José del Carmen Portocarrero Santillán: interview transcript

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José del Carmen Portocarrero Santillán: interview transcript

José del Carmen Portocarrero Santillán is a farmer living in the village of Ramos in the province of Rodríguez of Mendoza, Amazonas region, Peru. He was aged 82 when he was interviewed on 1 December 2009 for the Rural Poverty Report 2011. The interview was recorded in Spanish and carried out by a staff member from Calandria. The interviewer had an existing relationship with the community but was not a professional researcher.

Interviewer's introduction: As we reached his gate, Don Carmen welcomed us with a wide smile; he was wearing a blue cap. Very close to him we saw Doña Francisca; though she was barefoot, she walked firmly. She has white hair, tied up at the sides of her head. Don Carmen whispered in our ear: "She cannot hear well, so speak loudly… but she is very kind."

Some smoke was coming out of the house; a sign that Doña Francisca's tuschpa (wood range) is burning. Don Carmen requested us to walk into the house, out of  the burning sun, to have a cup of coffee. We walked into the kitchen and sat at the table; looking through the open door, we saw part of his 3 hectares of farm land and a family of horses grazing. The dogs and poultry came into the house to greet the visitors. His granddaughters Elita and Eliana also showed up, two young women returning from the fields with knapsacks filled with yuccas and green bananas. They said, "Grandma, this is for the afternoon meal," and rushed out of the room. We took a look around us, and saw all kinds of farm tools and devices hanging from nails and wires in the walls. In a dark corner, as if resting, lay his black rubber boots. A small manual mill for coffee, and one for corn, lay side by side. The tuschpa holds three pans and one kettle; a simple wooden shelf holds many kinds of devices: kitchen tools, ropes, yuccas, bananas, corncobs and cans. It's a big shelf, just like his large family.

Doña Francisca serves us hot coffee with boiled yuccas and bananas, and the couple tell us, smiling: "Eat"… that was indeed a great welcome! We were in the living room, talking and eating, laughing and feeling the old couple's warmth and affection. After that, we decided to start the interview. Don Carmen asked us if his beloved Doña Francisca could stay and we could not refuse.

Well… we are here in Ramos, in the district of Santa Rosa, province of Rodríguez de Mendoza, in Amazonas.  Don José del Carmen, how old are you?
I am 82 years old.

How many children do you have?
Seven children.

What's your oldest child's name?
His name is Homero.

How many sons do you have?
Four sons and three daughters

Don Carmen, tell me: How many years have you lived here in Ramos?
I have lived here for 52 years.

Where were you born?
I was born in Santa Rosa.

And where were your parents born?
From here, they were born here in Ramos.

What do you do for living here?
I work in agriculture.

And what do you grow?
Yuccas, pineapple… and sugar cane, but in such a small quantity, we almost don't grow it… and also bananas, and pasture for the animals.

How many hectares for cultivation do you own?
Well… about 3 hectares.

Are your 3 hectares yielding presently?
Yes, they all are yielding crops.

What are they yielding the most at this moment?

How many of your 3 hectares are sowed with pineapples?
There must be about 2,000 pineapple plants in each hectare…

How many of those 2,000 plants can you sell… Do you sell many?
We get to sell them, but gradually… the crops do not ripen all at the same time. I sell the first fruits, then I choose some crops every week, I harvest them, and continue selling them. 

And of those pineapples… at what price do you sell them?
It varies according to the size… if they are big, 1 nuevo sol (0.34 US$)1, or now we sell  two  at 1.50 soles; if they are small, two at 1 sol, three at 1 sol, and so on2

How many pineapples do you approximately harvest a day, when it's good weather?
It can be up to 120, 130, and so on…

And when it's bad weather?
In bad weather, only 50 to 60 pineapples

Where are those pineapples taken to? Who harvests them here?
The Huambinos (people from the province of Huambo, located 1 hour from the village) harvest them and take them to sell in Chachapoyas.

