its an old community.
Nowadays Rancas has changed a lot and it goes on changing. Rancas is a busy crossroads. In the past 18 months it’s become the main communication thoroughfare with the capital of the province; like a major artery connecting Yanahuanca and Oyón.

What do you think are the main things which have changed in Rancas?
Rancas has always survived on its livestock, but now there’re other things going on, particularly now that it’s become a central point for communications with other villages with so many roads passing though. There’s a lot of trade with other villages. This is what I mean when I say things are changing.
Section 2
It would be useful to know where Rancas is located? Where is it exactly?
Rancas belongs to the province of Pasco, bordering on the province of Daniel Alcides Carrión county, to the west of Cerro de Pasco town. It’s some 4,000 metres above sea level.

What can you tell us about the history of Rancas?
Well, you could say there are two histories of Rancas. One is the natural history, the physical and natural history of the community; the other relates to the human history - the people who have come here and settled. According to the [history] books, the land was given by the Spanish to the peasant community and it was handed out to our parents. Then there’s the time of the arrival of Bolivar and his Liberation Army with more than 9,000 men in 1824. The whole army pitched tents and spent a few days here before the Junín battle when they liberated our people from the Spanish. Then in the last century our lands were stolen by large land owners and in this century they were sold to the North American company, Cerro de Pasco Corporation who held the lands until 1960. From that year onwards, the Rancas community tried to claim back the lands and many of our people were massacred. There were eight years of struggle including legal battles, and in the end we won back the lands. This is only a part of our history...

Historically what has the economy of the Rancas community been based on?
Economically it has mainly been livestock ... animals from the South American camelid family, better known as llamas, alpacas and huanacos (livestock similar to alpacas but smaller) which are similar smaller animals. There have also been wild vicuñas (animal prized for its woll; nowadays shearing of its wool is prohibited) and then recently we’ve raised cattle. But the environment and climate isn’t suitable for pure-bred cattle, just the ordinary cattle.

When you refer to environment and climate, what do you mean?
What I mean is that at an altitude of 4,000 to 4,350 metres above sea level it’s icy cold. Then there’s the pollution - the rivers, streams and other puquiales (water springs) they’re all polluted. And the pasture land... very little escapes the contamination. The rivers are really badly affected. But I’m not talking about that. There are other springs that the community can still make use of.

And farming?
Farming, just like our fore fathers told us. My grandfather on my mother’s side used to tell me that in the old days they’d plant potatoes called shiri. They were white potatoes resistant to the high altitude. That’s where the little white chuño (potato that has been conserved by freeze drying) potato comes from. There were other potatoes too: the mauna potato was also resistant to the high altitude and that’s what the little black chuño comes from. They also used to grow maca.

What is maca?
Maca is a small root like a radish but cream in colour. It’s a tuber, yes it’s definitely a tuber, well that’s its scientific name. It makes you strong, rather like honey, and maybe more so because it can also help improve your memory and increase your brain cells. This is what the doctors say who’ve researched the plant.
Section 3
And are you still harvesting those altitude resistant potatoes?
No, not any more. There’s much less of that now. Rancas concentrates mainly on livestock these days. Its changed from how it was in the old days.

Because the people have no assistance. It’s tough. There are bad harvests and you’re left with nothing. It’s difficult to grow crops without assistance. People do, but much less than before. There’s not much land and the livestock takes priority.

From what you’ve heard from your grandparents and parents and from what you’ve seen, what are the most traditional customs in Rancas?
The traditional customs are always the festivals, or fiestas, the fiestas are celebrated on 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, until 15th June, it is the fiesta of the patron saint, Saint Anthony of Padua, who they say the white men Conquistadores (conquerors, refers to the Spanish) brought from Italy. He’s become a saint and he performs miracles for the peasants and we celebrate his feast day every year. The people who are responsible for organising the fiesta, the Mass, the yearly celebration, they’ve done it for years. They say they’ve got quite rich, they’ve increased the size of their sheep stock, they’ve won a number of prizes and a series of things. It’s faith, see, a miracle.

