Sabios comunitarios, estudiantes y profesores de la comunidad de Miraflores, Yauyos, Lima.
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Community Wisdom in the Andes of Lima: A Peruvian Travelogue

Sabios comunitarios, estudiantes y profesores de la comunidad de Miraflores, Yauyos, Lima.

“In Huaquis, they brought water from one place, and…the population increased, and the water was no longer enough. For that reason, they had to move here (Miraflores)…”, reads one of the interviews collected as part of the Yanacancha-Huaquis Cultural Landscape project’s social memory component. 

The cultural and historical value of our heritage goes beyond the beauty and monumentality of historic sites; it also lies in the stories of those who safeguard them. During the last week of April, I had the opportunity to visit the Andean community of Miraflores, Peru, and participate in the activities organized by the Yanacancha-Huaquis Cultural Landscape project team. In the process, I got to see up close how our local partners engage with the community and experience the relevance of our work there. I came away with the feeling that, in Miraflores, we are not only preserving a historic site, but also helping a community to relate to its own identity through heritage. 

Since its inclusion in the 2022 World Monuments Watch, the Yanacancha-Huaquis Cultural Landscape has fascinated us with its ancestral water management system. Through conservation work, it also possesses boundless possibilities to benefit the community of Miraflores. Located in the Nor Yauyos-Cochas Landscape Reserve, about eight hours from Lima, the project’s execution is led by the Instituto de Montaña, an organization dedicated to the conservation and sustainable development of mountain ecosystems and populations. We are currently waiting for the approval of our plan by the Ministry of Culture to begin conservation actions in the Ancient Town of Huaquis, which was abandoned at the beginning of the twentieth century by the families of Miraflores’s current residents due to water scarcity. We’re also studying the Yanacancha dams, an ancestral water system that has the potential to alleviate shortages during the dry season. 

Heritage is not only composed of buildings or tangible monuments; we must also address the intangible value that comes along with the people who safeguard it. In addition to the preservation of the region’s water infrastructure and landscape, the Instituto de Montaña is working to preserve social memory and community knowledge in this remarkable area. As such, we’re training the local young people to collect information on their heritage by tapping into the wisdom of the elderly population. During this visit, I heard many inspiring stories, but it was even more gratifying to see the community showing a genuine interest in discovering what life in Miraflores used to be like and how it was connected to Huaquis and the Yanacancha waterways. 

The week began with a workshop for young people on using audiovisual equipment and conducting interviews. The young people were natural with the equipment and quickly assumed their role as interviewers. Each interview with a “grandpa/grandma” or “uncle/aunt,” as the children affectionately called the community elders, was a pleasant surprise. Many community elders reflected on how the changes brought by modernity have not always been beneficial. As one of the wise women noted, “everyone worked before, young and old….now, look, those school kids don't know how to hold a pick and a shovel. I started working when I was nine years old; my mother was a widow, I was a laborer…” The anecdotes, legends, and experiences that they told us are innumerable, and we will soon publish with the Instituto de Montaña the original videos that capture these stories. 

The central event of this week was a meeting in Huaquis with community elders, students, and teachers from the Miraflores school. Together, we walked together towards Huaquis, located an hour away from Miraflores, with beautiful views of green landscape. Even today, Miraflorinos can easily identify their ancestors’ houses in the old town. Although no one lives there anymore, the Ancient Town still feels very much alive. In other words, abandoning the living space does not necessarily mean leaving its stories behind. 

The meeting began with a “payment to the land,” a common ceremony in Peru where we thank the land for receiving us. Fruit, coca leaves, and other items were blessed and then buried in the old church. When a little girl innocently asked what would happen if the items were dug up, she received a response from one of the elders: “you would be turned mute forever.” This kind of teaching moment illustrates the constant exchange of knowledge that values our customs from generation to generation. 

Young people were encouraged to ask a panel of four elders, and it was heartwarming to see the children's interest in learning more about their past, history, and heritage. They asked about all aspects of life in Miraflores and Huaquis, from food to games to education. Seeing a younger generation come to appreciate this unique knowledge and want to preserve it was truly moving. 

After this satisfactory visit, I am sure that compiling this information will help us better understand the past and will aid in the historical interpretation of Huaquis and Miraflores. At the end of the day, the true value of our heritage spaces is provided by the people and stories around them. 

World Monuments Fund's work at the Yanacancha-Huaquis Cultural Landscape has been made possible, in part, by support from The Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust and American Express. 

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