Education And Debate

Letter from Peru: Peru revisited

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: (Published 09 September 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:672
  1. Hans Veeken, public health consultanta
  1. a Medecins Sans Frontieres, PO Box 10014, 1001 EA Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Accepted 9 May 1995

“Twelve years I have been away from my village, twelve years; that is a long time, you know.” The old man looks at me as if he expects that I cannot grasp the suffering he went through. Maybe I cannot, but the picture speaks for itself. His village, Umaro, had sparkled in the valley when we approached it from the mountain. The descent by car was spectacular, as was the bridge we had to cross by foot. The bridge was made of two cables suspended from one side of the river to the other. Across the wires were planks, but many were missing and, worse, some were so rotten that we dared not tread on them; we had to jump, with the turbulent stream 20 metres below.

The village had once been a prosperous place, but now only remnants of this past, overgrown by weeds, remained. The old man shows us around. “The church has no roof, only the walls stand, but the bell shines in the sun,” he says proudly. “It has been stolen twice, but we retrieved it.”

Umaro, a small village in the middle of the Andes, is an example of the situation faced by returnees. Twelve years ago the residents were forced to leave their village, owing to the attacks of the “terrucos” (terrorists of Sendero Luminoso). “Over 60 of my people have died,” he tells me as we walk on. “After four attacks there was no other way than to leave our village. I moved with my family to Ayacucho, others to Lima or Ica, but we stayed in contact. We always wanted to return; it is not easy to leave your place when you are 70,” he says.

“How long have you been back?” I ask him.

“We returned one year ago,” he answers, …

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