Are they religious celebrations, traditions that have come about as a result of the Spanish, the Europeans?
Yes, the only religious fiesta is in June, from 11th to 15th. There are no other kinds of festivities in Rancas.

As far as customs are concerned, do you feel from what your grandparents and parents have told you and from what you’ve seen yourself that there are customs in the Rancas community that have changed or that have been lost? What differences do you see between the life in the community today and how it used to be for yourself, for your parents?
There are changes. Yes, for example one of their customs was that the men of the community, well the boys, had to learn to how to handle a horse... they were expected to know how to ride. Nowadays that has pretty much changed, because today boys don’t go from Rancas to Cerro by horse. Now they have bicycles, they have mopeds, they even use cars - this has been a big change. It used to be children, boys or girls, who used to milk the cows, sell the milk or make the cheese. Nowadays there are few children doing that. We now have a machine designed to do that.

Why do you think these children’s’ customs have changed?
Because there is less farming and less livestock, and the children are involved in other things - they study more; things are more modern as they say. They use other forms of transport, there are more cars which are faster. Life is different. Children are different.... Families have less interest in the old way of life, isn’t that so?
Section 4
And have you shown your children how to ride a horse and how to milk a cow as you learnt when you were young?
A bit. But I lived with my family in Cerro de Pasco and worked as a miner ... but since we’ve come to Rancas we’ve done it a bit. Not exactly as I did when I was a child but. ...

And as far as the way of life is concerned, family life, for example, has that changed?
As far as the family set-up is concerned, there hasn’t been any major change. The only change I can think of is when people come to get married. Before, asking for someone’s hand, getting engaged, becoming fiancés... it used to be different. For instance, first, the suitor had to prove his worth, vara as we say here; in those days he had to have a number of references, guarantees from respected members of the community. If he wanted to marry his sweet heart, somebody’s daughter and had no guarantor, he would not be accepted as a future son-in-laws and he couldn’t have his bride. In the case of my relatives for example, they were so poor that we didn’t have guarantors. I wouldn’t have been able to marry the woman I loved... so I had to get out and earn my living myself.

Were you not able to get married in Rancas?
No, because I didn’t have a guarantor and guarantors had to be people of good economic standing, who had livestock or a car or houses in Rancas. And the suitor himself had to have something in the way of livestock etc, or at least his parents did. But my father died when I was five years old, 1955 and we were very poor.

And has that custom changed?
Yes, that custom doesn’t exist nowadays. Marriage proposals aren’t like that any more. You don’t have to have guarantors, things are much more relaxed. You just meet someone and after a while you get together and ask for consent from the parents... there are hardly any marriages these days anyway. That’s a big change, an almost 100% turn around, a huge change as far as I’m concerned. There’s no more respect for the old custom, that might account for why today people get married, they live together, after a while they separate or become single parents, abandoned fathers or mothers, those are the consequences. At least in the olden days there was some kind of security so to speak.

Do you think that men and women’s situations are equal. In other words, are the women in Rancas considered equal to the men, or are they treated differently. Are women under estimated? Do they have less opportunities?
Yes, that’s been the case since way back because whilst people live as husband and wife, the head of the household, head of the home, head of the family is the man. But there are women who have divorced, women who live as if they were single; there are also widows, and they certainly have to stand on their own two feet as individuals, as members of the community; they have the same rights, the same qualities and the same duty to contribute to the community and be members of the community.

You mean there are women comuneras (registered community members with rights and responsibilities), women heads of households?
Yes, the widows for example, or the single mums. But if a woman is married, her and her husband cannot be comuneros because they’d otherwise be taking up more space, more land, more animals and more benefits. That’s why, whilst they live as man and wife, it’s the man who is the comunero, unless they’re separated.
Section 5
And why not the woman?
That’s the way the custom goes.

And that custom has not changed very much. Do they still think and act the same?
Well, its rather chauvinist ....

And as far as education is concerned, do you think men have more opportunities than women?
Absolutely. In Rancas, there’s a huge difference: firstly, girls economically have enough cattle, they have a number of economic interests.

