In the Andean highlands of Peru, voters hope that Pedro Castillo can improve their lives


In the Andean community of Nino Jesus de Huarapet, people say they have been forgotten.

Some dirt roads have been paved in the past three decades. Tractors replaced horses. But despite Peru’s economic success, nothing else has changed here.

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The hard work of harvesting potatoes in the steep hills is still the main way families like Liz Quisby survive.

“The resentment here is that the whole world is eating so well, and we’re not doing that, and nobody remembers us,” Kisby says.

The Quispe family’s pain spans decades. In 1984, the family survived a massacre in their hometown carried out by the Peruvian army and US-trained counter-terror police who were fighting a Maoist uprising. Life continued to be a struggle. But the left-wing presidential candidate, from a rural part of the country, gives them hope.

Voters, many of them elderly, rode long hours in trucks through the mountains to their polling place in June.

Election offices in small towns built booths and distributed instructions on how to vote, many of them written in Quechua, one of the indigenous languages ​​of Peru.

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More than 80 percent of voters in the province of Ayacucho voted for Pedro Castillo in the elections.

More than a month later, election officials have yet to declare a winner in the race between Keiko Fujimori, a former far-right congresswoman, and Castillo, a rural school teacher who ran with a Marxist-Leninist party. After the votes are counted, Castillo is narrowly ahead, but Fujimori claims fraud.

The epidemic is sweeping the region. Tourism-dependent cities such as Sarhua, famous for their artisanal carvings and traditional clothing, have seen business evaporate.

The foyer of a once thriving textile shop, where artisans sold their wares, is now empty.

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The vegetation of the Pampas River Valley, 2,000 feet lower than the potato fields in Houarapet, gives way to cacti and temperate fruits and vegetables.

Julia and Victor Huamacto returned last year after living in Lima for 25 years. “We came back here to celebrate the carnival and the disease happened. Here we have a little land. When it rains, there is enough fruit. We miss work in Lima. Here there is no wage, no work,” says 70-year-old Julia.

Fear of contracting the coronavirus and losing job opportunities in cities has prompted many to return to the countryside. “It takes a lot of strength and perseverance to work and stay here,” Quispe says..

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Castillo’s promises of investment and agrarian reform played well in Ayacucho. Now the highlanders of Peru are waiting to see if he will take office – and whether he will remember them.

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