photo of person from Peru Cerro de Pasco
Peru glossary


(PERU 2)






municipal worker







We are in the farming community of Quiulacocha, about 5 kilometres from Cerro de Pasco. The main activity here is rearing livestock and the village borders the operations of the mining company - Centromin Peru Cerro de Pasco. We are going to take this opportunity to talk with a lady member of the municipio (local council) of Quiulacocha.

Section 1
Senora, it would be interesting to begin this conversation by knowing a little about you, what is your name, age...?
Right. First Iíd like to welcome you and thank you for this interview. My name's Luzmila Cristůbal. I'm 38 and I work in the municipio of Quiulacocha.

Are you from this community?
Well yes, I belong here. I've been here since I came to live with my husband and family. Originally I come from the province of Yauli. I wasn't born here in Quiulacocha.

And how is it that you came to live in Quiulacocha?
My husband originates from this community. His family lived here, brothers, parents, uncles... We came to live in Quiulacocha when my husband was moved to Cerro de Pasco....

How is it that he was moved?
The company moved the mining operations from Moracocha to Cerro...

Is your husband a miner?
Of course, yes, he was a miner, he worked in Centromin from 1975..., but he died in a work accident a few years ago.

We're very sorry. Perhaps you could tell us a bit about how you met, how you fell in love and how you ended up getting married?
It was in the mining camp. My father also worked in Centromin. He's retired from there now. So I lived in the camp too and that's where we met.

So it was a marriage between a miner and the daughter of a miner?

Does this happen a lot?
Yes, of course, people get married in the camps. Sometimes there are lots of couples.
Section 2
Have you got other friends who've also married miners. Friends from college or from your neighbourhood?
Yes, a few. Others went to Lima and got married there and made their families there.

Do they come back? Do you see them once they leave?
Very rarely, sometimes they come to see their families. But not much, now they've got their lives elsewhere. I've forgotten about them, and them about me I'm sure. Especially now I'm here, quite far away.

SeŮora, have you always lived near the mining operations, close to the camps?
I've lived in mining camps since I was a child. From La Oroya I moved with my parents to Moracocha and later took up at Cerro with my family and now, as you see, we're here in Quiulacocha.

Do you think life for miners has changed, from what you heard and saw when you were a child, from your parents or even from before you were born. Do you think things have changed?
Itís just the same, I think. Life for the miners...itís tough. Itís hard. Miners work down the pits because there's no alternative. My father told me this. That in those days they had to work. It was hard. But then they got used to it and they stayed down the mines. But at first nobody wanted to stay. Father used to tell me this.

Why didn't they want to stay?
Because they feared for their survival. Most of them preferred to stay on the land, grazing animals, sowing crops, more relaxed. But in the end they had to leave because the company... it had bought up all the prime land and there wasn't work anywhere else, no pasture land or water. Just the mines...

Youíre saying they went into the mines because there was no alternative. Your father had to go as well then?
Yes, he always wanted to leave the company. He told me the company didn't have enough workers then. They needed more and didn't have anything to attract people - so they said the salaries were better and they were sure to get paid every week, not like the comuneros in the fields. They closed in on them and forced them to work as miners since there was no longer any alternative. Miners never stay in the camps. They build their homes away from the mines for when they retire, and all they think of is getting out.

So they stay to work and then leave when they retire. Is that what happened with your father?
Yes, he lives in Tarma now. He worked in the company for 30 years.

Tarma is some distance from the mines, in a valley further down, less polluted, isn't it?
That's right. It's further down, on the way to Merced, San Ramon.

That's close, on the road to the jungle the deep jungle, isn't that correct?
Yes, that's where he lives now he's retired.
Section 3
In your experience, do all miners live thinking about leaving?
Of course, nobody stays in the camps...itís easy come easy go.

Does it still happen now. I mean do people leave after they retire, does everybody have the same plan? Isn't this changing?
No, it's just the same. But now a lot of people are being laid off by the company. Nobody knows if they are going to reach retirement. The company's got rid of quite a few people...., and they're going to get rid of more... My husband would probably have been laid off as well. Everybody's worried that the company will lay them off when it sells the mine to other foreigners.

