The international press has recently been releasing articles confirmed that the last of the tourists have been airlifted out of Machu Picchu, with around 4000 people (including locals) evacuated from Aguas Calientes, confirmed by the Tourism Minister Martin Perez. Meanwhile, stories are starting to come through about the devastating effect on the regional population. A few days behind the Correo, the BBC ran this online article (and another a couple of days later) about the remains of Lucre and Pinipampa. The final part of the former article makes an excellent observation, that I have to say I’ve noticed as well in and around Cusco; the community spirit and sense of solidarity is an inspiration.
Personally, I have been sitting in Cusco over the last few days, hearing the sound of the helicopters thudding back and forth overhead (doubtless carrying their cargo of tourists) and feeling thoroughly useless; what can I do to assist, and how? A trot around the Red Cross office and the central plaza of Cusco has revealed only that food, water and clothing donations are the priority; the Ministry of Defence had distributed a limited number of tents, but this has been the only response to date from a government that was yet to allocate any budget (“We don’t have a machine to print money”; Alan Garcia, President of Peru) to to the aid and regeneration efforts, let alone begin to act. The displaced inhabitants have been relying on supplies from outside the Valley from local religious and community organisations and proactive individuals and groups. As I have no money to buy items for donation and nothing of my own to donate, my only options are my time, and effort. Things aren’t made any easier when I recieve photos like the one below, from a friend in a social project in Cusco.
Fortunately the opportunity has come sooner than I expected. A groups of friends who I’ve met through my English teaching needed hands to help with distribution of a sizeable collection that they had pulled together through family and friends. I’ve gladly accepting their offer of a space in their truck, and should soon find myself rolling down into one of the main points of entry to the Sacred Valley, the town of Urubamba.