What day are the pineapples harvested?
They are harvested here on Monday, taken to Chachapoyas on Tuesday night, and sold on Wednesday. 

And the other fruits… coffee, yucca… Do you also sell them, or keep them for your own consumption?
No. They are for our daily consumption.

What other crops do you usually grow, besides yucca, coffee and pineapples?
Bananas, but also in a small quantity… and corn and beans, but only for our own consumption.

And about the animals... what animals do you raise?
I raise some poultry, horses and their offspring, and also a cow and a calf.

And do you use the milk for drinking, or do you sell it outside?
Just for drinking here.

For drinking here, and very little for selling?... and the poultry, is it also for your own consumption? If you had to make a monthly calculation, how much money are you making for selling those pineapples, how much? How much are you approximately paid weekly for selling those pineapples? 
Sometimes 50.00 soles a week, sometimes less than that, according to the yields.

And how is your land, is it good, or does it lack something? Does it have the capacity for harvesting more crops, or do you have to let it rest?
I think that it lacks some "medicines", because the engineers say that there are a lot of microbes3.
And what about the weather, does it rain a lot, or is it very hot? Is the weather   favourable?
The weather looks rather mild now; we can say that one day it is sunny and the next it rains, but neither rain nor summer heat come in much quantity.

Has the weather improved of worsened?
It has improved… the yield used to be very small, but now it has improved.

Where did you live when you were a child? Here in Ramos?
Here in Ramos… up here…

And how was your childhood? How many siblings were in your family?
We were seven siblings, but they are dead now.

Are they all dead? Were you the oldest or the youngest?
First it was my sister, and then comes me with Valverde and Adelicia, only we are still alive.

And what do your children do for living?
Agriculture, just like me.

How many hectares of land did you have when you first arrived over here? Did you have 3 or more?
I had 3, but I gave some to my children… I split it up and gave an equal portion to all my children.

All your children have hectares here?
All of them.

And what do your children sow - the same as you do?
The same plants… my sons and daughters and their families work the land. And my grandchildren and my in-laws also work on the farm, in agriculture.

Do they also sell their yield to the Huambinos?
Yes, they do. They sell the pineapples to the Huambinos, and buy some foodstuffs in turn.

And how is Ramos, is it a quiet place?
It is quiet.

Were all the people who live here born in Ramos?
They are kind and peaceful people, born here. There are no thieves or anything like that. People are sensitive, we help one another, and we look after one another. Sometimes the animals of a neighbour stray onto the farm of another neighbour, and we inform one another about that. We don't get into trouble, we live peacefully.

How many families live here?
Mmm… about 40 families …

40 families… and do all of them work in agriculture? Do they all grow pineapples? I know that Ramos is known for its pineapple crops.
Not so long ago… maybe eight or 10 years ago we started growing pineapples. Before we used to grow yucca, corn, beans… but now we grow pineapples because it's more profitable.

And how many varieties of pineapple do you grow in your farm?
Well, I grow two  varieties of pineapples, the yellow one and the black one. There is another variety grown in Chanchamayo, but it is too delicate, and its outer skin is very fragile. When it ripens, the domestic mosquito bites and spoils it. It's a very light and delicate pineapple, with a very thin shell.

How long ago did you get married? How long have you lived with Doña Francisca?
For 52 years, a whole life… Two years ago, our children celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. They gathered together, collaborated and organized a party one night. We danced a lot with a fine musical band, and a priest performed mass, where we married each other again. 

For the following 50 years…
All our family collaborated for the party, they paid for the band, the priest, and they invited the whole community, more than 100 people, I saw more than 100 people at the mass. My children toasted us, and the band made an enjoyable party.

In what month does Ramos celebrate the  feast of its patron saint?
In October.

What is the name of the feast?
The feast of the Lord of Ánimas, our patron saint.

How long… how many days does that feast last?
Only two days, with a musical band and a sports competition.

You say that the people of Ramos are very friendly and peaceful… so, do you think that all those people are nativeto here? Do all of them live here and hang around here?
 Don Carmen, when you were a child, you lived here… How was your childhood, was it peaceful? Did you help your father? Let me know…
I used to help my dad and my mum; I was a very obedient child. My dad had a good yoke [for working with oxen], and I grabbed my sickle and my rope, and was eager to mow the pasture. One of my younger brothers, Alberto, was very quiet; he didn't obey anyone, so he got accustomed to working less. But I was very accustomed to hard work, and I was very obedient. 

I have been an authority here in my village; I was a Justice of the Peace4. And before I was a Lieutenant Governor, and after a Justice of the Peace, then I was chosen to be the president of the association for constructing a school.. And recently I was chosen [for the same role] for constructing that chapel downhill, and I have paid much interest to all this.

How were you elected a Judge of Peace?
Well, the people of the community elect their own authorities, so the people gathered together and elected me. It was a big surprise!

How did you feel when you were elected a Judge of Peace? Did you feel good, did you help the population, work with them?
Well, I liked that, because I like working hard; in fact, I pay interest to any work, and I teach it to both young people and adults, I teach them well. I have a skill for teaching, and they like that, and they tell me that.

How has the yield of pineapple changed over the last years? Has it improved, kept the same, or reduced?
There have been many diseases in recent times, such as the gomosa (a plague that damaged the pineapple crops, transmitted by the pineapple mosquito). Some technicians from the Ministry of Agriculture came over to the village, and told us that those who were booked in the Committee of Peasants of Santa Rosa would be assisted with treatment for the crops, but it was all a lie, they gave us nothing….

So the pineapples develop a kind of plague... and if you could produce more pineapples, could you transport them all, or would you need a good highway to take them to Chachapoyas, the place where you sell your pineapples? Is it a good road, or do you think that it lacks anything? Is it difficult to reach Chachapoyas through that highway?
Few people come here, and those are from Huambo (a neighbouring district within Rodríguez de Mendoza). They come and buy, or they trade; they bring the things we need and trade them. We give them pineapples and get some foodstuff, assorted things. As we have few pineapples, we gather several of us together and load a truck with pineapples.

We don't carry the pineapples to Chachapoyas by ourselves because we need to have trucks or big vans for that; besides, the highway is bad, and as we don't want the fruits to get spoiled, we collect them all and sell them to the Huambinos.

So the pineapples that the Huambinos take to Chachapoyas, do you think that there is a large enough market to make this commercial, or not? Do the Huambinos buy fruits from, you regularly, every week?
Every week they buy fruits from all over the village.

So you say that they take pineapples from all over the village… and how much do they usually pay you for them?
1 sol for a big pineapple; two for 1.50 if they are medium-size, and 1 sol for three if they are small.

And do women of the zone also devote themselves to agriculture, or only men?
Women also do.

Do women also sell the fruits to the Huambo people?
Sometimes their husbands are busy with another task, so they collect the pineapples and sell them to the Huambinos.

And you are united… do you have any organization or association here in Ramos, or does each one work in an independent manner?
In an independent manner.

But hasn't ever been any association?
There has been, but it was left aside because the people don't have time or ability enough to manage these things. To form a committee costs much money, we have to book it in with the Public Registry, and we don't have much money.

Do you get any assistance from a governmental program?
No we don't.

About the land you are living in now; this land of 3 hectares is your property? Do you have a property title, or was it a transfer of the lease, or how does it work here?
Well, this used to be a community land, property of the people of the village of Santa Rosa, our patroness, and a story has it that a bishop bought it from a landlord, and donated it to the poor people of Santa Rosa. So the land cannot be bought or sold because it's the patroness' land, the peasant who works the land becomes its owner5

So you tell me that the land was donated free of charge to the community for living here. Do you think that it is important to possess your own land, I mean, to have a property title of your own? Is it important, or it's OK just the way you are living now?
Some people have been awarded their titles, but others just live freely.

