One and a half years ago I saw Pisco with my own eyes for the first time, to be honest I had never seen pictures or heard too much about the city before going there, but I fell in love with this ciudad costeña burried in rubble and I haven’t fallen out of love since..
I was searching for a place to volunteer. I was (am) young and had a vision of saving the world, even if it just meant saving one person. Not that it would feed my selfish need to reach out to give and get back so much more, in aiding there is no end to the hungerpain.
I was eager to start as fast as I took my first step on South American soil, Bolivian to be exact, when I found Pisco by coincidence.
Pisco is a small coastal city 290 km south of Lima, Peru. It counts fishing industry and tourism to it’s many incomes which were most obvious to me during my stay. The islands of Parracas is called “poor mans Galápagos” in backpacker speech and many agencies in Pisco sell tours to see the rich animal life just a stones throw away. Before the earthquake Pisco had a beautiful beachwalk, el malecón which means the pier, but now it’s broken into small pieces of tiles – some which we recycled for a kindergarden toilet floor. The main church at the main plaza also fell down after the earthquake together with many other beautiful buildings, which are not only a loss to the inhabitans of Pisco but to it’s worth as a touristic attraction.
El terremoto which I keep on referring to as “the earthquake” demanded it’s spotlight time for 2 minutes 55 seconds, 18:40:57 local time, 15th of August, 2007, shaking the city with a magnitude of 7.9 on the Richter scale. In it’s seismological rage it brought down 80% of the buildings in Pisco and approximately took 600 human lives, leaving the survivers to live in dirt and rubble.
Words of good deeds spread without enforcement, so does the word of Pisco sin fronteras – Pisco without borders. This organization lives up to it’s name – it has former and present volunteers from all over the world spreading it’s gospel without even realising it. It is what bloomed out of the earthquake relief organizations Hands On and Burners without borders, refusing to leave Pisco to it’s own destiny just because international aid was no longer available. It is a peruvian organization lead for many years by the pisqueñan Harold Zevallos, but now directed by Dave Gwyneth although Harold remains president. It counts on private donations for most of its projects. Big parts of the homes, schools, etc. has been rebuilt thruough these projects by the hands of volunteers, but there is still much left to do. As for myself, I stayed at PSF for two months, but Pisco has been in my thoughts ever since.
I write now not out of love, but out of anger. I am angry that on the third anniversary of the earthquake people still live in dirt. I am angry that three years later people still live the catastrophe. I am angry that the world cares for a minute and then moves on leaving the needing behind. But most of all I am angry with the government of Peru – I know as a fact that they got a lot of funds after what happened, but that money sure hasn’t healed the cracks of the pisqueñan roads.
Once upon a time I believed in international aid, now I believe in something much stronger – responsibility. I don’t say that funds are bad – they are good, but they are short term solutions to long term problems, like in Pisco. Peru may be poor now, but I have seen the country and it has so much to offer – who hasn’t heard of Machu Picchu?? – and the government owes it to the peruvian children to build up the country of their future. Peru owes Pisco an apology for ignoring there needs for three years. Peru has a responsibility towards Pisco and it’s time for the peruvian government to face it – better late than never (direct translation from Swedish).
Don’t get me wrong, alongside PSF I will aid Pisco until death (or hopefully recovery) do us part if the government doesn’t – but I can’t say there is no other way. I can’t say I don’t wish things were different. I can’t say I don’t wait with anxiety for the day the sun rises over Pisco and it’s concrete floors are layed by peruvians (creating jobs) paid by the flowing income of the peruvian national pride, Machu Picchu, creating a perfect circle of self suffiency.
Facts about PSF and reports on the aftermath of 15th of August 2007: