Not that four-letter word.
I *ahem* mean showing support and patience is form of love. Take a wild guess who it is the hardest for me to do that for.
(Okay. A healthy amount of that four-letter word too.)
One-sentence summary: Oxapampa’s annual music concert festival, Selvamanos, (the largest concert event in Perú) was like teleporting back to Lollapalooza circa 1993; that one time in service it felt like Jersey Shore, Survivor, and Bachelor in Paradise combined; scrounging for non-colonized/canonized histories of the Oxapampa region for a community diagnostic report; Happy Birthday USA from a non-paid employee (?) of the US Government; my first PC supervisory site visit is this Tuesday; and along with patience, for me the greatest win is asking for help.
Right Now: Oxapampa is an access point for the second largest region in the world for biodiversity. I am most excited about finding someone to help go explore.
Expression of the week: “Qué chistoso!” (How funny, amusing.)
Peace Corps Perú staggers incoming volunteer groups every six months. This past weekend at Selvamanos, a famous music festival in Oxapampa, I met a few volunteers bitter-sweetly at the end of service. I was present for some emotional palabras about their time in-country, soapboxes about their programs, and saying despedidas to fellow classmates. There I was, observing from the outside looking in, still green enough to count the weeks I have been here and not the days left until done.
I think I mentioned it way back when, but it’s been on my mind: I used to tell my students on Day One of a 33-day wilderness course “the first week feels like a month and the rest of the month feels like a week.” I wonder when that happens over the course of 27-months.
Week Four (of service) (month four in-country) I continued to attempt to think about to almost approach inquiring to ask about making work socios (partners) and plug away at my Community Diagnostic. Specifically, Chapter Five: The History of Oxapampa.
I don’t expect there will be anyone in attendance of this forced-march-Power-Point-presentation who is going to have any gut-punch surprises about the history of their community presented in Kindergarten-level Spanish.
Some of you have been curious, so this weeks’ blog is about Peru and Oxa – you can skim past and look at the pictures from my week.
Presenting: A Very Jess Version of Oxapampa History- as informed by shady Internet sites, incorrectly cited non-existent references, and old-man street-gossip later filtered by Google Translate.
[Disclaimer: I make stuff up so you will keep reading. Semi-offensive is my genre.]
Part One: Pre-Perú to Perú
So… back before the Fans of Jesus reset the world date-time stamp clock, ancient Andeans were minding their own business, growing food, building shelter, cooking with fire. There were one-zabillion* (*meh, twenty-ish known) different indigenous tribes, languages, customs, art, pottery, carvings, and religions.
Fast-forward 8-11-15000 or so years to 1438 AD and here come the Incas. [Dunh, dunh, dunh.] They threw down a superhighway from what is now Ecuador/Colombia to what is now Antartica (on my wish list to hike) including an installation of sophisticated trade outposts, a form of nationalized currency, and really cool accounting abacuses.
These Incas had some wildly brilliant scientists and engineers. (I mean, have you seen Macchu Picchu? And that is just what the place they show you on the posters.) The Incans formed entire city centers by “magically transporting” super-engineered rock quarries over kilometers and mountains, built underground stone irrigation system networks to vertically terrace-farm entire populations, and probably invented a harder version of celestial navigation. I don’t know. But file it all under wicked smart. Incas also wiped out entire native peoples who resisted their rule.
Shortly after the Incan party started up (fun fact: six years shy of their 100th anniversary) came the Spanish. Whoops.
So let’s just proceed to European colonization also wiping out entire native tribes, including enslaving and killing the then-current home team of Incans. The Spanish really liked their temples honoring the sun made out of gold and used European religions to mass-colonize pre-Perú: including disease, slavery, stealing or re-optioning art, culture, religious freedom, religious slavery, education, civilization, language, etc. etc..
Next up we have Team “Viceroyalty of Peru” that happens for a few hundred years and Peru becomes the principal source of wealth and power in South America for Spain. But those colonized kids are hard to helicopter parent from Europe. After a culmination of indigenous rebellions, elitist loyalty in-fighting, some good sexy stuff for an upcoming HBO drama series, and years of various wars: July 28, 1821 becomes the official day of independence for Perú.
Part Two: Are We There Yet? Oxapampa
After independence declarations in 1821, baby Perú is just a series of internal-external historical and socially fascinating cluster fucks. Vaguely around the 1850’s, the highly sought after Peruvian export was bird shit. I bird shit you not. “Bird Guana” was a major niche export to European nations – largely controlled by the British Empire as super fertilizer for turnip farming. Even the United States got in on this hot product by trying to claim rights and pick some fights and (literally) start stealing shit. I could go on, or you could read more about farming bird poop here.
