photo of person from Peru Cerro de Pasco
Peru glossary


(PERU 5)






leader of welfare org.







We're in the campesina community of Quiulacocha, and we're going to talk on this occasion with SeŮora Delma Jesus Flores, representative of the community Vaso de Leche (literally, glass of milk;welfare organisation aiming to ensure all children receive milk daily). She's 54 and is also the President of the Vaso de Leche committee.

Section 1
Sra Delma, to start this interview we'd like you to tell us a bit about yourself and your family?
Well, as you know already, I'm Delma Flores and I'm 54. I'm married and I live here in Quiulacocha with my family.

Have you any children?
Yes one, just one son.

Were you born in Quiulacocha?
No, seŮor, I was born in Cerro de Pasco and came to live here when I married my husband and we had our family here.

Are you a comunera (registered community member with rights and responsibilities) of Quiulacocha?
My husband's a comunero, not me. He's native to this community and because of his family and his work he was given land here in the community - and so we built our house that you see here.

Isn't it usual for women to be named members of the community or are there cases of women comuneras?
Yes of course, they exist. When they're widows or inherit land from their parents, itís very possible. But when they get married then its through their husband that they become part of the community and [get involved in community] work.

But do you think in your community itís usually the man who's made comunero?
That's right seŮor, you're right. Most people who own land here and are heads of families are men.

Are there, or have you known any women in positions of authority during the years you've lived in Quiulacocha?
The truth is I don't remember. It's simply....there hasn't been a single woman on the governing board of the community, just men, that's all. Women tend to have other responsibilities, like the Vaso de Leche, for example. That's more likely.
Section 2
And why do you think this is, SeŮora Delma?
I don't know. But I think itís a well established custom. Women do other jobs, donít they?

For example?
The work in the house, children, babies, the home....and the man always has other jobs. I think that's's a custom...

Do you think this should change, that women are capable of taking on governing roles?
Yes, I think it should improve. But women need to prepare themselves better, even better than the men, or [at least] equal [to them].

Do you think men are better prepared?
At an educational level, yes they are.

Do women have less opportunities to go to school?
That's right SeŮor, less women go to school. Before it was worse, they didn't go at all. Parents weren't interested in sending girls to school, that's why women aren't as prepared as they should be, less than the men. School's important. I only went to school for two years there in Cerro. I donít think my parents could afford to keep me at school, so they took me out and so I only did the second year of primary school. I read and write a little, but that's all.

And did you have any brothers? What was it like for them at school?
There were seven of us, and with me, my parents had eight children, seŮor....on my father's side there were a few more.

How many boys and how many girls?
Five girls and three boys.

And did your brothers have more opportunities to study than you girls?
Some completed primary, but others dropped out earlier as well, for economic reasons more than anything. There weren't many resources.

What did your parents do?
They worked in the markets, selling.....there in Cerro, vegetables, fruit as well.

But in general do you feel that women are less prepared than men, that they've received less education?
That's what I think. That's what you see in the communities around here, as I told you earlier.

And do you think this has changed from when you were a child or do you think it's the same, Sra Delma?
Now its a little different. Parents worry more about sending their children to school and children stay studying for longer I think. The law says they've got to do this too, though there's also times when the parents aren't bothered and don't even send their children to school.
Section 3
As far as women are concerned, do you think itís the same?
More or less seŮor. Itís improved a little, but parents should do more to give a better education to the female children, don't you think? I think this should be the main thing to help all of us get on a little [better].

Would you have liked to have studied more?
Of course, in this way I'd know more which would help me in life itself.

Are there any schools in Quiulacocha?
Yes, there are several schools.

Primary education, kindergartens?

You said you'd got a son, how old's he?
He's 30 now.

And how did he do at school?
He went to primary school here in Quiulacocha and finished secondary school, he finished fifth year of secondary school in Cerro.

And after that, didn't he want to go on studying?
No, you see the army took him and he served the country for five years. He wanted to finish his military career, but then he changed his mind because of the terrorist war. They wanted to send him as cannon fodder to Ayacucho but he didn't want to, he left the army and went to Lima. That's where you'll find him now.

