Samuel is one of twelve university students from small, indigenous villages who are here in Cuzco on a scholarship from FENAMID, the Native Federation of the Madre de Dios River and its Tributaries. Each was elected by their village, and they are studying courses that will help them later in their communities. They live and study together in a big house near the University, and, despite their unfamiliarity and the differences in language, these twelve students are now the best of friends and help to support each other.
Ayda's father works as a guide in Manu, and she is studying tourism. She also complains about how cold it is here in Cuzco, but she seems to be enjoying her time at the University. One of her classes is called "The Theory of Tourism," and they discuss the meaning of a bunch of camera-toting gringos visiting these small villages, while at the same time how they can use these visitors to make in a positive way for everyone involved. Knowing different climates and parts of the world can lead to more awareness and protection, if done correctly. The tourism majors also have to study English, French, and German! Now that's some hard work!
Having these bright indigenous students here at the University is important in two ways. First, it helps the communities to make better decisions on questions of development and its effects on the environment, especially their precious rainforest resources. Second, it gives the communities a voice to speak on their behalf in the University. Braulio is studying Anthropology, but believes that there is too much focus on the Inca and the mountain cultures. He is proof that there is an entire other section of indigenous Peruvians who live in the rainforest.
Fermin and Jorge Payaba, the directors of the program, gave me a tour of the University. On campus there is a small zoo full of animals from the jungle. Imagine, your own zoo next to the basketball court! Unfortunately, as Fermin and Jorge pointed out, the animals did not look healthy or happy in this climate. Just as the students find Cuzco extremely cold, so do the animals. The animals are too cold, too caged in, and are not accustomed to the food. While all the scholarship students demonstrated their gratitude for being at the University, they also expressed that they miss their jungle homes in Madre de Dios.
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