Do young women have more resources?
Yes, young women... many of them are married but still my day they only got as far as primary education, they didn’t go onto secondary...

Yes, women, but now that has certainly changed.

Why do you think that used to be so?
That was another rule of the parents in Rancas. They used to say, what’s the point in daughters studying when girls weren’t going to contribute to the household...when they get married, they’d go on to serve their husband and his family - that’s the way it used to be. It was different for the man... besides, women weren’t going to contribute [economically] and at any rate, she had to take on his surname...basically, it was machismo, and not just specific to that day and age, it’s inbred.

Do you think machismo originates from the community? Does it come from the European influences? From what you’ve heard from your parents and grandparents, what do you think is the cause of it?
I think machismo is widespread throughout Peru, and at any rate in the whole of this region. Recently, for example, I’ve spent time with one of my daughters. As her father I’ve been helping her get on with her schoolwork. I went to up to Anchash in the north of Peru, otherwise known as Llanguanuco. I heard other parents of my age saying the same thing that, well, in our day, our parents would only let women have a primary education, perhaps not even that. But nowadays sons and daughters reach the same level. I guess there is an influence, very possibly from European culture... or perhaps it’s the original culture of the region, very possibly ...

Do you feel that this has been a recent change? Do you think there’s a difference, for example, between what used to happen in your day and what happens now with your children’s generation?
Yes, because when I became a father myself ... because in our family there are four males, and three females, from the four males ...
Section 6
Yes, brothers. I mean, my three brothers all finished their primary schooling and me, well I completed my secondary education, and I stayed on so that I could get married and well, that’s how I had my children. On the other hand, my sisters, my three sisters don’t have any education, not even primary schooling, they only went as far as second grade primary which is equivalent to today’s third grade. Nowadays, I consider this a total waste for society as a whole, because many men treat their women as if they were ignorant, illiterate even. And when you become a father you wouldn’t want your daughter to be treated like that by her husband. So, I think that today everyone who wants to study primary, secondary and even higher education should have the chance. That’s why in my community, for instance, there is equal opportunities for studying: young men and young women both study for as long as they can, for as long as they want to and for as long as their parents can afford for them to. This has changed drastically, almost 100%.

What is the trend in the Rancas community, are people staying, are people going? What are life’s expectations in the community? What are people feeling?
Well, just as before, I want to refer to the peasant community of Rancas which is struggling to move forward I am also helping with research ... developing its future and working with the community I am helping the local council and I am also helping the co-operative and community business and another coop. Then there are four institutions that are working in Rancas but almost all work empirically, as the saying goes, everything champa, (as it comes out), but now they are acquiring their methods. Then considering what is going on at the moment, incredibly, people from Rancas have come back from all over the place. Even for those children who live in Cerro de Pasco and study in Rancas, the community has provided free transport so those from the Cerro de Pasco neighbourhood for instance, the Campamarca neighbourhood, Buenos Aires neighbourhood, Ayapoto, Paragsha and Mirafloras, Cerro de Pasco, perhaps ... all of them study in Rancas because there are a number of advantages and different kinds of support, not in educational terms necessarily, but for things like sport, prizes etc... Now that the community has become so central, now that there are communications with two towns, with two provincial capitals - from Rancas you can get directly to Yanahuanca which is the capital of the province of Daniel A, Carrión and traffic also goes through Rancas for Oyón, so ... Rancas is now a key place, better connected with outside - it’s moving towards the future.

And economically, what activities take place in Rancas?
Economically, in the urban setting things are moving. There are companies, or rather, there’s the infrastructure [created by] the community enterprise, the cooperative, which belongs to the community and everyone who... everyone from the district of Simon Bolivar. What I mean is that everyone has a stake in it - young people, girls, and so on.
Section 7
And in the countryside?
In the countryside it’s mainly livestock: cattle, sheep and llamas.

Is it not effected by mining operations?
Mining activity has had some impact. Indeed, there’s one whole area which you can see has been affected, I guess I could tell you that or maybe there might be another community ... I don’t want to sound boastful, but [Rancas] is the only community that has received compensation - $ 1,250,000.

