1984-1986                  The changing process in Pacchanta


In 1980, the population of Pacchanta, a high Andean community with less than 60 years of existence, was dedicated to breeding genetically degenerated alpacas and crossbreed chusco ovines; as well as producing homegrown native potato of the region as the only crop. With the potato they produced chunño and moraya, a very native way of conserving potato. The community was made up of more than 80 families, living at the foot of the Ausangate glacier, in Cordillera del Vilcanota, between 3,500 and 6,372 masl.

Since 1971, Pacchanta was part of the Agrarian Cooperative of Lauramarca Limited Number 56,[1] as a result of the Agrarian Reform under the military regime of Juan Velasco Alvarado. A decade later in 1980, the Cooperative was bankrupt from the lack of funds due to the high level of corruption by leaders and the State, and the inadequate management of resources.

The comuneros, all Quechua-speakers, lived a mixed economy combining self-sufficiency, the sale of alpaca wool and in the case of young men, the temporary migration due to work, mainly to gold panning sites and rice harvesting in Madre de Dios.

In the area I worked as an external agent coordinating with The Compañía de Jesús (Jesuit Priests) at the parish church and at the Centro de Capacitación Agro Industrial Jesús Obrero (CCAIJO), where Spanish priests followed the trends in Liberation Theology. There was also a group of nuns dedicated to health and educational work.

During the time there was no major presence of political parties, with the exception of some professionals from CCAIJO and SUTEP[2] organized professors, with leftist political positions. As in all the Peruvian territory, there was one committee of the Partido Aprista and one of Acción Popular, formed by the rural middle class, in other words, by traders of Ocongate. Later on, both Sendero Luminoso and the MRTA (Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement) were present, but their groups only moved about and did not act in the region.

During this stage, the presence of the Peruvian State was very precarious, demonstrated through deficient health care, although assisted by the nuns at one medical center established in the District capital of Ocongate, for a population of approximately 12,000 people.

Pacchanta had a primary school unable to alphabetize as the teacher rarely went to work. Secondary education was only available in the District capital Ocongate. According to Graciano Mandura, Mayor of Ocongate, he studied there during the 1980s together with other nine students.

Although the Ocongate police station was already established, the personnel had a bad reputation as the District -due to its remoteness and altitude- was considered a punishing area for the police.

There were no Ministerial offices and only one public telephone at the District capital worked only temporarily. Basic services such as electricity did not exist both in the District capital and communities; potable water was only available in Ocongate.

Productive infrastructure such as irrigation canals and motorized roads were unavailable, except for the unpaved road from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado, crossing through Ocongate and some communities, known today as part of the South Interoceanic Highway. It was only possible to travel to and from Cusco, the departmental capital, on cargo trucks. The journey would last an average of eight to ten hours, and nowadays, it can be realized in two hours; bus services were non-existent.

In terms of trade for local products, Oongate had one District market and the products of Ocongate farmers were collected there. This market worked alongside the notion of early capitalism. Traders were in the first place mestizos of rural middle class, and at the same time the buyers and lenders of comuneros, under paying the market level prices for their products.

The relationship between local authorities, made up essentially by local traders who were also District authorities, and the district marginal areas formed by peasant communities such as Pachanta, had a nearly Colonial structure and grew in a very tense manner. The tension multiplied with the presence of Jesuits who arrived and began to work on assistance programs with communities, confronting local authorities by not intervening in the traditional agreements established through friendships.



  • The participative communal analysis and its first results, 1984-1986

In 1983 and 1984 we conducted a diagnosis of the social, political, economical and cultural situation of the community, with the participation of a group of young leaders from Pacchanta. We used photographic images to document and discuss the diagnosis at the communal assembly. At that time we used images with open plans, easily to recognize socially and their geographic location. The community furnished us with a small house and an important space for the communal assembly to gather. With images of the diagnosis, we analyzed them together with the comuneros, combining different times and spaces in a single moment. They knew many things, but did not necessarily recognize them.

