First Person

The Mine and the Mountain

Posted by
Jessica Erickson / Oxfam America
Photo: Jessica Erickson / Oxfam America

My colleague Jessica recently traveled to the Cajamarca region of Peru, where she visited communities that face threats to their land and water supply from the Yanacocha gold mine. Along the way she captured some great photos of the local people and the changed landscape.

While working with Jess to create an audio slideshow about her trip, I’ve found myself vividly remembering my own visit to the Peruvian Andes in 2006: the clean, cold, impossibly thin air; the wild green hillsides and silent stone ruins; the tall white clouds racing over the peaks.  Once you’ve seen these ancient landscapes, you never really forget them.

This power comes through in Jess’ portrait of Doña Maria Castrajón Flores (above). An indigenous Quechua speaker, Flores lives in near solitude on her family’s ancestral farmland, raising a few cattle and growing potatoes at over 12,000 feet above sea level.

As Flores looks out over her land, she also contemplates the presence of the mining company, which leaves its mark in the buildings and roads zigzagging along the distant hillside.

“I don’t want to sell my land to the mine, because I have nowhere to go,” Flores told her visitors. “My children were born and raised here on the mountain. I don’t want to move anywhere else.” Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Google+