So there is not a real necessity to have a title because it doesn't guarantee anything… you are fine just living this way…
The neighbours look after and take care of one another.

How do you get the water to irrigate your crops?
We don't irrigate, just work with the falling rain. There are no droughts here, so you don't need to have irrigation channels, there is no necessity…  

Do you think that it's important to have a couple of oxen here… some cattle to harvest better, or is it fine just like that... In other communities it is important to have a couple of oxen for improving the land….
There is no need here because the land where we grow pineapples is steep, so we couldn't use a yoke of oxen. We use another kind of tool to dig  the ground. 

Have the techniques changed much since you were a child to nowadays, or have they remained the same?
No, they have changed.

In what... give me an example…
Before we used to sow using a bordón (a kind of local shovel), we used that for digging the holes for each small plant.

And do you work better using that tool? You say you used a bordón before, and now what do you use?
A tapa pico (a traditional tool that allows the farmer to dig holes in the ground, sow the seed and cover it with earth).  I remove the earth with it, it's faster and the fruits blossom more easily.

How long should the earth rest approximately before sowing it again?
Two years.

How do you let it rest, do you burn it? What is the procedure?
The earth is utilized for two to three years; once a year we harvest the crops, and after that, you let the earth rest, it's that way…

We work by portions; first we sow in one corner and harvest in the opposite, and we go on changing alternately. We don't sow the entire land at the same time, because if we did, we wouldn't have anything to eat.

Are the common resources available for the whole community? I mean, do you share the same pond, or a portion of the forest? Or does each one have his own portion of land? Are there common things in the community? 
Each peasant has his own land independently.

Regarding the utilization of some common things… for example, if you had a health post… What services do you count on now...? Do you have an electric energy service?
Yes, we do, but now it's out of order. The electricity service was installed this
month, but the Mendoza-Santa Rosa highway is being constructed, and one of the poles that carried the energy crashed down; we have just ran out of electricity today.

How long ago was the electric energy service installed?
Last Wednesday it was installed, very recently, and it has already run out of order.

And the water that you use, does it come from pipes? Have you always had piped water, or did you use to fetch it from the pond before?
We got piped water about 10 years ago.

All the houses have piped water?
All of them .

And regarding drainage service, you don't have it? Nor do you have highways or roads, nothing of that. Then how do you get to Ramos?
We depend on a semi-asphalted road, but some portions of it are very narrow; when the rainy season comes, some landslips fall  down from the hills, and we become isolated6.

An additional inquiry: if you could choose the possibility of changing your work and your lifestyle, would you do it? Or would you keep being what you are now?
I have already gotten accustomed to this way of working.

And have your children also gotten accustomed to this way of working?
They help one another; they borrow things for sowing their crops at the farm.

Do they have access to telephone services, or any other way to communicate with other people?
In Santa Rosa.

How far is from here to Santa Rosa?
It is half an hour from here to Santa Rosa.

You go there by walking, don't you? That means that, in the event that you wanted to communicate something to your family, you would find it quite complicated?
There are some people who already have a cellular phone; my daughter phones from here to Mendoza, and speaks with her siblings in Lima.

And are there vehicles that take you from here to the provincial capital Mendoza, for example? Do they often come?
No, there is not a bus service… so if we hear the roar of a car or truck coming, we stop it and ask the driver to drive us.

How long does it take to get from here to Mendoza by car?
About 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Have all your children had the chance to attend to school and receive an education?
Only primary education, all of them. 

And you, up to what school grade did you study?
I only studied primary school.

Is there a school here? For the community of Ramos or Santa Rosa?
Here in Ramos there is only one school; when I was a child I went to school in Santa Rosa

Besides the school, are there health posts around here, or only in Santa Rosa? Is there any social programme like the Glass of Milk Programme, the Dining House Committee, the Mothers' Club or something like that7?
There are no health posts here in Santa Rosa; we only have the Glass of Milk Committee, but only for mothers who have small kids.

