Weaving through the mountain roads into Parque de la Papa and observing the people and the architecture of my surroundings, I begin to understand the traditional nature of this community. Houses are still made of Andean soil, women are dressed in woven skirts with their children strategically tied on their backs and the community is still very centralized around potatoes. This community tucked in the mountains, fourteen thousand feet above sea level seems more connected to their environment than the communities in Cusco. It may be a result of the seclusion from the more modern cities that forces this community to live more traditionally, but the relationship between culture and nature is evident. The culture of Parque de la Papa is a direct result of the natural environment in which they live in.
In the park, the altitude dictates what the community can grow and what animals they can herd. This natural environment is so restrictive and as a result the people are dependent a few resources to make a living. The potato, the medicinal plants and the llamas consume a large part of this culture. As we toured the park, we were introduced to each of these resources and I began to understand just how strong this relationship is. Everything is natural. No chemical introduction, no heavy machinery. The community has resisted modern practices and remained more dependent on the natural environment than the modern world.
llamas and alpacas provide the yarn necessary for making the beautiful textiles that flow though Peru’s markets, but there is a noticeable difference between those from the market and those from Parque de la Papa. Bright colors and perfect stitching is a sure sign of machine made products. The communities in Parque de la Papa use natural dyes and make all their textiles by hand and they seem to sell their items with more pride than those in the large markets of Cusco and Aguas Calientes where the selling process is more like a game. The farming of potatoes seems to bring nature closer to culture as well. Potatoes are planted using traditional methods that do not create such a barrier between man and the crop.
When people live so closely to their land and their environment, there is more respect for the resources and the work that was put in to produce a product. It is an important relationship and a very strong one as well.