A home visit to Cabra Cancha


A Home Visit to Cabra Cancha

Manuel Cuariti is currently the student who makes the
longest walk to go home on weekends from the
Internado. Here (right) is a photo of his home in Cabra Cancha (with mother and mule), and (below) the area surrounding his home, including their cornfield.

Manuel at age 16, joined the internado last year as a third year secondary student, he is one of 4 expecting to graduate in December, 2009. Manuel is the youngest of several children and will be the first in his family to complete high school. He plans to study agronomy. In his spare time, he plays drum and panpipes in a traditional Andean music group with some other students.

His community of Cabra Cancha is a 9 or 10 hour walk from Sorata, with no public transportation. He leaves school early on Fridays to go home to help his widowed mother farm, then returns on Sunday. Benito managed to get his Friday schedule changed so that he doesn’t miss any academic classes. Manuel doesn’t always walk the entire distance. If he leaves home by 2:00 a.m. on Sunday he can sometimes catch a ride on a truck coming from the Yungas. Once the internado friends loaned him a truck innertube and he tubed down the river to a spot close to his home. He arrived in about 6 hours, but was thoroughly chilled and decided not to repeat that means of transportation.

 We had an application from a new student from Cabra Cancha this year, Adelid Cuariti, and since no one on the selection committee was familiar with the community, we decided to pay a visit. Benito, his parents, their 3 year old granddaughter Valeria and I set off in their Toyota van. I had some trepidation as we headed through heavy clouds after a night of rain. Landslides are a frequent problem in the rainy season. To me, this road clearly outranks the old Coroico road (famous as the “World’s Most Dangerous” before it was closed to vehicle traffic a year ago). In 3 separate places we maneuvered through shallow ponds created by waterfalls plunging to the roadside. Unable to resist backseat driving on this narrow track without room to pass, I kept reminding Benito to honk on the constant twists and turns. Serpent like, the road crawled through increasing verdure, clinging desperately to the steep slopes as it plunged to lower altitudes.

We passed the middle school (right) attended by Cabra Cancha children, located about a 2 hour walk from  their homes. The  primary school is only about an hour away.

 Cabra Cancha means Goat Field, and we did indeed see goats.
 When we were almost there, we met Manuel’s mother on the road, on her way in to Sorata (to try to buy some medicine for an older son who was suffering from some malady that could only be treated by secret natural remedies and couldn’t be talked about.) She decided to return home to entertain us with coca tea and fresh peaches from her tree. It was a measure of confidence that they accepted some of my Rescue Remedy for her son.
 Eusebio tells me that Manuel’s mother has become a Quaker in the past year.  

They grow a number of crops in Cabra Cancha that can’t be grown in Sorata, but they can only take to market what their mule can carry. Except for the sick son, the men were all gone to bring water from a source more than an hour’s walk uphill. [Eusebio explained to them how his village had a QBL project to pipe water to their homes, and I subsequently discussed it with the QBL project coordinator in La Paz.]

The men later assured us they would all have been there to receive us had they known we were coming, and hoped we would return. It was a memorable trip, but not one I’d like to repeat in the rainy season.

It turned out that the new applicant Adelid is Manuel’s cousin who lives next door. His mother and younger brother (right) came up to greet us when we arrived. She speaks only Aymara and had no schooling herself, but is very supportive of her children’s education.
We subsequently accepted another neighbor, David Arismendi, as well. We have had similar clusters of new applications from other isolated communities once the Internado is“discovered”.

You can see the beauty of the country and people for yourself during a Quaker Service Trip led by Barbara Flynn. More information is available at her website.