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Travels in the Peruvian countryside to the ‘cradle’ of the Afro-descendant community

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MRG’s Fundraising Coordinator, Cecile Clerc, travels outside Lima to meet Afro-descendant victims of the recent Peruvian earthquake, and hears chilling tales from the slavery era

[Sunday 4th] This morning my body was aching as if I had run a marathon the day before… The six hours spent in a van driving on the Panamerica Sur – the highway heading south of Lima – had apparently been more tiring than I had imagined.

Samia (MRG’s Head of Programmes) and I had been invited by Silvia from Asociacion Chincha Margarita, one of our partners in the project, to go to her community some 300 kms away from Lima. The opportunity was too exciting to be missed – this was our chance to go and meet with the people who will be the ultimate beneficiaries of our work and an opportunity to discover Peru a bit more. We did not regret it a second.

We had hired a van and a driver – there was no way we would be able to manage the Latin way of driving on our own – and Silvia joined us for the day, bringing with her her sweet one-year-old daughter.

We left the hotel by 8.00 am and 3 hours later arrived in the village of El Carmen, in the Province of Chincha. In El Carmen live 3,500 inhabitants, 85% of which are from Afro-descendant origin. The area is known as the cradle of the Afro-descendant community in Peru and people are incredibly proud of it.

More recently, it has also become famous as it was badly affected by the earthquake which hit Peru a couple of months ago. Many people are actually still living in tents providing by international organizations such as the EU as their houses are not fully rebuilt.

We walked around the area, meeting with Silvia’s friends and family who shared with us their experience of the earthquake. There is no doubt that this had a huge emotional and economic impact on the community. Yet there was also a general feeling that everybody was willing to start again.

On the way back to Lima we stopped at the Hacienda de San Jose, a typical house from the 19th century now converted into a famous hotel. Although the house was also badly destroyed by the earthquake – the epicenter was in Pisco, not far from there – it still conveys the splendour of the past times. And its horrors.

Indeed, in the past, the owners of this house had a huge number of slaves from Africa working for them, in the cotton fields around the house. Silvia showed us the room where slaves used to be beaten up and told us about the revolution of slaves which started in 1859 from this place. It was a chilling story but at the same time a story of hope and courage and of a fight for rights and liberty – the kind of fight our project is about.

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