Sunday, 1 October 2017

In the communities of Socota

At the beginning of September our sister Rita Mocker travelled to Sócota, in the province of Cutervo, to visit the Community Program Coordinators in the area, accompanied by Ilse, a visitor, and Hannah, a volunteer for the Network. The green of the mountains and the song of the river welcomed us to this pleasant village.

In the house of Abel we had a meeting with the parents and children in his charge. The mothers had made a great effort to come, they were animated and in a good mood. Rita talked with each mother and child to see how they were doing and whether to start some other therapy or support them in some other way. Coordinator Nadia also came and attended the meeting: we were very impressed with the effort that the coordinators and the families of the children are making. And we very much regret the death of one of the children: we think a lot about his mother and all his family.

The next day we left early to the town of San Luis de Lucuma, and with Abel we visited some children in the village of Chilac. In the afternoon we met in San Luis de Lucma with the coordinator Luz Nelva and the children she attends. Rita talked to each child and their mom or dad and showed them some exercises and foot and face massage.

The last day of our stay we visited the coordinator Angela in the town of Huarrago. Arriving, Angela introduced us to the teacher and her daughter Aldana's classroom, and the girl Fiorela who is also in the Community Program. The two girls, attending classes every day, were attentive to the teacher's instruction, and had become good friends with their classmates, thanks to the efforts of Angela and the teacher. During the meeting at Angela's house, we met all the children in her care, as well as their fathers and mothers.

For lunch the adults cooked, while with the children chopped fruits to make a salad. For dessert, Ilse prepared a quinoa mazamorra with fruit salad that we all liked! To end the meeting, Ilse gave a short presentation on nutrition, explaining what we can eat to feed ourselves. Quinoa, an ancestral grain native to the Andean highlands, has a nutritional value that can not be compared to any other grain. In addition to being good to eat, it is easy to plant, so everyone should leave a little space on their farm to grow their quinua. We give our sincere thanks to those who voluntarily support the Community Program and who accompany us in our work!

Upon returning to Cajamarca on Thursday, we said goodbye to the coordinators, the children and their families, and the beautiful valley of Sócota, with a heart full of good cheer.

A new encounter

The last training encounter of the Community Program for this year was carried out during the first weekend of September. Unfortunately, for various reasons, not all coordinators could participate in this event. We know that they are the first to regret his absence, since our meetings are not only to learn and share, but above all to meet in family.

After this shared weekend we received a very pleasant and kind mail from our Colombian sister Nathalia Quintero who participated actively during this meeting. Here we share her words with you:

I would like to congratulate you on the Encounter; the proposed agenda was excellent and its development orderly, illustrative and essential for the attendees. Infinite thanks for all your teachings, your immense wisdom, generosity and clarity to illustrate essential themes for the 'healing' coordinators of the program. They are very important subjects for anyone - how much I learned listening to you!

With all my admiration and affection.

Strong hugs!"

Thank you, Nathalia, for encouraging and accompanying our way.

Thursday, 28 September 2017


The road from Cajamarca to Chuco, in the province of San Marcos, took us about three hours; then we arrived with Alfredo to the house of Juana and Pascual Sánchez. The journey was full of enthusiasm and green tones, mountains, seeds, evergreens and hummingbirds.

When we arrived, after greeting Juana, we went to look for Pascual on the farm. In the distance we saw his thin silhouette and his San Marcan hat: he collected the wheat in the company of his son Manuel, coordinator and librarian.

His steps slow but steady, his head lowering to watch his steps and then rising to direct his eyes towards us, with that generous smile of welcome.

It was great to see the kind and wise Pascual again. In those moments it is not easy to contain the emotion, sealed with the genuine and affectionate greeting of Pascual. It is moving to see two great people embrace with everlasting affection, to see together the two veterans of this movement of books, communities, reading circles and families. It makes you want to continue reading, to be a farmer, to be a librarian and travel the countryside of Cajamarca again and again.

We went to the house and the magic continued. Pascual told us about his link with books, with reading, with knowledge. His father went regularly to the pharmacy, not to buy medicines, but to buy books that were sold there, books to take home. Hence he and his brothers had provisions for the soul. He told us that among his readings are books such as 'The Pillars of the Earth', the Bible, History of Ancient Rome and 'The Story of Charlemagne', among others.

With great historical solvency, Pascual told us the names and histories of several Lombard kings and Carolingians of medieval European times. He also explained to us the process of sowing wheat, potatoes, lentils, beans, alfalfa and many other crops that the earth offers us; he reiterated that he does not sell what springs from her, because they are gifts that are to be served in the family's food, to share with his neighbors and his community.

Then a rich lunch enlivened by the sonorous rhythm of Pascual's voice: life stories, experiences, deep and present reflections and much, much wisdom.

Thank you Pascual, thank you Alfredo, thank you to the community members of the Network for being, existing and persisting!

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Welcome Hannah

Since the end of August Hannah Parschat has been accompanying us in the core team of the Rural Libraries Network.

