Peruvian potato farmers share effects of globalization on their community
Two farmers from Peru’s Potato Park region travelled thousands of miles from the fields where they spend their days to share with students their first-hand accounts of how globalization is affecting their communities.
Nazario Quispe Amao and Ancelma Apaza de Ccana came to Connecticut College this month as part of a Global Warming Delegation from Peru, a visit sponsored by the College’s Center for Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity (CCSRE).
Nazario and Ancelma come from the rugged terrain of the Andes Mountains, where subsistence farming is a way of life. Their region, known as Parque de la Papa, or Potato Park, protects and preserves its traditional heritage through communal labor, sustainability and conservation.
During their visit, the two spoke with students in Economics Professor Maria Cruz-Saco’s senior seminar, “Globalization, Globophobia and Paradoxes.” The discussion focused on how Potato Park adheres to a traditional way of life in a changing global environment.
The students asked questions about the pros and cons of globalization, trade practices and gender roles, among many others.
Slowly and deliberately — both visitors needed a translator, since Ancelma speaks Quechua, one of 150 languages spoken only in Peru, and Nazario speaks Spanish — the two explained how Potato Park operates. It runs on shared governance, they said. All of the land is owned through the park and each family is assigned a tract of land to work. Though they focus mainly on potato farming, they maintain a diversity of crops; crops they can’t grow they trade for with farmers in other regions of Peru.
“Much more weight is put on relationships [with trade partners],” Nazario explained through the translator. “It’s not like capitalism; we are not looking to exploit anyone for profit.”
Capitalism and other Western ideas have crept into their culture, however, Ancelma explained. Television and the Internet have introduced the young members of the region to a new, more technologically advanced culture. A small percentage of young people have migrated to cities in search of this new culture and broader education, they said, since the schools in Potato Park stop at preteen age and usually integrate traditional farming practices into the curriculum.
"These farmers are in a unique position where globalization hasn’t been fully realized in their region, and they are actually resisting some of its effects by maintaining their traditions,” said Colby Reed '15.
Teaching children the native language, culture and agriculture, the farmers explained, is what has sustained their livelihood over generations. They also rely on money from tourists who visit the park; the revenue is divided equally between the separate communities, and each community elects a board that decides how best to distribute the money — to impoverished citizens, education and infrastructure.
“Many of you will be affecting policy and laws someday,” Nazario told the students. “If we learn from each other, we can make a better world.”
Cruz-Saco said the discussion opened the students’ eyes in ways that a traditional classroom discussion can’t.
“As educators, we try to have insightful answers to questions, but nothing can compete with the answers and reflections from the people who have lived it and can clearly articulate their perspective,” she said.
The students have continued to reflect on the conversation, Cruz-Saco added. They have been discussing the migration of youths to urban areas, she said and how the communities remain insular by adhering to a way of life into which outsiders cannot adapt.
“I look for the students to deconstruct interpretations of truth that may not be consistent with what they believe to be true. I want them to be capable of identifying other viewpoints as they present their own narrative about development and economic prosperity,” Cruz-Saco said.
The visit from the delegation is an integral part of an ongoing cultural exchange between Peru and New London, which also involves the CCSRE and the College’s global environmental justice and social justice initiatives. In summer 2014, Chad Jones, professor of botany; and Lori Balantic, senior associate director of the College’s career program, traveled to Peru with Nate Roy ’14, Mike Wipper ’17 and Kristina Harrold ’16 to visit and identify new community partners.
The visitors from Peru also attended a dinner that was hosted by Connecticut College students. David Garcia Barrera ’17, one of the student hosts, said he talked with the farmers about the similarities between Peru and his Mexican heritage.
“I was able to share my experiences of growing up in an agricultural setting, social activism and maintaining cultural traditions,” said Barrera, who added he plans to use what he learned from the farmers in a project for a class with Leo Garofalo, professor of history and director of the CSSRE.
October 29, 2014