This August, with our English friends from Sarah’s Rural Library Fund, we visited a number of our libraries in the provinces of Cajamarca, San Marcos and Cajabamba.
We were with José Isabel Ayay Valdez, in the Quechua zone of Cilimpampa, sharing enthusiasm, wisdom and humour.
Later with Pascual Sánchez of Chuco, veteran coordinator of our libraries in his zone. He told us how his love of reading was inspired by his father and how he spent many long nights by the smoky gas lamp reading borrowed books. He laments the irony of how just when reading is made easier by the arrival of electricity, the book is abandoned for the TV. For this reason, he explains, the work of BR is important now more than ever; to continue our enrichment and to keep alive our ability to travel to new worlds each time we open a book cover.
We then visited the community of Pingo, in Cajabamba, which houses its library in the local primary school. The children, with their parents and teachers, shared with us illuminating theatrical presentations of stories that they collected from the elders of their community. We then had the honour to participate in a minga de trilla: the traditional art of separating the wheat stalks from the grains, celebrating with chicha (fermented drink made from maize).
The journey didn’t end there: we spent the night in the house of our brother Jacinto Aguilar Neyra and listened by moonlight to his memories as library coordinator during the bloody years when the country was rocked with the violence of the civil war. The generosity of books and the courage of the humble made it possible to keep going.
And we were the community of Corralpampa, whose library is also located in their primary school. We participated in an extraordinary sharing of stories, where the children gathered round us to relay what their elders had passed on to them. The magic of the Andean oral tradition, the passing of ancient wisdom from generation to generation, was felt by all as we saw and heard the words of our ancestors emerge from the mouths of the young.