2007 Report

Significant learnings


In 2007 we held two field school sessions focused on issues in Andean biodiversity, natural healing, community organization, rural health and education, as well as religion and fiesta practices. Both undergraduate and graduate students from Canada, United Kingdom, Finland, Sweden and the US, majoring in anthropology, public health, medicine, rural sociology, political science, international studies, chemistry, biology, psychology, art history, Spanish and Latin American studies participated in the field course. Please see their comments on their learnings and experiences in the 2007 program.

I. Andean culture and society

  • “I think the most astonishing aspect of the Callejón de Huaylas is the way that a holistic network of significance is weaved around and between the individual, the community and the environment.”
  • “I feel I got an incredibly complete view of Andean society – the medical and environmental aspects and how they combine with the social strata and different fibers of the culture.”
  • “Knowledge in this valley transcends the individual and is collectivized and imbued in the land, the mind and the community.”
  • “During my hike into the mountains to observe the llamas, I was struck by how all our different projects culminated there. We saw religion mixed with historical and familial significance, knowledge that far surpasses any learned in school – an experience of real life that seems surreal and picturesque but actually exists simultaneously with my world back home.”
  • “I am stunned by the Peruvian work ethic. Everyone always seems in the midst of some productive endeavor.”
  • “The Andean people are hardworking, grounded, spiritual and friendly.”


“On our walk with Martín (Quechua instructor) up to the hotsprings he talked about not ‘using’ the land, but having a relationship with the land. The land wasn’t something to be manipulated (in the North American sense), but to work with and to know, creating a bond.”
“I’ve learned from Cesar (Quechua instructor) a lot about Andean culture. Everything is connected and related, the sun is the father, and the stars are our brothers. Everything has life and must be respected.”
“I have gained knowledge of the importance of the earth – Pachamama – in everyday life. The people view the earth literally as “mother” and give thanks to her before undergoing any important task.”
“I have learned about the belief of the sun as male and the moon as female, and the importance of the movement of the sun and the seasons for knowledge about when to plant and harvest crops.”
“A reciprocal and symbiotic relationship with Pachamama permeates the everyday spiritual lives of the people in this region. The people depend on mother earth for building materials (mud, hay, trees), fertile soil for crops, clean water, herbs for medicinal purposes, and to raise their animals for food and clothing.”
“They pay respect to Pachamama through rituals (even offering a drink to the earth) and caring for the land and what it provides. Today the Andean people are even more sensitive to this balance because the glaciers are noticeably receding. Ceremonies that once required the removal of ice are no longer carried out, demonstrating the awareness of a need to protect the environment.”
“I have learned many things about Andean culture but I think that all my senses have experienced the primary importance of ‘la papa.’ Not only does Andean diet revolve around the potato but so do social practices. It is the matriarch’s job to select the seeds for the next planting. The potato names also designate their social significance, such as the potato that makes the daughter-in-law cry. It was impressive to see the more than 100 varieties of potatoes Doña Fausta had harvested. The mixing of the different kinds protects against famine and complete crop failure.”


“I have gained a new respect for natural and alternative medicine as well as the power of belief in good health. I feel as though I have come away with a new understanding of the benefits that come from herbal cures which may take time but overall treat a problem rather than simply masking it.”
“I have also learned the value of the unique relationship established between a midwife and a mother and child. In many circumstances, the midwife is familiar with the entire pregnancy and is therefore better equipped to deal with a birth because the mother can put more faith in her. Many times a midwife will become a godparent to the child. This relationship is much more personal and special than those cultivated in a sterile hospital setting.”


“Our first day in the market Pocha explained to us that you cannot simply buy all of one seller’s goods; even though that would bring in a good amount of money, they prefer to sell to various people in the market in order to meet and connect with different people throughout the day.”
“I feel that in everything we’ve done in the Callejón, a communal sense has been prevalent. Everyone feels connected and bound to one another, by reciprocal ties and obligation and also by kinship and love.”
“The capacity for community action fascinates me the most because it is good to see what the people of the area can accomplish when they use their reciprocal system for community well being, such as cleaning the irrigation ditch and collaborating with the Ministry of Health to benefit the entire community.”
“Fernando (Spanish teacher) told us a story that illustrates community solidarity. One day in the colectivo he became ill and disoriented. Several passengers helped him into his home and stayed the night to make sure he was alright. The next day, word had spread, and dozens of people went to his home to check on him.”
“The festival in Shilla yesterday was a good example of Andean sense of community. The selected mayordomos must have strong ties throughout the community to be able to make it work. They had to prepare massive quantities of food for all the guests, but in return were given many gifts from those invited. Each mayordomo’s ties and connections throughout the community is what made this ideal of reciprocity function.”
“The festival of San Juan in Shilla demonstrates how residents of a community take turns hosting the festival each year. The system implemented is a system through which donations are given which is later reciprocated. Through this redistribution of wealth a community forges strong bonds and thrives.”
“The fact that the bullfight in Shilla is only 10 years old and that costume styles have changed significantly in Zenaida’s lifetime really emphasize the contemporary and fluid nature of “tradition,” that is continually picking up or letting go of certain ways of doing things.”
“Overall, Andean culture and society seem to me as though it is extremely well rounded as a result of the importance of all aspects of our surroundings in our everyday lives. Nature and humanity factor together to create a sustainable society.”


