My Christmas in Peru was greatly influenced by the strike of the agriculturers who – several days before Christmas – started blocking the only highway (and often at places the only road) in both ways – to the North and to the South (asking the government for better working conditions and salaries).
We needed to go to the North, to Motupe, to spend the Christmas with the family of my partner. On the 23rd (the last day when the transport of private cars was allowed before Christmas – due to the Covid State of Emergency) we set off at 8 am in our car, bringing also our friend from Colombia who lives in Lima.
We only arrived to Motupe (normally a six-hour-ride) at 5 am on the 24th! And we were lucky to arrive. Others did not have the luck we had.
All the saints were helping us, indeed. First, we were stuck in the desert by the highway for several hours. Second, we managed to escape to get some food and returned to the blocked part. This time, a ray of “higher” light shone our way and we managed to keep on driving through the opposite direction. When we got to a part where the road turned into one way only, two trucks let us (and other private cars) pass into some fields and the experienced truck drivers explained to us in short that there is a way to continue (and avoid the blocked part of the highway – circa 30 km). And there was, though in the night often difficult to see and at many parts congested as many cars (also from the other direction) had the same idea of passing through the fields, but the dirt road was barely sufficient for a one-direction pass. The people from the villages were helping, opening the gates of their lands to allow us to continue driving and we witnessed the rescue of three people whose car fell into an irrigation canal full of wild water. Sadly, in another place we were told the same happened to another car that was giving way to a car in the opposite direction and in the pure darkness did not see well – none of the crew survived.
We were also helped by a police officer at around 3 am in the morning who let us continue without a fine (600 000 euros) at a time when the curfew was already in force. He even apologized that the police cannot do much about the situation of the strike which went totally out of control and brought upon a lot of violence, arms, tear gas etc.
Unfortunately, we also experienced several moments when people from the towns by the highway, where the strike was already over, built stone barriers on the road and demanded (with stones in their hands, threatening to damage the cars passing) money for the pass. Often, they were OK with a sol or two which sadly proves that this desperate acting was brought upon by poverty.
The 21 hours on the road for me was the greatest spiritual school I’ve ever been in.
The strike only terminated in the night hours of the 24th which means that many people did not make it to their homes to be there for Christmas. A few lost their lives because of the strike and there shall be no more Christmases for them.
More on Peruvian Christmas HERE.