The community is a guaranteeing organization of the Quechua culture and its traditions, but also works as an agent of changes. Before discussing about this, the debates were concentrated initially on the cultural strength of Pacchata, their language and other events such as clothing, religion, dances and other traditions. We then worked on communal and district organization, the abandonment by State authorities and the need to reorganize already established forms both at the communal level and in relation to the Cooperative.

Various leaders, particularly Nazario and Mariano Turpo, strengthened their spiritual leadership in the Cusco region with regard to their work in mystic tourism. An example is that Nazario participated as a shaman at the swearing-in ceremony of President Toledo in Cusco; he also travelled to Washington frequently as a consultant for the Smithsonian Institute, regarding issues related to the Quechua culture. It is important to know that some 15,000 tourists a year visit Pacchanta, many of them accompanied by shamans of the Quero community, located in the Amazon foothills, to participate in ceremonies on the lakes of Rinconada Ausangate.

In Pacchanta, Quechua continues to be the primary language in their family and social lives. They take pride in speaking it well, and underestimate those that do not. In terms of clothing and typical costumes, they maintain the use of traditional dresses as an expression of cultural identity, although they are not part of their daily life. There have been changes in the quality of traditional clothing to a more Andean haute couture, displaying a surge of colors and elements, such as pearls and sequins. What was previously used as everyday clothing has become the object of folkloric identity and manifestation and used mainly at parties in the town and contacts with outsiders and tourists.

The communal authorities disciplined their tasks and initiated greater outwards management. The main achievement has been the study and construction of an irrigation and drinking water system designed by the Meriss Plan of the Regional Government of Cusco and German Development Cooperation. In addition, the houses now count on drinking water, electric light, latrines, cellular telephony and roads. Many moves were taken both at the political and technical levels with regards to State offices (through Foncodes, the Puno-Cusco Corridor, Ministry of Education, Health and Social Development, etc.) to obtain certain services and improvements. Today, Pacchanta has a school for a full secondary education.

During debates in the 1980s, various issues were addressed regarding community land retracted towards the heights by Hacienda Lauramarca more than half a century ago. The issue of ecological floors was urgent; there was a shortage of farmland to plant subsistence products, and land in the lower zones to plant grasses and to diversify the livestock production, as the market price of alpaca wool was low. Without land below 4,000 masl there was no possibility of constructing irrigation infrastructure for cultivating and housing; to expand their land they would have to invade land belonging to the Cooperative. It was thought that an irrigation canal would lead to the benefitted land being privatized.

During a long process in 1983, the land of the Cooperative was distributed, and recognized by the Government of Alan García in 1987. In 1990 land ownership was granted to new peasant communities, joining various annexes to form each one. Thus, Pacchanta is now a part of the Ausangate Peasant Community.

A strategy introduced was crop rotation of potato with oca[3], following the sowing of cultivated grass, benefitting from the fallow land and slow decomposition of guano. Additionally, the construction of greenhouses was promoted for the family production of legumes.

The cultivation of grasses for livestock, such as ryegrass alfalfa and oat fodder improved the quality of grasslands for livestock breeding. The success of this initiative led to its implementation on thousands of hectares in all communities of the area. Additionally, sanitary levels were improved for camelid, sheep and cattle breeding in all the communities. Today, nearly all the communities have Brown-Swiss cattle, dairies that produce almost one thousand kilos of cheese per week and the production of guinea pigs is approximately 29,000 animals a year.

The irrigation canal became a reality with three fronts and the recovery of grasslands. This was the result of a land semi-privatization process, without abandoning the communities’ social and political functions. Currently, promoted by the Ocongate Municipality, three additional canals to the initial project are under construction in Upis, Accocunca y Marampaqui. This has brought about a greater interest to improve and take care of the grasslands for the livelihood of cattle and take maintenance work of the irrigation canals seriously.

Thanks to the liquidation and subdivision of the Cooperative, there are great extensions of cultivated and forage grasslands in the lowlands. 66,000 hectares were distributed among four titled peasant communities, adding to each one various annexes of the Cooperative.

