Ancash was a dream for me. During training, I researched all of my potential sites and every photo of Ancash mesmorized me. There were only four open spots in Ancash, so I thought there was no way I would be one of the lucky ones. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, so I kept telling everyone I would be happy anywhere, while secretly wishing I would get to peer out my windows at snow capped mountains everyday.
On site assignment day, I sat anxiously waiting for my name to be called. First, the Peace Corps announced all of the volunteers that would be headed to the Amazons. Next, Ancash. After convincing myself there was no way I was going to Ancash, I almost tuned out the names being called. Joe’s name was called first. Second, I was expecting to hear “Chris” when all of a sudden…
Chacas, Asunción, Ancash: Caron Sinnenberg
My jaw dropped and I was incredibly excited. It was the best feeling I had had since coming to Perú. We received packets about our sites and I found out that Chacas is an absolutely beautiful site with a rich history and interesting culture. It is the capital of the province, Asunción, and has a population of about 5,000 people. It is about 3400 meters or 11,000 feet high on the east side of the Cordillera Blancas, which is part of the Andes. To me, the most interesting cultural aspect of Chacas is its apparent Italian heritage. Chacas became a site for humanitarian Father Hugo’s Operation Mato Grasso, which implanted Italians into impoverished towns in South America in order to help grow an economy and the educational systems in the locations. Below are Father Hugo’s words regarding placing Italian volunteers in Chacas:
“When I go among the poor of Peru, asked the Bishop of Huari assign me a parish located in one of the more remote valleys of the Andes. He told me and Yanama Chacas, located in the heart of the Cordillera Blanca, half of 3000 and 4000 meters, at the foot of Huascaran and Huandoy massif. Thus, the mountains that surround my life. For my people, the mountains are “nice” if you give the grass and wood, while the glaciers and snowfields just remind them of hunger and cold. In the past 30 years, things have changed a lot in the mountains. From the slopes, where they grow potatoes and cereals, they have seen strangers go with backpacks and colorful clothes. What do you look them in the mountains? What is it that draws them there? Many of these newcomers are careful not to trample the flowers, but spend without worrying about poverty and traditions of these people. They often do not even understand who the people living in the foothills of the mountains they climb. With the eyes of poor farmers look at these new “Pathfinder” … I understand, because I love the mountain too, but here they talk about the opening of new routes to the summits. Can not they help open the way also for my young sons of farmers who are forced to migrate to Lima just to earn their daily bread? “
All of this to say, I am not the first volunteer Chacas has seen. In fact, there have been hundreds of people creating innovative opportunities for the people of Chacas. However, I AM the first person from the United States of America who will be spending two years with this Quechua-speaking community and it’s an absolute honor.
The Italians have created a beautiful school that have encouraged income generating activities such as knitting, stained glass, and woodworking. The intricacies and impact of the Italians in this community is astounding. The hospital is comprised of all volunteer doctors who come from Italy and the church and schools are full of Italian leaders. There is even a state of the art cheese making facility! It’s a remarkable place with a complex culture built on Peruvian tradition with high quality Italian opportunities.
I am lucky enough to be the newest Chacasina and the community has welcomed me with open arms. On my first day, Chacas had TWO receptions for me. They had another with the mayor the next week.