Does he come and visit you?
Yes of course, when he can...he's got his own family there and his children, my grandchildren, one boy and two little girls at the moment. Weíve also been to Lima to visit our grandchildren.

What's he do?
He's a trader.

SeŮora Delma, you said you were from Cerro, so how did you meet your husband?
In town. My husband worked in Cerro for about three years and that's how we met. Then, when we got married we came here to Quiulacocha.

Why did you decide to come here?
My husband decided to come. He'd lost his job in a shop in Cerro and then he wanted to become a miner for Centromin which was at that time the Corporation of the Gringos. As they wouldn't employ him, he came here and me too. Anyway, it was close to Cerro, and the family and everything was close, we could even go every day if we wanted. We built our house here in Quiulacocha and we stayed here but we used to go back regularly to Cerro.
Section 4
Did coming from Cerro, a town, mean a big change for you, apart from being married and having a child?
Yes, something was different, a little bit.

What kind of things SeŮora?
Itís just different, life in the country's quieter, fuller than in Cerro, though they work hard here as well. The campesino comunero doesn't have holidays like employed people, like the miners for example, and nothingís fixed - there's basically no timetable, or salaries, that's the way they survive. Just this really.

Let's talk a little about the work here in Quiulacocha? What do most people do here?
They rear animals.

And has it always been that way or did they used to do other things?
Well yes, itís a livestock rearing community like all the others around here.

What animals do they rear in Quiulacocha?
Llamas, the people whoíve got them; others go to extract sand in Pacas, this is the work we've got.

And any other jobs perhaps?
Country work. Some work in sand, others extract stone, that's all, nothing more.

Do they grow anything here?
We grew maca (small tuber like a radish with medicinal properties) one year as part of the faena (community, communal work) of the community; all the cooperative was involved and they lost everything, everything dried up.

And you haven't tried to grow anything again?
No nothing. Here people are mainly concerned with livestock; they don't grow much, they mainly rear animals.

And would you like to grow maca?

What is maca?
It's a plant, they say its very good, nutritious.

And what can you make from maca?
Jam, maca juice, and they make liquor from maca too.

Don't you grow grass for the animals?
No, we don't grow grass either.
Section 5
But the majority of the people work like that, with livestock, rearing livestock?
Animals, that's right, thatís all they do... and the little jobs on the side.

At the beginning, did you adapt easily or did you miss life in Cerro?
At first it was difficult as they say, but later we got used to it and this became our house, our home. It was my husband's land and I soon got accepted too.

You got used, as they say, to the customs of the community?
That's right yes.

And didn't you ever think, you and your husband, of going anywhere else, of leaving this community?
Yes, several Lima where we've got family, and other places, where my brothers and other relatives live.

And what happened?
Too much uncertainty, there wasn't any secure work, not even in Lima, so we stayed and built our lives in the community, that way there's security.

And what customs of the community did you like most?
Itís got to be the fiestas (festivals, celebrations), the celebrations they have here. Theyíre beautiful.

You like the fiestas?
Yes, we're party people.....its a good custom which we never miss, we always celebrate.

When are the fiestas and what are they celebrating?
We party most during the carnavales (carnivals), especially during carnival months, then there's a massive festival. Also, the communityís feast day is 11 April, this is its anniversary. These are the main fiestas we have.

And do you think the festivals in the community have changed or are they the same [as before]?
Just the same, the fiestas stay the same. I don't think they've changed, people continue to celebrate and there are days of celebration like at carnival time and on national holidays. On the community anniversary, they nominate padrinos (godparents, sponsors of the festival) and then itís up to them to take of organising the fiestas [for that year].

The padrinos take care of organising them and have to pay for everything?
That's right seŮor.

And I imagine the padrinos change every year?
That's right. Every year they elect a different padrino. He has to be chosen by the communityís governing board and heís responsible for all the festivals.
Section 6
So I guess the padrino has to be able to afford to pay for all the costs of the festivities.
That's right. He has to contribute a few lambs and booze - that's how they celebrate the anniversary day or patron saint's day. Carnival, on the other hand isnít like this, itís simpler.