Sanitary management has been implemented based on pesticides both for genetically improved alpacas and for pure-bred and cross-bred cattle and sheep. Furthermore, there are families that continue to use bathing ponds established in the 1980s.

Finally, in the productive aspect, the nuns of Ocongate have supported the construction of a great amount of greenhouses for family vegetable gardens.

Currently, there are roads and suspension bridges to all communities of the Oncogate District at the left margin of River Mapocho.

On the other hand, the community managed to discipline teachers while carrying out their tasks, but also improved their life situation though APAFA (Asociación de Padres de Familia) and school promoters who take on the function of aides. Today, Pacchanta and neighboring communities count on basic education at all levels, from preschool to high school, as a result of efforts by the Ocongate Municipality.

Since the beginning of the 1950s, there was a growing presence of leftist political parties in the Province of Quispicanchis, mainly teachers and some NGOs. Until after the Agrarian Reform, in the 1970s, they tried to remain rooted in the area unsuccessfully through FDCC (Federación Departamental de Campesinos del Cusco), FARTAC (Federación Agraria Revolucionaria Túpac Amaru of Cusco, founded by the Velasco regime) and parties such as Vanguardia Revolucionaria and PCR (Partido Comunista Revolucionario).

Later on, in the 1980s, there was a strong presence of IU (Izquierda Unida) in the Municipal elections. This happened at the same time the 1979 Constitution changed allowing illiterate peasants to vote.[4]

Prior to that, there were no elections for Mayors -only briefly in the 1960s, during the first government of Fernando Belaúnde-; this authority in the country was named by the central government. The majority of Ocongate peasant populations were able to vote due to this new law, rashly for professors and professionals of the leftist party. As a result, the conflict between the political power progressively obtained by peasant majorities and the economic power of minority middle class rural tradesmen and professionals was aggravated. As a consequence, there was growing awareness of the communities’ political capacities, whose population dominates the provinces and districts political agenda.

For a long time, threats in the areas were due to burglaries, theft, corruption by authorities and rapid growth of Sendero Luminoso, a part of the threatening national context. In 1985, at a workshop of the Ocongate Human Rights Committee organized by the parish, the decision was made to organize peasant rounds, following the model of peasant organized sel-defence in Cajamarca. Years after their founding, peasant rounds were legalized in 1992, affiliated to FDCC and FARTAC. The rounds still remain in force and today are the most important local authority, above communal presidents and mayors, the National Police and peace judges. The rounds in Oncongate have successfully established in practice, forms of customary law, as provided in the Political Constitution of Peru.

The nuns in Ocongate, as part of their work, supported young villagers in their education as agricultural technicians. Among them were Graciano Mandura Crispín, who returned to Ocongate as a professional, initially working at a local NGO.

True to his principles, Graciano conquered the District Mayors Office in 2007 by popular vote, and the following electoral period in 2011, the Provincial Mayors Office of Quispicanchis. He was supported by the Movimiento de Autogobierno Aylly of Cusco -founded in February 2002- and also by NGOs, CBC, CCAIJO, CIPA and others. Graciano Mandura knew how to benefit from the abundant resources provided by the gas and mining canon and construction of the Interoceanic Highway South, to realize a real revolution in Quispicanchis, today an exemplary province.

In the case of Ocongate, Mandura was able to turn the diagnostic of the 1980’s and the CCAIJO 1990’s institutional plan into a municipal development plan for the District of Ocongate for the 2007-2018 period, with the support of private and state institutions. However, the District has poverty and extreme poverty zones where radical changes have not reached these areas for a number of reasons.


[1] See: Memoria, creación e historia: luchar contra el olvido, ny Pbyilar García Jordán, Miguel Izard and Javier Laviñas (1993; Barcelona;, mainly from page 293.

[2] Sindicato Unitario de Trabajadores en la Educación del Perú, (Teachers Trade Union)

[3] Oxalis tuberosa

[4] During 1979 and 1980 in the area of Pacchante, we conducted campaigns taking I.D. potos to facilitate the procedure to obtain an identity card (Libreta Electoral).