When they privatise it, when they sell it off. Don't the miners agree that the mines should be sold?
They're afraid theyíll end up out of work, without an income. They've got children...So its a difficult situation....

SeŮora Luzmila, when you got married, you came to live in Quiulacocha. Was this an important change in your life compared with what is was before when, as you told me, you'd only lived in the mining camps, hadn't you?
No, when we got married we continued living in Moracocha mining camp for many years. Later my husband got them to move him to Cerro so heíd be closer to his parents, at Quiulacocha. But it wasn't straight after we got married.

Even so, coming to live in a rural community must have been a change. How did it affect you, or did it seem better living here?
It was difficult at first. I was away from my parents and brothers, who Iíd been close to before. But I soon got used to it. We built our house here and only came from Cerro when it was ready. It's much better than the ones in the mining camp. There the houses are just square boxes where the whole family lives. Here the house is big compared to the ones in the camp. My husband wanted to live on his land.

Did you have to make other changes?
I had to get to know people here. I already knew a few friends of my husbandís but I had to get to know others. I learnt to look after the animals and all about life over here, the customs... and I worked in the council.

Are the customs different to those in the camps?
Just a little, but yes. It works differently. Here everybody works and I think harder than they do in the mining camps. Here the children also earn money. There are communal jobs, everybody helps out. Itís different.

Have you become an active comunera?
Yes, an active comunera (registered community member with rights and responsibilities), although it was my husband who was officially recognised because he originated from Quiulacocha and had land here. But I'm also connected to the co-operative, there I'm a member.

Do you think that things for women in the community is different than life for women in the camps.?
I don't know, about the same I think.
Section 4
Can a woman be head of the family or a recognised member of the community?
Yes, there are widowed woman or those who've inherited land and they're part of the community. Those who get married to their husbands and then....well like me.

And in the camps, what's the situation of the mining women like?
They're mainly concerned with the house and the children. There isnít much else for them to do. Sometimes the companies organise clubs. When the company is in the city like la Cerro or La Oroya itís different...there are more activities, the women are organised and they work with the unions...

And do miners worry about the education of their children?
Yes, of course. They study in the company schools.

Is there any difference in education between the male children and the girls?
No, clearly girls study until they get married or until they assume their responsibilities.

Some just pair up, they have children and so they stop studying...

Do they marry young in general?
Yes, well they are sometimes quite young... 15, 16 years.

How long did you study for?
Up to the second year of secondary school... until I got married like I said.

And in the country, do you think its a different story?
For sure. Here the parents aren't as bothered [about schooling]. I've noticed this, although things are changing, there's a new school. Itís worse though when the economy's bad.

And the women? Do they study, do they go to school like they do in the town or in the mining camps?
No, much less, as I said before. Theyíre not so bothered and many young girls give up going to school. Some content themselves with learning how to read and to write, just the minimum, no more - to add up, to sign their name, but that's all.

Have you got your own children?
Yes, I've got three, two boys and a girl.

And are they at school?
Yes of course. The oldest is now in the fourth year of secondary school and the other is in his third; the youngest is just finishing primary school.

And what would you like them to do when they grow up?
I don't know, we still haven't really thought about it. That they continue studying and get a job, get a profession, that would be best for them.
Section 5
Wouldnít you like them to stay here and work in the mines?
Not while thereís so little future. If the situation improves one day then why not. But the prospects aren't so good in the mines at the moment, they're laying people off.

Is this situation causing people to leave Quiulacocha?
Yes, they go because there's little work, the lack of job security is what makes them leave.

Where do they go?
They go to the capital, to Lima, or places like Moracocha, Pampamarca. Or other cities, Huancayo, Huanuco.

Do they come back, the people who leave?
Not the majority no.

Have you also thought of leaving, might you return to the mining camps, where your parents are?
No, I don't think so. Where would we go now my father's left the mines? There's nowhere to live in the camps unless you're the family of a working miner. There are no houses. Here at least our children have their own house and they're not in want of food. I wouldn't go back.