And has the PRONAMACH (Programa Nacional de Manejo de Cuencas Hidrográficas y Conservación de Suelos, National Project for the Management of Watershed Basins and Soil Conservation) reached here for example? The Ministry of Agriculture is assisting the peasants?
Not anymore at present, but the Ministry used to assist us before, they gave us tools, shovels, levers, etc, but now it's over.

What do you think that is lacking here in Ramos?
What we mostly lack are knives and sickles (tools for agriculture), and medicines are also in urgent demand. There is not a close health post; many people have died when bitten by a snake. Many times people die before they can reach the nearest post.

And is there any community post, or any leader who can guarantee that people will have health at the reach of their hands? Is there any organization minimally organized here in Ramos?
But it can be organized.

Do people think that there is poverty here? Is there poverty for you here in Ramos?
There certainly is. That's why we trade our pineapples for other things, so that we will feed ourselves.

And how many people, how many families do you think are poor here in Ramos, out of the 45 families?
About 10 families are poor, they don't work the land, they cannot because they are too old or handicapped or the like.

And what would be the main cause for those people's poverty, or the poverty in the community? Have there been drought seasons here in Ramos, or has the land been fertile all the time?
The land hadn't been productive for years, but now the weather has improved, it used to be very cold, but now it's getting warmer. They have cleared the east side of the river bank, and the temperature has got warmer, the weather is becoming more regular, so the crops are improving.

Do you consider that your family… Doña Francisca and you… have managed well to keep yourselves outside the borders of poverty? Do you consider yourselves poor?
Yes, we do, because we cannot supply our needs. When we have to go to Mendoza, or to the health post if we fall sick, we cannot get money [to do this] because we haven't sold enough, it's complicated.

How is your diet? What do you usually have for lunch every day?
Well…we eat as poor [people do], we eat what she cooks: soups, locrito (pumpkin porridge)…. assorted food we eat.

Do you complement your food with eggs or milk?
Yes, we do. We buy eggs, but my wife doesn't like milk or fish. But I do like all that food.

Has any member of your family fallen sick all over the last years?
See… my granddaughter went to work in fishing to a nearby village, and a snake bit her, she almost died. There is a very dangerous snake here called loromachaco, its body looks green and its head is reddish, it has a wide tail, and hangs from the tree branches. When a person approaches, the snake jumps onto him or her; that's how it bit my granddaughter.

And where was the girl taken to?
First, she was taken to the health post of Limabamba, and then she was transferred to the health post of Calvario, then straight to Mendoza, and then to Chachapoyas. She got very seriously poisoned, but was saved from death.

Do all your children live here in Mendoza, or do some of them live outside?
One of my children lives in Lima and the rest of them live in the surroundings of Ramos. My granddaughter lives in Mendoza, but she often visits us, so it's as if she actually lives here.

How many grandchildren do you have?
I have 20 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

In front of these things about poverty that we have been talking about, if you consider the situation that you are living in now, and compare it with your life as a child, has your life improved, or has it worsened? When you lived with your parents, was your life the same as nowadays, or did you have a little less?
It was quieter. I get along very well with my wife; we understand each other and live
more peacefully now.

Was there more poverty in your life when you were a child?
Yes, there was. There was more poverty; sometimes we didn't even have anything to eat. It was a time of scarceness, and we only ate a little food, there was much poverty in our lives at that time.

And how do you see your grandchildren? Do you see them as happy now; do you think that they have overcome poverty?
I see them as good-looking, strong, quiet… all of them are fine and healthy. I have a great-grandson and he is very restless. He looks white, small and is a chatterbox, he's my great-grandson.

How do you see them from now within 10 years... maybe living still in Ramos, working the land, or maybe settled down in Mendoza? How do you see your grandchildren from now within 10 years? Do you think that they will stay here in Ramos working their parents' land?
I see them growing up, they may stay here working the land, or they may move out because they have relatives in many places outside here.

