Día Internacional de los Pueblos Indígenas

Coming back to the topic of my last post, most of the stories about the discrimination in Perú I heard directly from the campesinos, Andean villagers. Two  months ago, in August, world celebrated International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (Día Internacional de los Pueblos Indígenas). I was lucky, and a friend of mine invited me for a debate organized by the local Academy of Quechua in the nearby village.

Here are some interesting facts and stories I learned that day:

  • Soem claim that the word ‘ indígena’ has a different meaning that English ‘indigenous’. It comes from quechuan Inti –which means sun and Spanish gentepeople. So literally the indígenas would be the people of the sun.
  • There are over 1500 medicinal plants in Perú. Many of them are slowly getting forgotten. But the older campesinos still believe in the power of natural medicine. True story: to one poor villager, to solve his problems with prostate, doctor in a clinic recommended operation that costs more than 4000 soles (over 1300 EUR). A price impossible to pay by a campesino. So the sick man instead turned to the traditional medicinal plants – a cheap therapy that cost him 1% of the price of the operation. He is healthy again, no operation needed.
  • In Perú campesinos used to cultivate more than 200 different plants.This number of course excludes different kinds of the same plant, as only of patato there are over 3000 different types! One of the campesinos I met still breeds over 60 different types of papas! As he says – just to prevent them from getting lost.
  • Regarding the discrimination, a man present in the debate tested himself the effect of tie and sombrero I was writing about. To prove the point, he went to the doctor dressed once in the sombrero and a poncho, and another day dressed in a suit and a tie. You can of course guess the result!

The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples was established by UNESCO in 1995 and is celebrated every year on August 9th, with the idea to promote and protect the rights of the world’s indigenous population.

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