Yes, the company responsible for the pollution, in this case, Centromin Peru, has contaminated as much 100, 282 hectares. Over 141 hectares are almost useless [as pasture]. There’s a possibility they might be usable again but it is going to take 100 years to eradicate [the effects of] the pollution. Peru Centromin have paid $1,150,000 in compensation and a company, what we call the communal company, has been set up with the money. It’s now got a number of things, heavy machinery...

Tell me what it means to be a comunero?
To be comunero, besides being an inhabitant, someone who lives in the town of Rancas, or you might live somewhere else but you have to be registered in the community book where all the comuneros are listed, and that is called “Register of Comuneros” ...For the peasant community of San Antonio de Rancas, you have to be registered there and each year it needs to be updated, including all the information. We have to pay our annual subscription and then we take up one of the jobs within the community and this has to include livestock.

What rights and duties do you have as a comunero?
Being a comunero means for instance you have the right to acquire land, a piece of communal land where you can raise your sheep or cattle or llamas in total freedom and no one can say anything to you. This is your right and your duty above all else is to look after the heritage of the community and take part in the communal activity, be that communal work (faenas) or the voluntary minka or washka (voluntary communal labour)...

What is minka?
Minka is work where everyone lends everybody else a hand. For example, I’ll help out my neighbour X to finish job X, and they’ll then help me to do whatever work I need to do be it digging a ditch, or even to take care of my sheep, sheering ...

A kind of solidarity then?
Yes, and it doesn’t cost anything, You might just pay by giving them food and drink, some chicha (liquor made from maize) perhaps.

And what is washka?
Washka is a word from the language spoken in the region. Washka is the same as minka, but not in the language spoken in the South, Huancavelika. But they say washka round here because it means the same - washka means to work together to get something done.
Section 8
Is that a characteristic of the comunero, of the work [they’re expected to do]?

In the course of its history Rancas has lost some of its land. People from Rancas even say that Cerro de Pasco town is in Rancas territory. What institutions were responsible for Rancas losing its land?
Well, yes, since the year 1500 Rancas was given land...I was actually reviewing this but I haven’t recently had the time. From l540 land was handed over by the Spanish kings to Rancas. I think there are many more things written down, but why was Rancas given land in 1540 long before other communities?... There are even things in the indigenous languages which tell of minerals, foundries, indigenous mining works. And in l532 the Spanish arrived. We’re told they came from Puerto de Pizarro, or they came from Colombia, I don’t know, they came via the Chincaycocha lake, they came to Huancayo, to Jauja, then they reached here. They founded various towns, and I don’t know what happened that they gave [Rancas] land first. But in l540, a huge amount of land was given, and then, what with such a small population and such a vast territory, it was inevitable that land would be taken away by neighbouring towns.
One of those neighbours, for example, is Cerro de Pasco. In Cerro de Pasco town, the inhabitants had no idea about sheep rearing but then the miners came along and claimed huge tracts of land which belonged to Rancas. They were mining lands, the subsoil was rich in copper, iron, silver, mainly silver. That’s why the miners claimed some 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 hectares. What this means is that they presented a demand, to whoever they needed to make the demand, they presented their claim to the Mining Headquarters and to the government. As a result the territory started to shrink, to disappear and the community knew nothing about it. When they came to review it - there’s a book which in Quechua is known as Garashipo, - Gara means leather and shipo means cured, in other words a book made of cured leather, leather from Spanish cow I believe - it still exists but it is difficult to understand and to read - [they realised] that the boundaries had changed, that a number of new towns had appeared, several new communities. So land had to be given to them and they couldn’t do anything about it, it had to be officially registered. So it was that by taking advantage of the fact that the comuneros of old knew nothing about the law, or by making up the mining legislation [as they went along] they took away lands from the communities for mining. The Gringos (North Americans) of Cerro de Pasco made up similar laws at the beginning of the century and as a result, Rancas and other communities became smaller.