For example… if one day in a certain week, the highway becomes out of order, and the Huamba people wouldn't have access to you to pick the pineapples, what would you do for getting money if your pineapples weren't picked?... because you told me that you get money for your weekly expenses from the selling of the fruits. Let's imagine – and I hope it won't ever happen – that the road that leads to Santa Rosa and Ramos was out of order due to the rains, how would you manage to get money to eat?
We would just wait…

Do you or your family have savings?
We cannot save money because the pineapples aren't sold in large enough quantities, so we cannot save money; we only buy things for the day.

So, if ever a member of your family got hungry for lack of food, and he/she didn't have enough money, what would you do for overcoming such a situation? Would you help one another, would you work together? 
We would have to move outside the village to look for food to eat.

Tell me sir, which are your main concerns for the future? What matters you at the age of 82?
I am worried thinking that someday I will die and my family will become abandoned and helpless.

So this is the most important for you: your family, your seven children… five of them live here, right? So, for you, the main concern is that your children, your grandchildren and your great-grandchildren are fine.
I like them to visit me, that they miss me, to be surrounded by all my family.

So, if you had to think over positive things… what have been the happiest moments in your life? When have you felt the happiest, ever since you were a child?
When we reunite as a family, altogether, then we talk, communicate, we laugh and become amused.

And the birth of a new baby in your family… is that also a cause of joy?
Yes, I feel very pleased when my children have their babies.

What other things are important in your life? What things do you always like to have at your home, and that if you don't have it, you feel unhappy?
Union (‘unity' better?)

What never lacks in your home?

If a visitor shows up at your place, how do you treat him/her?
With affection and a good cup of coffee, that's how a visitor should be welcomed.

How would you figure out your children's lives from now within 10 years? How would you imagine them then?
I imagine that they will improve their lives that they will be better than they are presently, with more work, and healthy, so that they will live a good life.

Do you think that they will continue working at the farm for the rest of their lives?
It would depend on their way of leading their work; they may stay at the farm, or move somewhere else to work. Sometimes when we grow up we think it over, and devote ourselves to studying hard in order to improve our quality of life.

And that is very important, isn't it? That they devote themselves to those things that they like. Do all your children who live here with you, and that are like you, work in the farm? Do all of them live here with their own families, or have any of them moved out to live somewhere else? Do all of them live here with their own families, or have any of your grandchildren lived in another place?
One grandson of mine is working in Chachapoyas; he is a policeman and works in Chachapoyas.

Do your children send you some money? Some help for the parents?
Well, yes, they do, they help us just a little…

What do you think about the people of Rodríguez de Mendoza? How are those people?
They are kind people, kind people…

Do you think that Rodríguez de Mendoza has improved as a province, is it growing bigger? How do you see it growing?
It used to be a small village before, right after the province was created many years ago, but from then on it has improved and grown bigger.

Does the Municipality of Santa Rosa assist you here in Ramos?

Because Santa Rosa is a very poor district
Santa Rosa and Cochamás are the oldest and poorest districts.

Are there electric energy and safe water services in Santa Rosa?
Yes, there are.

Mr. Del Carmen, what I don't feel clear yet is that if there is any kind of organization here in Ramos. For example, when you performed as a Lieutenant Governor here in Ramos… does that role still exist?
Yes, it does. Santa Rosa has its Lieutenant Governors, in each village.

One question: Have any people ever come here to Ramos to assist you… maybe the Church or any other institution?
Yes. For example, Father Antonio, from Spain, constructed the church. He came over and saw that the old church was in bad condition, then he had it demolished, and he hired a contractor in Huambo. Then he returned to his land in Spain, asked for collaboration, returned here with a lot of money, and had the church reconstructed.

So Father Antonia collaborated with you here… And does the Church have any type of organization here, such as pastors or health promoters?
Yes, there are four ecclesiastical agents here.