Can you live from working on the land and rearing cattle?
Yes, though lately business is very poor. We'll have to invest money to try and help things improve - but the land isn't like it used to be

Speaking a little about the work people do here, how do most people earn a living; what do most of the people do?
Livestock - a little.

What animals do they raise?
Sheep and cows more than anything and they go all over the place to graze the animals.

Llamas, alpacas?
Llamas yes, alpacas no.

What other activities, what other work exists in Quiulacocha?
Over in Aurapampa we have natural resources and we extract sand.

For construction?
Yes, for construction and we extract stone to make lime.

But the majority of the people raise livestock?
Section 6
Do you grow anything?
Before yes, we used to grow maca (small tuber like a radish).

And what's maca, I don't know much about these things.
They say it's a very good plant, nutritious and medicinal. It grows very well on this land.

Did it grow well?
Very well, yes, but then there were some weird deaths that year. You're not going to believe me, but in the year they produced a good crop of maca, one person died every month starting in February through until December.

But why was this, because they ate maca?
No, they say itís because we got such a good harvest.

A good harvest brought them bad luck? Is that what they believe?
Yes, its a belief the old people told us about. We respect such beliefs here. That's why they stopped growing maca. My husband died that year too in a work accident and so everybody was worried and stopped growing maca.

What other beliefs are there?
That's all, I wouldn't like to say...

Your husband died in a working accident, what happened?
There are accidents all the time in the mine. My husband was the victim of negligence on the part of the man in charge of the companyís operations. He ought to have done work on repairs and maintenance but he didn't. The day my husband died there were several accidents and two deaths, one of them him.

It must have been difficult for you and your children to get through all this, left without the economic support of your husband?
My children have had to grow up without their father and theyíll go into adulthood the same... with just me.

Did you receive any compensation because your husband died in an accident at work?
A pittance. 300 soles (approximately US$150, soles is the Peruvian currency). That's all, and a tiny pension. That's what the company pays for those who die working for them. Others leave the mines because they get sick, unable to live a normal life. Itís the lungs that they suffer from. If they don't die in an accident like my husband, they die from disease [caused] by the mines.

Are there lots of illnesses in the mines?
Donít ask me... ask the doctors... There're lots, especially ones that attack the lungs. My father suffered from an illness of the lungs....silicosis.

After your husband died didn't you think about leaving the community?
As I said, I've nowhere to go. Here I've got my house and the land I inherited from my husband and I also work in the council. I support myself like this and take care of my children. My parents are old now and can't help me out.
Section 7
You work in the municipality (local council), which forms part of the institutional structure of the community. Has community organisation been affected by the creation of the village council (municipio)?
The community is organised by Governing Body, with a President, Secretary, Treasurer, Spokespeople and a Public Prosecutor who also has a Secretary and Spokespeople. Itís an autonomous body and decisions are taken in a general assembly. Its always been this way....

What other institutions exist in Quiulacocha?
There's the Club de Madres (Mothersí Club) and the Club del Vaso de Leche (literally, glass of milk, welfare organisation aiming to ensure all children receive milk daily), sports clubs like Real Juvenil, then there's the environmental group called Defensor Arica (Defend the Wild Bee).

Are there conflicts, any fights in Quiulacocha? When there are conflicts who resolves them?
The community authorities. But there aren't really any conflicts here, the people are peace-loving.

But the council (municipio), what role does it play?
The council is something else. It was the government who ruled that there must be a council in Quiulacocha. The mayor is chosen through elections, by the ballot, as they do everywhere else. It receives money from the state and it has to collect money and do work.

But which do the people respect most?
The council's different. The community is the organisation that's always been here, it was here long before the council was created. People respect both, but the community's the older organisation, something thatís been passed down.

Is there a hierarchy between members of the community? Is it the responsibility of a hierarchy to grant land and admit new members?
Yes, of course. They also do communal jobs, take part in the faenas, (communal work) like everyone else and share the money and the resources with everybody.