Have you ever been padrinos for a celebration?
No, for relatives maybe, but not for the community. For now no, maybe one day.

Do you think the fiestas have changed or are they the same as before?
Just the same

Are the dances the same or have they changed, do they dance typical dances of the region or other things?
Mainly dances from around here...

What are they like?
How can I explain... there are some dances and songs from around here, huaylas (traditional songs/dances) and things like that.

And other aspects of community life, have they changed since you arrived in this community or are they the same?
The same really, though things have changed a little.

For example?
For example there's less livestock, that's for sure. More poverty in the community, less animal resources, there are some negative things. The animals, for instance should have more grass to graze so they can grow bigger and get fatter, shouldn't they? But nothing can be done. The pastures have been scorched so many times - it wasn't like that before, when I came to [live in] the community. We need more water and clean water as well.

And it wasn't like this when you arrived?
Not as bad, itís getting worse and all the time they want to pollute it more. Itís worse. Of course the water was dirty before but not as bad, I can assure you of that. And this is serious in a livestock dependent community. What are the comuneros going to live from if they can't raise animals. This is what 's happened.

And the families with llamas, alpacas etc, how many do they have, more or less?
Just a few that's all. They don't have many - 20, 30, they don't have many more. Because of what I just told you. They can't have a lot because there isn't grass, there isn't water.

This didn't happen before?
No, well yes, it happened but it wasn't as bad, there wasn't so much [pollution]. Now there's more destitution, a lot of poverty. Take an example, there didnít use to be an organisation called Vaso de Leche. Everybody had resources and wasnít necessary then. Now yes, thereís a need.
Section 7
What is this, the Vaso de Leche?
Well its an organisation we've created ourselves. They have them elsewhere, that's how we found out [about it]. We try to organise ourselves to make sure that none of the children in the community goes without milk. Basically, everybody supplies their animals, from the community, from the municipality, so that the children at least have something for breakfast. This is what the Vaso de Leche is about.

And what role do women play in the Vaso de Leche?

Is it mainly women who work in the Vaso de Leche?
Yes, well itís the women who're in charge. They coordinate and help us, we also get help from the local council and the community authorities.

Is it a communal action against poverty?
As I was saying, there didnít used to be so much poverty and that's why we created the Vaso de Leche. Here thereís the local council, the cooperative and the governing body of the community to support it. We'd actually like to expand our work, but we're trying to manage what we can at the moment.

What other changes have occurred since you arrived in Quiulacocha SeŮora?
Life was more peaceful, not like now, although just now thereís less...

What exactly are you referring to?
Before we didn't need anybody to keep the peace, there was no police, or military, although I havenít actually seen much of them lately. When I arrived in Quiulacocha there was a police post, but now there's a barracks with soldiers. They say they're here now because the terrorists are attacking. That's what they said, that the community was going to be attacked and they're here to protect it. Like in Cerro there were attacks, but I think that rather than being here to protect the community, itís Centromin they're here for, to protect the company and the company gives them everything, food, and they pay them as well I think.

And is this military presence justifiable or hasn't there been any terrorist activity?
There was, but not in Quiulacocha. In Cerro yes, there were bombs and attacks. They say some people were killed, but not in Quiulacocha, itís not like other places, not like Ayacucho where they wanted to send my son, or in the jungle where the war is raging, they say. Here itís not as bad, there haven't been any bombs or war.

So why the presence of a military barracks in the community that wasn't here before?
As I was saying, I think itís here to protect the company - there were some attacks, thefts using explosives and that kind of thing. Theyíre here to stop Sendero Luminoso (the Shining Path movement) hiding around here, itíll be for that I reckon.
Section 8
And before they installed the barracks on your land, did they ask for permission?
I don't really know, but I think there were some conversations with the community authorities. But it wouldnít have made much difference anyway, theyíd have still gone ahead - as they're the military what they say goes.