And are there any health promoters here?
Yes, there are. There is a nurse and a health promoter called Charo here in Santa Rosa, and another promoter… whose name I don't remember… Nezet… they are health promoters.

And who do they help, the families of Ramos, or just those of Santa Rosa?
Those of Ramos also.

What kind of assistance do they bring?
They come to give injections or to assist with any other necessity, and they come over with some help too.

And when the children are small and need to be vaccinated, where do you take them for that?
To the health post, we walk for half an hour to reach Santa Rosa.

If you had any problem here in your village, who would you tell those problems to, the neighbours? Do you help among one another? Give me an example of a situation that has happened here when people have helped one another…
Yes, we meet together and talk, and help one another, raise ideas; sometimes we load up and carry the sick person…

Have there been any cases when a person has needed help, and the neighbours have taken him/her to receive it?
Yes, it has been just like that. Sometimes people get cut, or cannot walk, or are bitten by a snake… sometimes accidents happen, so the people carry the person and take him or her. The population helps one another, it always happens.

Let's say that a woman is about to give birth at midnight, and she has to be taken to the health post.... do you also help her; or do you just call midwives?
We don't permit that, we take her to the post.

And whenever you have had a problem in your family, an accident, a child who falls and injures himself… has everyone helped you?
The neighbours here have the tradition of meeting together and helping one another, we visit the sick person, sometimes we need to take the sick to another place, so we meet together for that.

In what moment, apart from the October feasts, do all the people of the village meet together and head to Santa Rosa… is there any other feast here in Ramos, that is held only for the people of the village?
Yes, in October, for the patron saint feast.

Is it just for the Ramos people, or also for Santa Rosa?
People from there also come over here.

But it is held here in Ramos?
A mass is held here in the chapel, and the feast is also held there.

Who constructed the building, and who administrates it presently? Is it a communal house? Who is in charge, is there a directive board?
There is a person in charge, the one who opens it. If someone needs it for any feast or meeting, he asks for the key and goes into it…it's for the entire village.

Is there any authority here in Ramos? You told me that there is a Lieutenant Governor at present, what's his name?
His name is Magno Portocarrero Arista.

And in your opinion, is Magno a successful man? Why? What does success mean for you?
He is my son.

Your son? Oh, so you must feel very proud that he is the Lieutenant Governor. Aret here many people called Portocarrero in this zone, aren't there? You told me that all your siblings live around here and you have brought all your children… it means that there might be 10 families or 10 homes called Portocarreros… many Portocarreros around here….
A nephew of mine also lives here; he is the son of my dead brother. All his children also live around here; they are also called Portocarrero, that's why there are so many Portocarreros here in Ramos.

And there will be for much longer, because you keep on multiplying, I have seen many babies here. Besides your son the Lieutenant Governor, is there another person who is successful here? Who else do you think is a successful person, maybe you? Do you feel yourself a successful man?
I used to be a local authority…

Certainly, you were a local authority, and besides, you have been one of the persons who have contributed to the growth of this community, many of your children live around here.
Yes, we live peacefully here…joyfully, altogether reunited.

If you were elected again as a local authority, but not a Lieutenant Governor anymore…. let's suppose that, within five years from now, Ramos is not a village but a district, let's suppose, and you were elected as the Mayor of the district of Ramos, what would you do on behalf of the community of Ramos?
I would work hard to become an example to my people.

What else… what would you prioritize?
I would call together the people of the village to hold meetings and discuss those projects that would benefit the village, the community.

And what would you do regarding health and education?
I would also agree about that.

And would the topic of safe water also be important to discuss, wouldn't it?
For health, for everything… even to visit a sick person if he or she needs medicines, we are there to collaborate, to help any sick person….