In other words it was the mining industry which robbed Rancas of its land?
Mining more than anything: the mines, the engineering works and also the steel foundries.
Section 9
Going back a bit to your personal experience, you have been a comunero, your origins are comunero, but at a certain point you become a miner, you leave Rancas, you go to Cerro de Pasco and you start your life as a miner. What did this change from comunero to miner mean to you. How old were you when you did it and what did it mean for you?
Well, legally speaking I was not a comunero. I can’t actually use the name legally because I was never registered in the community book. To do that, one has to at least have personal documents or personal papers, in those times...

Were you the son of a comunero?
Yes I was the son of a comunero. As a comunero son, when I’d having finished my primary schooling in 1965, I finished ... Because at that time in the rural communities all youngsters finished primary education, they used to start primary school at age ten and finish when they were 16, 17. But if they failed a year they’d finish at 18, 20 years of age. I started in 1950 when I was eleven and finished primary in 1965. To go on to secondary school, I had to go to Cerro. That is one [of the reasons why I went]. The other was because I was going through adolescence and all adolescents have a particular period when they need a change of scene. As I was saying before I didn’t have [a girlfriend], of course there were girls around, but the girls parents always wanted the suitors to have referees. Because I didn’t have a referee, I had to go to Cerro de Pasco to study and to find work. In those days I would study by night and go to the community in the day. You could say I was a secondary student by night, that kept me in Cerro ...

How old were you then?
I was already 17, but it was great in those days, in 1967, 68 ... until 1970. When you’re a campesino but you live at the same time in town as a student ... Before I became a miner I was a student, it was a great life, because first of all you went to school by night, you’d be at the secondary school in Cerro de Pasco until eleven o’clock at night. Then you’d go home to sleep, and then the next morning by bicycle or even by horse you’d go back to the fields, at eight, nine in the morning simply to take care of the animals or help your parents to take care of them. I’d look after the animals all day long. Whilst watching them I’d read a book or my schoolwork in total freedom. It was a good life but do you know when I became almost enslaved in Cerro? When I began working in the Cerro de Pasco Corporation in 1970.

How old were you then?
I was 20.

How was it that you decided to get a job in the mines?
Well, to answer this I’ll say again that it was my brother, my brother Zocimo Santiago, who recommended me, or at least it was he who persuaded me to work there. I had a passport for Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico, why? Because I’d met some evangelical missionaries who told me that they were going to take me to Mexico........

Was your brother a miner?
Yes my brother had worked at the mine for a long time previously... eight or ten years before. So I was faced with two dilemmas, I had two options and I was in two minds - If I went to Mexico, Morelos, Cuernavaca, I was going to lack many things because I was going to be a bible student. If I stayed here as a miner, well, I would be like any other miner, but at least I would be near my own people, particularly near my mother, near my brothers ... After a long time thinking and thinking, I decided not to go abroad. I told this to my brother and he said, “Are you crazy? How could you think of going abroad? These people are obviously pishtacos who want to take you away and kill you ....
Section 10
Can you explain pishtacos because foreigners dot know what that means?
Pishtacos is also a regional Quechua word. A Pishtaco is someone who pishtas. If you pishta someone it means you slit their throat and kill them. So we call pishtaco someone who kills another person. In other words the pishtaco is someone who kills another brother, so the story goes that pishtacos appear in towns from time to time and foreigners are often pishtacos.

So why didn’t you stay in the countryside?
Because there were no [economic] opportunities in Rancas. I was very poor and could see no future there. So I decided to move to Cerro. The only alternative was to become a miner

So you finally decided to get a job at the mine. Working in the mine meant a change. How did this change affect your way of life?
For me this change meant an almost total loss of freedom to travel around my own community, to go to other towns. You might be free to go out but you are always in the grip of time. You have to start work at a certain time and finish at a certain time, let’s say from 7.00am to 4.00 pm on a given day. Then not only are you giving yourself from 7.00 to 4.00 of the working day, but they squeeze the juice out of you, you sweat like crazy and come out exhausted. You go home extremely tired and you there’s no more freedom, you have no strength left, you go back home and that’s it. You go to town once a week, normally on a Sunday, you go to visit your relatives and the rest of the time you are completely tired and exhausted. It means one thing. It means all you do is work, be at home, perhaps one day you’ll go out for a bit and that’s it - you’re practically enslaved. There isn’t what you could call freedom. But when I was a student, when I was a campesino, there was freedom to go for a walk, to go out and everything like that. When you’re a miner and you have the responsibility of your wife and children, things change - you have to look after your job. This is the change I experienced when I became a miner, a worker at Centromin. I had to become an almost sedentary person. Once I’d sat down I could hardly move after that. On the other hand before becoming a miner you had the freedom to move. Before I was free to wander here, there, all over the place, but with freedom.. Although things were hard, I didn’t have any money, at least I was free to move around.

