Kids of Markawasi
Featured are the Cildren of San Pedro de Casta, the folkloric Andean village through which one must pass before arriving in the Markawasi Stone Forest.
The people of San Pedro make their communal living by farming the terraced land of the surrounding mountains, as their ancestors did for thousands of years before them. They are the spiritual guardians of the meseta of Markawasi. It is their responsibility to see that those who are welcomed to the meseta feel safe and cared for during their stay. In return, visitors often bring gifts of much needed school supplies and children’s clothing and shoes.
Heading up the unpaved, rocky road in our little bus, on our way to the mystical wonders of Markawasi, I couldn’t help but wonder how on earth anyone, let alone a village of people, could possibly survive under such impossible living conditions. We stopped for a brief moment by the posted sign, “San Pedro de Casta.” There we saw a little boy, who asked if he could ride in the bus to the village near the top of the mountain. The more we continued up the steep dusty mountain road, the more amazed I was to think that this little boy, like many other kids of the village, would trek this arduous journey EVERY MORNING to work in their parent’s terraced fields below. Then, they would walk back up the steep road in order to make it to school in the afternoon. At nearly 10,000 ft, with temperatures near or below freezing at night, he wore only a striped t-shirt, pants and very well worn shoes. The studious boy watched us with polite curiosity and accepted an offering of an apple with a quiet dignity far beyond his age.
Later, when we were offered food prepared by the family of the proprietor whose modest hotel we would stay for the night, I was touched deeply by both the generosity of their meal and the genuine interest they had for their guests’ comfort. The food was simple, but very tasty and nutritious. They even managed to bring pastries in the original pink cardboard box from the market at the bottom of the mountain to serve us. I couldn’t help but wonder at the spirit of their kindness to share their best with us. This is a village and community of remarkably resourceful people surrounded by stunning peaks and harsh conditions, as strong of spirit as the very grasses growing in the crevices of the rocks embedded in the cliffs. The smallest of gifts are received with the greatest of joy. Here indeed is the phrase, “give, that you may receive” a true reflection of unconditional love in action.
Giving back is an ongoing theme in Peruvian culture. People make frequent “kintu” offerings to “Pachamama” mother earth. So it came as no surprise that we would have an opportunity to give back. This was in the form of donations of clothing, shoes and gifts for the children of San Pedro. The fact that we could see, touch and hear our benefactors was an amazing gift. The joy on the children’s faces as they selected new clothes and shoes, and stuffed their pockets with trinkets, crayons and stickers was heartwarming.
Although we brought what we thought was a ton of stuff, we realized that we barely scratched the surface of the need. With 300 children in the village we could see that this couldn’t be a one-time donation. So, we decided to pool our talents, time and resources to send children’s shoes along with much needed school supplies on every departure. Our “Happy Feet” program has helped these children protect their feet from the rocky soil and winter cold. And since they outgrow them quickly, the shoes will be passed down from one child to another until the soles are worn through. There continues to be an ongoing need for warm clothing and school supplies, and a computer was recently delivered to the school master, Jorge Luis Japayas, as well.
If you are traveling to the stone forest of Markawasi, please consider assisting the villagers in any way that you can. Your good deed will be a gracious and welcomed gift. Gracias! Thank you.