II. Field Work

  • “This was my first taste of field work and I feel fortunate to have had this opportunity as an undergraduate.”
  • “I’ve learned that doing field work can be difficult and frustrating, but very rewarding – patience will bring you a long way.”
  • “I have come to understand how challenging it is to access the knowledge that people have.”
  • “Field work for me was a process of normalizing my presence in the school house; becoming a part of it and creating an affinity with the teacher and students.”
  • “I think that especially in areas where you are researching problems, Participatory Action Research (PAR) methods are the only way to go. I feel that what I have learned about PAR has illuminated so many possibilities for my future and how I can use both anthropology and medicine to help those really in need.”
  • “I’ve learned a great deal about Participatory Action Research and the cyclical process. In order to implement change, people from the community must be involved in all stages – from identifying and becoming aware of concerns or problems, to planning and setting goals, to implementing change and reflecting on results, then beginning the cycle anew.”
  • “I like the PAR model and think it is very effective. I hope to use it in research in the future and aspects of it at home in my own life.”
  • “There were times when everything clicked and it was exciting. I was pleased when people became enthusiastic in their responses.”
  • “Field work is a never-ending process; every answer produces new questions; every trajectory branches off into multiple directions.”
  • “While not knowing Spanish at times was frustrating – it forced me to pay close attention to expressions and body movements. In retrospect, I think I gained as much knowledge as many of the fluent Spanish speakers. I diligently attempted at communication and my eagerness was extremely apparent and contagious.”
  • “I learned the value of reflection, after experiencing things and getting my thoughts together on paper, or simply by thinking about my day in a reflective manner before going to bed.”
  • “Based on this experience, I define field work as a willingness to understand what one is looking at, beyond predetermined notions. This has, predictably, been the biggest challenge for me to overcome. However, I do believe that I have made tremendous progress towards becoming an open observer.”
  • “Although I’m not sure I learned the “correct” way to engage in field work, I think I learned something much more significant – a reinforcement of why field work is so important.”


III. The Setting

  • “Living on an ecological ranch, watching it function, and feeling an actual yet rare connection to my environment has left an impression on me. I have an awareness of my own footprint now that is impossible to ignore.”
  • “I will have nothing but very fond memories of Pocha and her ranch, and she makes me realize through her efforts that we can ALL lessen our impact on the earth, and live more simply, happily.”
  • “I have a great deal of respect for Pocha’s ingenuity and am awed by the self-sufficiency of this place, especially with the solar water heating, electricity and solar ovens. Astounding.”
  • “The valley is so beautiful and the sun hitting the snowcaps at different times of day is truly magical. At times I almost forget the mountains are there and I have to catch my breath when I look up. Incredible view!”
  • “Doing yoga at sunrise, contemplating before Mt. Hualcan, saving on energy use, the darkness at night, the sauna, the food, the animals – all have been so relaxing and thought provoking at the same time.”
  • “I completely appreciated Pocha’s ranch as a base camp at the end of the day, but the surrounding areas felt just as much like home. I’ve never smiled and greeted and stopped to talk to so many strangers in my life.”
  • “Our group of students was an amazing force during this trip. Whether we intended to or not, most conversations were collaborations on our work. We’d share observations and ideas over breakfast, moments before making a crack about someone’s way of speaking.”
  • “Because Carhuaz is smaller and more traditionally based, it was true immersion in traditional Andean culture, as compared to the mix of modern and traditional in the main town, Huaraz.”
  • “I loved being in the mountains because it’s the kind of place that invites reflection and deep pensive thoughts. The mountains force you to stop and contemplate their beauty and realize how small you really are.”
  • “Being in Peru, surrounded by millions of years of geographical history, is like being thrown into another time period, another world. My nerves have calmed, I’ve relaxed in ways that are simply impossible in the subway, on the bus, in the classroom.”
  • “The most stunning aspect of the Peruvian highlands was undoubtedly the nighttime sky. I had never seen the Milky Way so clearly nor had I experienced such a plethora of brilliant stars.”
  • “I have been humbled time and again by the everyday lives of our neighbors in Cajamarquilla. This has made me realize just how much I take for granted and how selfish my day to day existence is. I have appreciated the Andean lifestyle that, in many ways, is much superior to my own.”
  • “The Callejón de Huaylas is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places on earth. I don’t think it is possible to conceptualize this place outside of the people who occupy it. There is a symbiosis between the landscape and the communities that will always remain in my memories and my dreams.”


Photo gallery


Andean Herding By: Line Kampe, Catherine Patrick
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Posted on: September 22, 2017admin
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