How do you think the council is viewed by the people?
There's sometimes opposition.

What do you mean by that?
For example, when we want something explained by the Mayor, we call an open council, but nobody turns up. Where are we supposed to get the answers from. Itís like staring at a brick wall. And this is how we live, discriminated against. Take the case of the light, the electricity, they raised the price to three soles. Why did they do this? This wasnít agreed in any assembly.
Section 8
So there are problems. But I imagine there are also joint activities between all the organisations represented in the community?
Yes, of course, we've fought together...

For example?
Against the company [Centromin] and the pollution it produces. We have all united together on this. Yes, because the environmental pollution from all the contaminated fumes in the air has polluted the waters - theyíre full of sulphur now... there isn't any clean air left, everything is contaminated.

You're saying that the air that people in Quiulacocha breathe is not clean?
Not now, no. Itís completely contaminated on this side [of the valley] and on the other side and weíre stuck in the middle. People have got ill, sometimes stomach problems for example, the children's teeth are rotten and people's hair is falling out.

Their hair is falling out?
Hair is falling out, look how many men are bald, without hair and even some women are losing their hair.

So you're saying they've contaminated the water, they 've contaminated the air and the land as well?
The land, the fields, now everything's been ruined and we don't have enough. Itís all been destroyed by the sulphated water.

And will the grass grow back again?
No, it won't grow again now.

Don't they graze livestock here?
Not now no.

Has anybody died from the contamination?
No, some animals have died. The roofs in the houses are being corroded, ruined because of the polluted air - they keep collapsing because of the sulphur in the rain.

How long do the roofs last?
A new roof hardly even lasts a year before itís completely corroded.

Have you organised yourselves and put up a fight against this?
Yes, we're organised. All the organisations in the community have joined together like I said.

What actions have been taken?
We stopped people from the mining camps in Huaymanta from going to work. Now weíre doing their work by building a channel to take the waste waters away - to make people aware of what can be done. And we've formed groups. We don't let the big lorries go past - we stop them getting on with their work. We wanted them to recognise all that is going on here and how theyíre all in it together - from the President to the community to the other leaders - theyíve made a pact so they can work here.
Section 9
And nothing happened as a result?
No, nothing's come out of anything we did.

And when you stopped the lorries from getting by, did you run into problems with the authorities, police or the military?
Yes, there were problems with the military.

What did they do?
They attacked the comuneros.

Well, there was one guy, when they asked him for his papers he didnít want to show them. So they punched him on the jaw... they bust his lip and kicked him and threw some of our men onto the floor. But they saw we were united, the three together, the council, the cooperative and the community and so they stopped, but it still hasn't been resolved.

Does the council support [the campaign] financially?
No, not as far as Iím aware, but I only took up the job a couple of months ago. I think itís the cooperative that puts up the money.

The cooperative?
Yes, it has funds.

Are these problems new? How long have these problems being going on with Centromin?
It's been building up over the years, since Ď70 or Ď72. There have been a few court cases, a couple of things have been achieved, but not much.

Have you won any of the court cases?
As I said, we've managed a few things, but not much, not like other communities which have achieved a lot more.

What's been achieved in terms of benefit to the community?
The park... the park is going to be officially opened on the 28 July. Then the milking shed and the stadium over there. Our electricity also comes from Centromin - that's one agreement weíve managed to sign with them - and the council charges a bit for maintenance.

Is the community happy with this?
Not really.

Why not?
Because everything else ought to have been sorted out by now. Right now I don't know how they've done the contract, I don't know what its like... they're also saying that theyíre building a plant. Ocroyoc is a plant that they're building at the moment to house the sulphated water . Over there they 're digging another channel, not here anymore but in Rancas (another neighbouring community) which has given up some of its land over there.
Section 10
Is it good what Rancas has done?
No, its very bad sir.

Why is it so bad?
Because on this side we're still suffering because of the pollution.

Is Rancas fighting like you, against Centromin?