To capitalize on the export boom, the Peruvian government wanted a railway system from the Pacific to Atlantic, making Lima a trade epicenter. To do so, they needed workers and people to be invested in a railway living in the remote jungle. The president (Castillo, Peru’s president and slavery abolitionist, during that time) made a contractual deal with a German/Austrian baron (who liked hiking in places such as California, Mexico, and eventually stuck around Peru because the hiking is awesome here) to recruit 10,000 European settlers.
So Peru starts selling dreams, freedom, and land in the middle of the “undeveloped” Amazon. Problem was, the American colonies were totally poaching all the immigrants [insert inflamed commentary about current immigration American politics now and then delete] because they had the better marketing program. So the Peruvian government sweetened the deal by promising each person a signing-bonus mule.
Exactly 304 Austrian-Germans signed up. Subhuman post-Napoleonic war conditions, 20% of the population emigrating to the Americas, and the government issuing a marriage ban unless you could prove you could feed your family left only 9,696 people to recruit. In March 1857, 184 Tyroleans walked an epic 120 kilometers (the punch line here comes four months later) and met 120 German emigrants and trained to Antwerp. 23 pairs got married en-masse (because it was legal there) and then they got on a boat named Norton. The freight-liner exceeded budget so the hopeful passengers got stuffed in the cargo hold with four small hatches for almost four months of rough seas. Seven adults and three children died. 294 colonist hopefuls, 111 days later, were parked at an island off of Lima for a little time-out quarantine.
Here’s where I will skip along through the good parts. By the time of the Norton’s arrival, the construction of a “promised” road to the future settlement had not even been started. There was not even a known path to the valley that would become today’s Pozuzo and Oxapampa. It was so out of the way, local Peruvians couldn’t even give them directions.
To put into perspective, in 2018 it is a 12-hour bus ride at night from Lima for $40 USD. This does not include transporting your mule.
Naturally, cue some more changes in Peruvian government, some breaking political intrigues between Protestants and Catholics, and any favors, promises, or support for the newcomers were long forgotten. They had to go find a spot themselves by foot. And that means getting up and over the Andean mountains.
Cerro de Pasco is/was the highest (or second highest) city in the world at 4360 meters and they had to ditch pack animals to get to the jungle side. By May 1858, 35 had died and 120 people disappeared, but the two groups of Austrian-German immigrants eventually landed in present-day Pozuzu and eventually spread out in a fertile valley to start towns like Oxapampa (est. 1891).
I am guessing the resident native tribes of Yanesha, Ashaninkas, and unreliably Wikipedia-named nomadic tribes weren’t keen on these European settlers and there isn’t much I can find written about their welcome / invasion. Today, many streets in Oxapampa have allemande names (Botteger, Heideger, etc.) and a very distinct, weirdly un-Peruvian, predominately Tyrolean-based architecture.
So that was all that up through the 1800’s. An actual road to Oxapampa was completed in the 1940’s, followed by a classic boom and bust of timber harvest, production, and export until massive environmental and ecological consequences in the 1980’s.
Oxapampa is now well known for its proximity and access the Oxapampa-Asháninka-Yanesha Biosphere Reserve (nerds: which houses a number of protected natural areas such as the Yanachaga Chemillen National Park, with an area of 122,000 hectares (spread over the districts of Huancabamba, Oxapampa, Villa Rica and Pozuzo) and the San Matías-San Carlos Protection Forest, with an area of 145,818 hectares (spread over the districts of Palcazu, Puerto Bermudez and Villa Rica).) More commonly Oxapampa is recognized for its eclectic mix of German/Austrian lineage, a desired destination-location for city-weary Limeans, agriculture, dairy, meat, and coffee, and any minute now (here’s where maybe I am going to help work) ecotourism.
I head out at 5am tomorrow for a meeting with local business owners in Tarma about ecotourism. More on that next week. Fingers crossed.
Vamos a ver, amigos.
The cooking video isn’t uploading quickly enough. I will try and add tomorrow.
Theoretical Mailing Address
Hermana Jessica Rice, Cuerpo de Paz
Apartado NO. 120 SERPOST La Merced
La Merced, Chanchamayo, Junín, PERU
Please note: 1) This mailbox is 2 hours away AND I am very eager to go on a field trip. 2) It costs a lot of money to send me stuff – only send it USPS and to SERPOST 3) Keep packages under 1lb (or to not appear worth $100) or they get sent to Customs Jail in Lima. 4) Customs Jail is as arbitrary and random as my blog posts, so don’t send me anything that you’ll be sad goes missing. 5) The last numbers are my Peru cell phone and they will call me if it gets lost. Place them in the spot you would look if you were lost. 6) There are lots more rules but let’s experiment together.