A Story Woven with Thread
The tradition of weaving in the Andes is thousands of years old and the quality is the result of this. Each design pertains to a specific indigenous group and each has its own meaning. They can tell the history of a family in the same way a First Nation’s totem does or it can identify animals, plants and activities (agriculture, herding) of the weaver/wearer.
A Few Words on Sustainable Tourism
Tourism can be a good thing and it can be a bad thing.
It can be bad if it is done on a large scale, such as a large, all inclusive tourist resort / complex that’s built at he expense of the environment, that consumes large amounts of energy and water, produces enormous waste while paying poor wages to its employees. Small cities and towns can be overwhelmed by the noise, pollution and disruption of tour buses as they barrel through town while very few of the profits seem to make their way into the hands of locals.
Tourism can be good if the companies that transport, accommodate, feed and guide tourists are smaller, locally owned and have a stake in the well being of the people, their culture, the environment and the community as a whole.
From Cuzco to Puno: The Altiplano
We travelled by bus from Cuzco to Puno, which took us from the majestic green mountains of Cuzco, to the dry peaks and onto the Andean Altiplano: the great grassy highland planes. The population thinned as did the vegetation. Fields of corn gave way to arid grasslands dotted by tiny homesteads made of adobe brick and grass.
The Andean Carnival in Puno
We arrived in Puno to find that we landed in the middle of the most extravagant festival of the year: Festival de la Candelaria, situated in middle of the larger carnival festivities of the region.
This is the time of year that all of Latin America is celebrating carnival.
Carnival, is a pre-lenten festival that is celebrated in Europe and Latin America. Many countries put on a elaborate pageant of dancers who dance in a procession that can last for days.
Cuzco and the Sacred Valley
We landed in Cuzco where we spent a week exploring the city. Cuzco was the capital of the Inca Empire until the Spanish captured it in the 1530s. A form of imposing their power and culture and religion upon the indigenous inhabitants, the Spanish destroyed the Inca temples, military fortresses and important buildings.
10 Things I like from Cuba
I have not seen destitution in this country. I might have seen one or two makeshift dwellings. If there is homelessness it is negligible. Their homes are extremely humble, many are in really bad shape, but there are no people sleeping in the streets or shantytowns. People are materially poor, but people seem to have the most basic essentials for a dignified life.
Two economies of Cuba
There are two economies in Cuba, just as there are two currencies.
One economy is the Cuban economy based on Cuban salaries. Pubic servants work for the equivalent of approximately 20 US dollars a month. A doctor earns the equivalent of 40 US dollars. Here it is important to put these wages into context. The state provides housing, education, health care and medicine, a guarantee of food rations (albeit these rations have been cut back to the point that they do not provide enough to eat, making the need to buy food necessary). Based on what I can see from the cost of things, the wages does not leave Cuban with any disposable income for things like home maintenance or luxuries like eating out or traveling. All Cubans I have spoken to complain that they need to find and income on the side to make ends meet.
Volunteering in Cuba
Based on my experience in Cuba so far, it seems that the best way to do volunteer work in Cuba is to join a volunteer brigade. The way to do this is to connect with the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples - Instituto Cubano para la Amnistad con los Pueblos (ICAP). The Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba recruit the volunteers from there. The Canadian brigade happens in May.
Nature Deficit Disorder
Thinking back at our time at the Finca and the people we met there, one thing seems to stand out. The people who are very dedicated to sustainable living, building and farming and conserving nature are people who have had a strong connection to nature as a child or developed one as an adult. Two people we met at the farm expressed this to us. Eduardo and Umberto both grew up in nature and experience the loss of it, both now passionate about conserving it in the work that they do.
Meeting Vandana Shiva…the dog at Finca La Flor.
Some of you may know Vandana Shiva. She is India’s celebrity environmentalist (India’s equivalent of our David Suzuki). Like David, she is a scientist (physicist) who has become spokesperson for Indian farmers struggle against chemical /seed giant corporations such as Monsanto.