A Week of Celebrations

June 25, 2012

I arrived in Calca on Tuesday, and I am already starting to feel at home. Calca is a beautiful town full of colors; pink, blue, yellow and orange houses, people in traditional attire, green hills and tall mountains surrounding it.

On the day I arrived there was a coffee market on the main square, where coffee farmers and cooperatives from all over the region had brought their coffee to be judged in a competition. Ashley and I walked from booth to booth to look at the green coffee beans and taste some coffee. Did you know coffee comes from red berries? The coffee bean is inside the berry, and when it is taken out it is fermented, dried. The green coffee beans are then sold to roasters in country or abroad who roast it so that it becomes the brown coffee bean we are all familiar with. Most people don’t realize how much work goes into their daily cup of coffee! I became a coffee nerd when I wrote my bachelor’s thesis on sustainable coffee trade. I found that the supply chain is long and complicated, and that very little of the profit goes back to the coffee farmer, even for many of the certified coffees. Imagine my excitement about buying coffee directly from the producer association at the market and then brewing it the next morning for breakfast (using a strainer and napkins as we don’t have a coffee maker).

The day after the coffee fair, I walked into town to find another huge event was going on; the celebration of Calca’s birthday. I heard some music and drumming from the house earlier that morning, but it was only when I walked into town on I knew something was going on. I was met with huge crowds of people; kids and adults, some in traditional ponchos, dresses and hats, others dressed up in blue and white; the colors of Calca. They were all taking part in a parade and a large group of people was gathered in the streets and at the main square to see them. There was hardly a tourist in sight, and some people stared at me with my blonde hair, fair skin and camera. I found that there is a great advantage to being tall in Peru; I could see the parade from behind the crowds of people, as even the men are much shorter than me!

I have enjoyed seeing the town come alive with festivals, but even if every day does not come with a celebration of some sort, I am really looking forward to spending my summer in sleepy Calca. I will be working on the photo project; teaching photography to teenagers at a school in Pampacorral, and I can’t wait to get started on it next week. ~ Benedicte Gyllensten

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Our mission is to provide and implement sustainable programs and projects in collaboration with the indigenous people of the Sacred Valley of Perú in an effort to improve their lives and reduce poverty in a culturally sensitive and appropriate manner. Furthermore, we work to support local NGOs with whom we have shared values using the skills and tools we possess.