The Andes mountains stretch 7,250 kms along the western margin of South America. In the area around Cerro de Pasco, people’s herding lifestyle has undergone great change, principally as a result of mining.
Our partner Cooperacción works with communities in the Andes affected by the mining industry. Testimonies were collected during 1995 in the Cerro de Pasco region. Themes covered in this collection include migration, pollution, health, culture and customs.
In 1998 Cooperacción developed an exhibition of photographs and extracts from the testimonies. In early 2000, Cooperacción launched an illustrated book based on these testimonies.
“[Young people] leave to find work, they don’t go for any other reason. They don’t go because they hate their land…. the majority go to escape the poverty, don’t they? If there were better pastures and clean water, they’d stay.”
Delma, female, 54 years, community organiser
“[Miners] think of the present and that’s all, as they say. They think about their money, about their work and that’s all. They’re trapped by their surroundings so they’re not even interested in whether their lungs are being infected … or if they’re going to die in the mines…. That’s what happens with contamination, they don’t consider that it’s going to affect the community later…. the truth is that when I was young I said,’I work and earn my money and that’s it’ and I wasn’t really aware…. I felt more like a miner than a comunero…. But then you begin to realise the seriousness of the problem and…. you finally realise that you’re a comunero, because this is your land and you’re going to die here. So you do something about it, because they are contaminating the land and, as you can see, sometimes the damage they do to the land is irreparable….”
Hilario, male, 65 years, retired miner
“The smoke turfed us out. It fell like snow [and] ruined the land, the rock, the pasture and the livestock. It was a complete disaster, no harvest and the animals dying off in droves…. it was like they were poisoned by the arsenic dust from the foundry. That’s why we went off to different places, like nomads we were, we took our little animals to see where we could rent grazing land.”
Andrés, male, 80 years, farmer