Hannah is multicultural: of German parents, she was born in Holland; a few months later she moved with her family to Norway where she grew up on a small island, connected to the land and community. She is now studying in Canada and volunteers with us here in Peru.

Hannah's volunteering is also part of her studies in Linguistics and Anthropology. And Hannah is always present with a positive attitude, simplicity, criticality and frankness.

"Getting to know the Network of Rural Libraries has been an experience beyond anything I could ever have imagined," says Hannah. “The little that I know so far has entered my heart directly, and not even the forgetting of time can draw it from my memory. Especially Alfredo, Rita, Rumi, Mara, Nathalia, Karina, Lola and the rest of the central team, besides the coordinators and members of the Network that I have been fortunate to meet, have received me with so much friendship and affection, with a altruism that can not be explained by the knowledge of the sciences.

What is the most amazing about the Network, so far? For me, it's definitely the volunteer and community effort you make here. In addition to the hard work of the farms and other jobs, they are dedicating themselves to cultivating this land that is the Network, planting as seeds their wisdom and their history, thus sowing their culture to sustain those who come. I am speechless because of your conviction, your efforts, your goals and visions, and the incredible people I have known so far.

When I arrived in Cajamarca, I felt the kisses of her sun, the caresses of her air, the freshness of her water, and the strength of her land. It is something very special, and I thank you with all my heart for the effort you make in the Network of Rural Libraries of Cajamarca to protect your culture and our land.

Thank you very much for having received me and included in your community."

Welcome Hannah!

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Teaching in nature

A few days ago, during a brief excursion to the apu Qayaqpuma (whose mysteries and secrets our brother Alfredo Mires has been studying for more than 25 years), we met with a large group of children who were visiting the mountain accompanied by their teachers.

Talking with them, one of the teachers told us: "I usually organize these outings with my children every year, because it is very sad that we are almost never taught to value what is ours."

In fact, it seems that the price of modernity is borne by the conscience of the little ones.
We wholeheartedly congratulate all those who, despite the hardships of present-day society, make - like these teachers - a fond and fervent attempt to rescue the traditional values of the Cajamarcan culture.

Happenings like this remind us that "As we did not know it was impossible, we did it".

Rumi Mires

Visit from the National Library

On 23rd August past we received a visit from the director of the National Library, Mr. Alejandro Neyra Sánchez.

Our executive advisor, Alfredo Mires Ortiz, showed him the facilities of the headquarters and explained the conception and purposes of our Network of Rural Libraries.

We express our greetings to those who come to our organization to get to know or to acknowledge the community and creative fabric that for 46 years - in an autonomous and sovereign, coherent and consistent manner - we have been weaving thanks to the committed and voluntary work of the community librarians with our books and their reading, and the defense of the land and the Andean culture.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Moseñor José Dammert: Education and peasantry

During the years 1962 to 1992, Monsignor José Dammert Bellido was bishop of the Diocese of Cajamarca. He and his work - rooted in the foundations of the Latin American Episcopal Conferences of Medellín and Puebla, Liberation Theology and the Option for the Poor - marked the course of the Catholic Church in Cajamarca in these times.

In this religious, political and social context, the English priest Juan Medcalf founded in 1971 the Network of Rural Libraries. A few years later Alfredo Mires also arrived in Cajamarca to be part of the Christian community of Baños del Inca, along with Father Juan and other brothers.

In 1982, Juan Medcalf returned to England and Alfredo stayed, in charge of the Network. Since then he has walked alongside the humble, sharing his life and his stories, and working as a link and "translator" between cultures.

This year, Monsignor Dammert would have celebrated 100 years of life, a cardinal reason to celebrate a homage. Alfredo Mires was invited to give a conference with the theme Education and peasantry for this occasion. Those of us who were present at this keynote address were frankly impressed by the extent of Dammert's work and his support and appreciation for our Network of Rural Libraries.

Grateful, we share some passages from this conference with you:

"In the mid-1980s, when I told him that I was going to make a book about the Cajamarcan oral traditions related to the apparitions of God, the saints and their miracles, Dammert was enthusiastic and began to rescue stories as well from his students in the religion courses he had during the holidays in the Departmental Office of Catholic Education.

On one occasion, while we were reviewing the texts, he made a kind of confession. He told me that once, riding on horseback to a distant community, on reaching the top of a hill, he saw an orderly pile of stones by the side of the road. He asked the peasant and well-trained catechist who guided him what it was. The peasant told him that these were the old beliefs of the people, that only unprepared Christians were accustomed to leaving a stone offering in that apachite in gratitude to the mountain ... They walked on in silence, him ahead on the horse, when suddenly he turned to see the same peasant, devoutly and quietly leaving his pebble of offering.

It was like understanding that one does not educate the heart.

Monsignor never concealed his deep concern for the dignity of the poorest. And it was not just in speech: he visited them, he attended them, he took care of them ... Dammert has not been here for twenty-five years, but that does not mean that there are no poor people and no impoverishment: poor people remain, but it's like now it is forbidden to see them. There is a persistent optical misery that is distorting us ... or is it that the conscience is also subject to extractive privatizations."