If weíre talking about Rancas, Quiulacocha and other communities in the area, which is the worst affected?

Because it's right in the middle of it all. Rancas is on the edge. Yurajhuanca - another community - isnít affected as badly either. They're going to pollute us with the filthy effluents from Cerro de Pasco. I mean it, with the waste water from the people of Cerro.

And are they still building?
They're still building. They're not going to be able to stop the building. They haven't been able to do anything because, as I said, they made an agreement between the authorities without letting us, the comuneros, know anything. Centromin has also talked about resettling our community elsewhere. In 1989, if I remember rightly, they were going to move us over to the place where the Golf Club is.

What happened?
Nothing happened because Rancas gave up their land. Then they told us they were going to move us to Villa de Pasco as well, but the houses are tiny there, they're like matchboxes.

Would you have agreed to go to another place?
If they gave us all houses and did us a good deal then yes. Sir, a lot of communities have lost their land and nothing has been done about it, the people have gone away - they haven't defended themselves at all. We don't want this for our families, we live here. But they say the land is being swallowed up by the mines now, like in Cerro. I don't know if you have seen it... theyíve been extracting minerals from round here, Centromin, for example, since 1960, or it must be before that.....That's what itís like with the mines, they've swallowed up the people and their land. That's what's happened in lots of places, in other communities as well, in Yauli for example, people have left because they've had to get out.

Is the same thing happening in the communities neighbouring Quiulacocha?
Yes, in Yurajhuanca, Champamarca, and Sacrafamilia just the same.
Section 11
And do you come together with any of these communities to confront these things?
Yes, with Yurajhuanca.

Just this one?
Yes, we've always worked with them to defend ourselves against the abuse of Centromin and the other companies.

Apart from Centromin Peru, what other mining companies are there around Quiulacocha?
Colquijirca, Brocal, they're also extracting and they too damage and pollute the area, the natural resources, the river San Juan, the lakes around here, Cuchis grande, Cuchis chico, now they're all contaminated. Before you could drink from them.

Did people use to fish in these lakes?
Yes, most people would go fishing with their nets. Everyone did. It was a custom that can no longer exist and we can't eat fresh fish any more like before.

Did people also earn a living from fishing?
I don't think so. I mean I'd just go with my children to catch frogs, trout, you know, just for something to eat.

Are the waters around here still useful or are they good for nothing now?
Not now, because its very polluted. Not even animals drink the water. The animals are dying, everything is. What they'll do to get it back like it was before I just don't know. It would be hard wouldnít it?

Who installed drinking water for you here in Quiulacocha? What do you drink if the river water is contaminated?
The company. Itís only because they polluted the water like I said before. Cuchis Grande, which was drinking water and all the other [lakes and rivers] have been polluted so they've had to connect us to water further up, up there.

Was that just because of the pollution?

Do you think Centromin has brought any kind of development to Quiulacocha?
No, I think itís caused a lot of harm. Only the miners and their families have benefited but not the community. We could live without the company and we'd be better off. Old people say they lived better before and I think they're right. Illnesses, accidents, for the workers, deaths....I don't think things are better in our village. Look at Quiulacocha, Quiulacocha is poor, what development has the company brought? Itís certain that we'd have done better without the company and the contamination. Up to now there's been nothing, just conflict, all the time conflict between Centromin and Quiulacocha. Some people here are destitute... quite a few of them are.

Are these people thinking of going [to live] elsewhere?
No. They've got their homes here, they'll end up washing clothes, sometimes they help us out - they help me for example when I come home from work.
Section 12
Hasn't the council created some kind of work for these people?
No, nothing at all because we don't have the resources. The only money [the council] has it what it charges for the electricity.

Approximately how many mining families are there here in Quiulacocha?
Right now there'll be about 22 that's all. Can't you see that people are being laid off.

Do these people live in Cerro de Pasco or here?
Some are in Cerro de Pasco but most are here, they go to work from here.

Don't people who live in Cerro de Pasco come back?
Yes, they come back. Their houses are here.