And has having the barracks nearby brought any benefits?
Not really, the benefits have mostly been for the company. Even when we've had problems with the company, when weíve been making claims against them, they've treated us badly and gone against us. They've taken Centromin's side.

What problems have you had with Centromin?
They haven't respected the promises they made us. They should've built a square and a milking shed and they still haven't finished. It's like they want to forget [about us]. They've only progressed with the sports stadium, nothing else. We make our claims and the army takes their side.

What problems have arisen since Centromin made the commitment to build all these things?
Itís because of the harm they've caused to our land and the lake. Their wastes have damaged us and theyíve done nothing about it. We've been negotiating [with them] for a long time, we've even been to court, and nothing. What we want is for them to acknowledge us. Itís our right.

When did you start discussing with Centromin?
I don't remember now. Quite a way back. I think it was decades ago - and nothing. And the damage is here. Every year you see that our community has less livestock and itís us, our families that are ruined, not theirs, because they just go on working as if they don't care about the pollution - they canít ignore it. They even wanted to relocate us, this is what they offered us, telling us we could go here or there, but nothing. Now nobody believes Centrominís promises. Itís going to be worse for us right now because the waste waters from Cerro they say, are going to pass through here, through Quiulacocha and we're going to be even worse off, because the waters are going to end up in our lakes and rivers. We're going to get all the smells, so that we won't be able to live on these lands. They're ruining the campesinos in this way, the comuneros from these lands. And when we make claims against them, thatís when the repression starts, that's what the soldiers are here for. And the only thing we want to be able to do is work.

How long has this problem of the pollution been going on? Do you remember when the problem became acute?
I couldn't tell you what year it was exactly. But yes, seŮor, some time ago and that's why our community has less livestock, because the water they drink is contaminated with the wastes from the mines, not just Centromin, but the others as well, so they harm us. We've tried to get out of this mess. We've planted maca, but people here are mainly animal farmers. Similarly, we've been entrepreneurs and have established the cooperative and the bakery and this way we're trying to improve, to overcome it all as they say.
Section 9
And people in your community, what do they think about the problems, do they expect them to be sorted out one day?
Less and less. Now we don't expect much from the company or even central government. We've been waiting for a long time and they haven't done anything to solve the problems, nothing. That's why the young people go away. My son's now in Lima, he didn't want to stay here, "I don't want to be like my parents", he said, "all the time working and nothing, I don't want to live in Quiulacocha", he said. He said itís better in Lima so he went there and has had his family and my grandchildren there. They say itís better. I believe that after so much time waiting for things to get better, the best thing for the young ones is to move elsewhere.

But if all the young people from the community go away, there won't be any future for the community?
That's what it'll probably be like, though we donít lose hope. We try to make things better as you see, there's even a bakery now that wasn't here before, although it depended on is to make it happen. Central government should help so that things improve for us.

Apart from Lima, where else do people from Quiulacocha go?
To find work, they go also to Chacua.

What's Chacua?
A mining place.

Is it a long way from Quiulacocha?

And do these people come back?
Those that have houses come back.

Do they come back to stay?
No, they just visit when they want, but they don't come back to stay, its rare this happens, once they go, they don't come back. But you don't lose your house - you leave it with a relative or leave it empty.

Are there other mining places they go to?
San Cristobal, another one there in Cerro de Pasco, other people leave for health reasons, they go to the capital and few return.

What type of health problems?
Illnesses, other more serious things. There is only a medical post here and sometimes it doesn't even have the medicines. That's why people have to go to Cerro, to Huancayo or to Lima because of their health.
Section 10
Do any miners live in Quiulacocha?
Some, but not the majority, but yes, some live here with their families.

How many miners would there be here in Quiulacocha?
There'll be 10 or 15, no more I don't think.

Do they actually live here?

They go to work from home?

And some of them also live in Cerro itself?
No, they have their houses here, those that I said, but there may be others who live in Cerro. I don't really know, as they go and don't come back, but the 10 or 15 that I mentioned live here in the community with their families and they go to Cerro to work everyday.

And the ones that go further away?
They go and that's it. They have work there and they live there and if they come here itís to visit their family or to come to see their house.