So those topics would be important for you if you were elected again as an authority… you were an authority, weren't you?... so Don Carmen, do you think that you reached success, or is there anything left to attain? At the age of 82, do you still plan to keep on doing things?
I do because I like it, I will collaborate with my village as far as I can. If I can give guidance to my children, to my neighbours, to youth, to my community… sometimes an assembly is called, and there I go, I give them my opinion, I tell them that we should keep united… I like giving opinions and ideas to them.

Now I will ask you some questions for the format of consent for this interview…let me know your full name.
José del Carmen Portocarrero Santillán.

Where do you live?
In a village of the district of Santa Rosa, province of Rodríguez de Mendoza.

What date is today?
December the 1st

Do you agree for this interview to be published in the Report about Rural Poverty?
Yes, I do, I agree.

Is there anything in this interview that you wouldn't like to be published? Something of what you expressed that you think is not correct? Or everything can be published?
Everything is correct

If you could put a name to this interview, how would you like it to be called?
Maybe something about triumph… "A way to triumph…"

Do you agree to have some photos taken to accompany this interview?

Would you like to receive a copy of this interview?
I would pleasantly receive it.

Would you like a transcription to read it, or a recording to listen to it?
It would be better to get a cassette to listen to it.

Thank you very much, Mr. José del Carmen, this is very important for the report about Rural Poverty, thank you.
OK, miss….

1/ Average exchange rate (2.92 Peruvian nuevo sol =1 US$) November 2009, Interbank rate, source:

2/ Additional information from the partner: Selling the pineapples at three per 1 sol is very cheap, almost nothing, taking into account that 1 kilo of pineapples costs an average of 2 to 3 soles in Lima. 

3/ The term "medicines"  refers to a chemical  treatment  for "pineapple fly" (melanolomavViatrix hendel), which farmers need to eradicate through periodical fumigations. The Ministry of Agriculture, with the farmers, have been making big efforts to eradicate this pest, which causes serious economic loss; it is also a requirement for fruits for export . Nevertheless, as Don José suggests, such treatment remains just a promise for Ramos.

4/ The Justice of the Peace is the first link in the chain for the administration of justice. The position was created by the Ministry of Justice, so that emote communities would be able to make transactions, sign contracts and pass sentence in village trials (relating to offences such as disputes and fights between neighbours and within couples). The Justice of the Peace is elected by the community itself, and is a position symbolising honesty and equity and conferring significant authority. . A Lieutenant Governor is appointed by the government to provide information about the political, social and economic events happening in the area; he also participates in and supports any actions by the Civil Defence Corps. Neither position is paid. 

5/ In the rural and indigenous communities, the land belongs to the community, and community leaders are in charge of distributing it among families. However, having land does not mean that the people own it; if for any reason the family migrates, its land is returned to the community. This system is causing many problems today, because the government is granting transfers of leases of large portions of land, especially in the rainforest region, for petroleum and mining exploration, without respecting the property rights of rural and indigenous communities. The Church has also played a significant role in the use and legislation of land for rural people. In the case of Ramos, the Church has purchased some land, and has given it to the peasants so that they can work them.

6/ The village of Ramos is one of the poorest in the zone. It holds approximately 40 families, all of them devoted to the growing of pineapples and other crops, mostly for their own consumption. Their low incomes do not allow them to save anything to buy a transport vehicle.

7/ Ever since the 1980s, a number of food support programmes have existed in Peru, such as the Glass of Milk Programme and the Dining House Committees. These assist people living in extreme poverty  and/or the vulnerable, such as the handicapped, pregnant women, children aged six months to 18 years, and the elderly. The financial resources to implement the Glass of Milk Programme are provided by the municipalities, and are distributed among the women who administrate the programmes. They enrol the beneficiaries, and are also in charge of cooking the food twice a day, and giving it to the beneficiaries. The Dining House (Popular Kitchens) Committees receive support from the National Programme of Food Support (PRONAA), a branch of the Ministry of Women's Affairs. The programme distributes oil, rice, beans, groceries and fish on monthly basis to the Dining Houses. Both programmes need the presence of organized women for them to function.