Do people working in the mines help the community in any way?
No, they don't help at all.

They don't think of the community?
I don't know. I can't really say.. But look my friend, we are trying to move ahead... in spite of the adversities. We're increasing our livestock, we've introduced new breeds, we're doing business with other communities, we sell meat to the cities. We want to set up a little industry with the wool from the animals. Weíve already set up a bakery.

How's the bakery going?
Itís doing quite well now. We started producing just one quintal (46kg) and now we're doing one and a half.

How long has it been going?
Five months.

Do you just sell bread in Quiulacocha or in other places?
Breadís taken to Sacra and thereíre also customers in el Brocal.

I believe you [also] have a tailoring clothing workshop?
Yes, itís part of the occupational centre, but not many people are involved.

And thereís a milking plant?
No, you mean the milking shed, but it isn't up and running yet. We do want to get it going for the community.

You did have some links with San Pedro de Caja didnít you? Didnít they use to sell weavings?
No. Of course we would like some of the artisans to come here to teach us - we do have the looms here in Quiulacocha but because thereís no one whoís really into it they are going to waste.

It's still just a plan then?
Yes, just a plan, we haven't made it a reality yet.
Section 13
How do you perceive the situation, the current situation of Quiulacocha?
The situation right now? Itís quite peaceful, at least there's food, enough for us to survive. There are a number of unsettled problems we want to resolve, but there is the will among the Quiulacochans.

Are there possibilities
Yes, there are still possibilities.

If I came to Quiulacocha to look for work, would I find it?
You could get work in the cooperative.

What sort of work could I do there?
That depends on you, doesn't it, on what you know.

What do people do there?
Some of them look after the animals, or from now, they can also help out in the bakery - itís a new job in Quiulacocha.

What do you think's going to happen in Quiulacocha over the next ten years? How do you see the future of Quiulacocha?
The cooperative is going to make us grow, thatís if they allow us to work and donít do us harm. Thatís our goal.

Who's going to harm you?
The company.... and the army that sometimes gets involved and which protects them.

The company.

Hasn't the cooperative had any problems up to now?
No, only with the livestock thieves, but we've sorted that out now.

Did you find the thieves?
Yes we found them.

Where are they now, these thieves, are they in gaol?
No, they ran away and we never got back what we lost.

Is there a police post in Quiulacocha?
No, just the army barracks.

How do you get on with them?
Well, they belong to the company but itís probably them who've saved us when they were blowing up the high voltage towers.

Do you mean there was terrorist activity [around here]?
Yes there was. But since [the army] has been positioned here, itís all stopped.
Section 14
You haven't had any problems with them [Sendero Luminoso], they haven't come to threaten you?

And the terrorism, the violence, was it intense around here?
They blew up the towers. That's all, it didn't go on for very long.

They never actually involved the people?
No sir, it wasn't like that. There wasn't actually that much violence, but the military base was here, thatís why it wasn't so bad.

Letís talk about legends, stories, myths, any folktales that they might have in Quiulacocha?
There are a few things but I don't know much about it. The older people would know more and people who actually come from here. I don't know anything.

And are there any songs about the pollution? Has anyone made up a song about that?
No, they said they were going to do a recording but I don't know when the singer's going to come from Lima.

Was the song going to be about the pollution?
Yes, and it cost us quite a bit too. Each community had to pay 200 soles for them to do it. But everybody contributed towards the recording of the song.

And they never came?
No, not Ďtil now. Nothing.

I was also told that they were thinking about trying to record the history of Quiulacocha, write it down, is that true?
Yes, they're trying to, but they haven't got anywhere yet.

Do you think it would be important?
Yes, that's why they'd do it, so that people could know about our past. There have been great men here, like Daniel Alcides Carrion (father of Peruvian medicine). And itís important to understand your history so that everybody knows about it and so theyíll know about Quiulacocha and be concerned about us, about our futures. The government ought to be concerned about this.

That's all SeŮora. Is there anything else you would like to include in this interview.
Nothing, I can't add anything else, that's all.

Thankyou very much.