And do they also have animals? Do they leave their livestock like they leave their houses?
Not usually, no because now they have something to live from and they have to go away.

And when they leave, do these people sells all their animals?
If they had any yes, if they didn't have any, they didn't have any.

Do you think that when people enter the mines they lose their comunero status?
No, theyíre still comuneros, but they no longer make their living from animals, they live off their income from the company. Itís different from when they're just comuneros.

Do you think if the prospects were better people, the young people would stay?
They leave to find work, they don't go for any other reason. They don't go because they hate their land, because they don't like their land. Some go because they want to know the capital or somewhere else perhaps, but the majority go to escape the poverty, don't they? If there were better pastures and clean water they'd stay. My son tells me it isn't because he doesn't like his lands, that's why I'm saying this, my only son and my only grandchildren are far away in Lima and naturally as a mother I'd like them to be with me. My son would have stayed or heíd return to Quiulacocha if things were better.
Section 11
And would you yourself emigrate now, would you go to Lima or anywhere else SeŮora Delma?
As I told you, they've told us a number of times that they were going to move us to another place. They've even told us the name of the place near here in Cerro and we've been to see [it] but nothing, they haven't done anything. I don't think so now, what's more, we'd lose out, we'd have to sell all our things, we'd lose our houses, it'd be like starting all over again and now, at our age, not now no, we can't go chasing around like that anymore. We'd only go now if we were thrown out, if not, no.

What do you want for your community?
I think that we should have a school - Centromin should at least build us a school, like they offered to, and at least this would be useful.

But you don't think that building a school would solve the problems of contamination?
True, and what's more they're also digging the drainage channels now that will bring more contamination to us - theyíre opening up a channel over there.

They're opening a channel?
Yes, Centromin's building one isn't it? So itíll be nicely polluted once all the wastes pass through here. I don't know where they're going to divert them all to, I can't say, itís only recently that they've started work. It will make things worse. The grass has already been scorched by the tailings and quite a lot of animals have died. Besides which, thereíll be the fumes from the water on both sides.

And what are these fumes like?
Itís like smoke, it smells, it tickles the throat, the eyes. It really itches and its dangerous to the throat and sight.

And haven't you thought about [taking action to] defend yourselves?
The comuneros can't defend themselves alone, especially against this. That's where the authorities must come into it, central government, the president, the mayor.

And what are they doing to alter the situation?
I don't know, they always talk from up there, from Centromin you see. We spent almost a month running up there, wasting time, we went up to the company every day.

When was this?
In July.

And they haven't done anything about it?
No, worse, they scared us away with troops.

And so you didn't continue anymore?
No, we went several times and they told us that there wasn't anything to say and then the people from Lima came.
Section 12
And what did they say?
They saw the polluted water and they took a gallon away in bottles for the president to see. But nothing has happened yet. Other communities have got things, trucks, money like Rancas, but us, nothing.

And what does your husband think about all this?
He said he would never leave this land. He doesn't believe in the promises either. His life's here like me. Almost all his life he's been a comunero and so he wouldn't be able to get used to anywhere else. He's fought quite a lot against the company to stop them scorching the pastureland, but nothing until now.

Do you have animals at the moment?
Yes, we've still got a few that we're rearing.

Just rams, or do you have any other livestock?
Just rams, we don't have any more. At the moment we are also rearing guinea pigs, weíre rearing and selling and itís going well. We get by with these and we have more than enough to eat. On top of that we help graze the community llamas and we also receive something from this, so we do okay.

You're saying you work for the community as well?
Yes, we look after the animals.

Is there anything else SeŮora that you want to add?
No, nothing more seŮor.

Right, SeŮora Delma, we hope that you don't lose hope. We're sure that one day things will improve and youíll be able to enjoy better things.
I just hope that our demands are listened to because itís a long time since we started making them and they've done nothing. That's all, Thank you for coming.

Itís our intention with this interview that the comuneros express their opinions, their problems, their hopes so that these issues are made known to as many people as possible. Thanks for your help and the time you've given.