Did you marry shortly after you started work at the mine?
No, it was after I’d been working a while.
Section 11
How long?
I had been working for a year. I didn’t get married but I started cohabiting. We call it, servinacuy, living together.

Is that a regional custom?
Yes, but of the whole region, not just Pasco. It goes back a long way, to time immemorial. They say it comes from Huancavelica. Servinacuy means a period during which you offer yourselves to each other. But in that trial period you have to be careful because if you have a child it becomes a commitment that you cannot abandon.

You married a miner’s daughter. Is it customary for miners to marry other miners’ daughters?
Well, as far as this is concerned, there is a fairly liberal attitude. You could say that miners’ children are free to marry whoever they wish - it could be with professionals, campesinos, businessmen, drivers, engineers, teachers, whoever they like. This applies to the son or daughter, you no longer need referees or god parents or people of standing, nothing. On the other hand in my day you needed guarantors. Who knows what the future holds, all kinds of things.

What other changes did working at the mine bring to your life? Did you have to live in the mining camp? What was life like in the camp?
To begin with I never spent a single day in the compound. I lived in the outskirts of the town, the shantytowns where miners on temporary contracts made home. I lived there because to be eligible for a house from the company you had to have a minimum of seven children and ...

The company insisted you had seven children before they’d give you a home?
Of course the company didn’t say you had to have seven children, but it would say that their housing was for people with lots of children and those with a certain number of points.. I couldn’t see how I could get the necessary points. For being married you get 10 points; for each year of service you get another three; and 10 points for each child. So how many children could I have. If you wanted you could have ten children, 100 points, and then you’d get a house in the mining camp, not otherwise.

Did that make miners have more children?
Those who wanted to live in the compound had to have at least five children.

And so if the compound was for large families, were the houses large?
No, on the contrary. The houses in the shanty towns or the in the settlements were bigger living spaces. The houses in the camps were only 4 x 3 meters, a total of twelve square meters for cooking, sleeping, a living room, a space for the children to study and everything else. They had no indoor toilets. It’s only since 1976 since they built the San Juan neighbourhood that they’ve had toilets but at the Cerro de Pasco Corporation there were no indoor facilities, you had to go out to the latrines, everybody had to use them, adults and children, and queue for them even - that’s how it was at Cerro de Pasco.

When you started to work at the mine was it a foreign company, was it a North American company?
Well.... when I worked at Cerro de Pasco it was already on the point of being sold. It was 1970 and it was sold in 73 - I worked there for three years. I don’t really know a great deal about it, the only thing I can tell you is that many Andean miners have learnt to speak languages, they’ve adapted foreign words into their way of speaking. In those days, the Americans would say “watchman”. And in Spanish this has become “guachiman” which means watchman. The other thing was for example when the Americans referred to shoe meaning footwear, they used the word shoe, or... then they, the Andean miners would say “chuso” so these are the little things they’ve learned to say. They also say “OK” whether that is good or bad. I’m sure there were many other customs among the miners of the 40s, 50s and 60s, but I was a miner in the ‘70s. There isn’t much to say about a miner of the 70s, only that discipline has improved, discipline has been very strict because the campesinos are very disciplined people.
Section 12
After they nationalised Cerro de Pasco there were changes for you miners. Were there changes within the company?
Well, economically yes, there were considerable changes. I’ve looked through the collective agreements with Cerro de Pasco Corporation going back from 73 to 55 and there is nothing to speak of in a financial sense. The Gringos exploited us a lot and paid us nothing. They used to say that in Peru besides minerals, there was plenty of cheap labour ... From ‘74 onwards there were, for the first time, Christmas bonuses, bonuses for national holidays, for 1st May, and almost all the financial demands were successful ... including a wife and children allowance. Well, that was for those of us without the right number of children to live in the mining camp - they got a housing allowance. Then there were hospital benefits for the children, workers’ parents, not parents- in-law. And so there have been improvements, you can’t deny that.

Do these benefits still exist today? How do you view today’s work at the mine?
Well, I can’t say they are being lost. It’s more a case that economic benefits haven’t increased, they’ve remained the same. The only thing that has improved are the wages, and the other thing is the competitive system [they’ve introduced] - those who work more earn more. We’re back to the old Cerro de Pasco system. At Cerro de Pasco we are told, including by my father-in-law who began work as a miner in 1952, they used to be called marronistas. Besides their wages they used to receive marron (literally brown, a bonus). Do you know how it got the name marron? In those days, 500 soles (Peruvian currency) [was brown]. Anyone who stayed on after eight hours and worked overtime producing in an hour or two what they would normally produce in [?] could earn up to 500 soles. They would maybe begin a few hours earlier. They’d [generally] earn 18 soles a month, but if they stayed for a few hours more before or after [the working day], they could earn up to 80, 70 soles extra, on top of their wages. Now we’re back to the old system with a few modifications.

Do you think things are changing now? Are things different now to when you were a miner in the ‘70s and ‘80s?
Nowadays we are again being exploited. Rights which were justly won are being lost. The company is cutting back on benefits. And the worker says nothing. He is weaker, he isn’t organised, and there’s less solidarity.
Section 13
They are less organised?
Oh yes that’s for sure. There’s no trade union any more, there are no sports championships for miners, there are no more mining songs. Nowadays people like other kinds of music including rock, salsa and pop. I hear drunk miners singing salsa. Before drunken miners would always sing huaynos cerreños (mountain ballads), huaynos pasqueños (ballads of Cerro de Pasco), Andean huaynos (traditional songs), our music.

So the trade union has lost importance?
Yes. You could say that the trade union has lost about 55 - 60% of its social value and as a result it can hardly do anything any more. Anyway, they’re living behind the times, they’re outdated, they don’t even know how to use computers, or electric typewriters even. They’re living in the dark ages and haven’t kept up with today’s miner or his wife. Take an example: we used to have the festival of the campesina and the woman miner. There were huaynos... there’s nothing now. Everything has changed for the worse, nothing has improved since I started work.

And so you’re no longer working in the mine. Why did you leave?
Well, I’ve always been restless. I guess I’m a diligent man, fastidious in other words. My grandparents influenced me a lot in terms of what I was going to be. Even my brother who persuaded me not to go to Mexico. Then once I started working, I realised there were tremendous problems at Centromin, at Cerro de Pasco - too much work, exploitation, numerous things. So I began to talk about these things in different ways at work. Normally at work people just concentrate on talking about the same things. There are few opportunities for one to express oneself, so I...I moved onto other things. But people would say no, don’t you just worry about these things, it would be better if you spoke to us, if you represented us, you should be our new Trade Union rep. Let’s see if we can get decent protective clothing... this is how I became chapter representative and then I became general representative and went as far as becoming Federation Leader. I only did it for a year.
I guess I was a man who worried a lot and who sought equality. Do you know why I mention equality? Because throughout Cerro de Pasco there was - and still there is - inequality in the way miners were and continue to be treated. There are miners for example who work seven hour days, technicians who work seven hours. But there are also miners who work nine hours even through their lunch. Some work up to seven hours including lunch, breaks or whatever they’re called. So I ask myself why these differences exist when the law states equal rights, equal work, equal earnings, equal remuneration. So I got things standardised. I brought in to Cerro de Pasco a fixed work day starting at 7 in the morning and finishing at 3 in the afternoon with an hour break. To achieve this not I not only had to take advantage of trade union strike legislation, but I had to get involved in the legal mechanics of the movement, learn about making demands and other things like that. We even carried out research which showed that in Centromin there were more than 24 different work systems; when you measure time on a 24 hour basis, each section had a different timetable, and each time table had a different duration.
So, as far as I’m concerned, I was successful in standardising the working day. [From then on] at Cerro de Pasco you would work a shift from 7 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon with an hour’s break. In real working time that amounted to seven hours and one hour break, totalling eight hours. This was adopted by Centromin and standard shifts were also introduced into other mines such as Yauricocha, Morococha, Cobriza, San Cristóbal, Andaychagua, and Casapalca. We weren’t successful at La Oroya. La Oroya is another kettle of fish because there are workers there who are in with the bosses. This is why I got some kind of following. I earned a reputation enough to get me sacked. In 1992, for example, the service areas including hospitals, schools, workshops, maintenance were on the point of disappearing. Since I’d been so successful in making claims, they moved me to a section that called “carpentry” which took care of the maintenance of buildings and land. I was moved so that, in the Corporation’s own words, I would not “fuck up the company” ...
I settled there but after two years the whole section had practically come to a standstill. It had never been a particularly productive area and since it was producing very little for the company they laid everybody off. Since I was working there, they included me in the list of surplus staff. They said there was no work for the section nor for the people who worked in it. And so the hospitals were handed over to social services and the same thing happened with the school. The majority of teachers were taken on under the education ministry and I got work with them too - in maintenance.
Section 14
Have you lost all your rights as a miner. Do you have a pension?
No, under the recent social security law, I don’t qualify for retirement pension. If on the day I was sacked I’d been 45 - yes - but I was only 43 so I have no right to a pension. If I’d been over 45 before I was sacked, I would have had pension rights.

With this situation, this experience, how do you see the future? Would you want your children to be miners, or would you want them to do something else - return to the land, to your community perhaps?
Well, I guess I could say that thanks to my having married at an early age, today my children... I have five children, the oldest is 23, the next 21, the one after 18, then 16 and the last is 13. I can’t tell what his future will be - he’ll be 13 next birthday. Happily two of my children have pretty much secure work. One is already working and I don’t want to flatter myself but I brought him up to work. My son works as an assistant planning technician with the Yanacancha Council until he finishes his training. He is studying to become an accountant. I don’t think he’ll become a miner, he might get a job with a mining company, but he’s studying accountancy.
Next is my daughter who has a paid training post at the Daniel A. Carrión university in Cerro de Pasco. She graduated from secretarial college. We would have preferred her to become a computer analyst but Cerro doesn’t have that facility. I want to send her to Huancayo or Lima but ... now ... my third son is studying to become a teacher. He attends the Gamaniel Blanco teachers training college at Cerro de Pasco. He will teach PE and a foreign language - English - and the fourth, my daughter is studying to teach philosophy ... Very possibly none of them will ever go into mining or farming but I say they are going to be useful.
And yes, they are going to be useful to the community, wherever they find themselves, in which ever place, in which ever field, whether it is in the professional field or in the community field, or in the middle classes. The only one I’m looking out for is my youngest son. He said to me, “I want to be a footballer. I want to become a professional”. He already plays for his school team. The future I see for them is different, a world very different to my own. Among my friends, other miners’ children, they go on being miners.
At Cerro de Pasco you find fathers, sons, grandfathers, son-in-law, father-in-laws, all working as miners, the whole family are miners. But miners lack one thing ... as miners they earn a fixed wage, but they don’t know how to invest and they don’t know how to make the best [of what they earn]. That’s why I say thanks to my mother who taught me to save, my mother, being a widow, had to save everything... and that’s why when I started working at Centromin, Cerro de Pasco, I am glad I didn’t live a single day in the mining camp, compound, but I built my own house and today this is not a house just for myself but also for my children and tomorrow perhaps, later on, my children might have their own families... no doubt they’ll go to live elsewhere. That’s about all I can tell you ... because of the time ... This is what my life has been like, as a campesino, as a miner and as a family man. Thank you.
Section 15
Well, thank you Juan, for your testimony. Until next time.