Over the last three weeks, Allyson Gomez, Marq Bauman and myself have been working with CIED, a local NGO to help resolve their current organizational challenges. During the course of our work here, I came to know about a project that CIED was currently involved in. It is called “The Sillar tourist route”
Sillar is a whitish volcanic stone that has been used to construct buildings, sculptures and other structures in an around Arequipa for centuries. The livelihood of many local workers and artisans depend on the Sillar quarries, which are now being exploited by commercial organizations.
CIED’s vision is to create rock-cut structures in certain areas of the quarry and form a tourist route using the help of the local communities here. They hope that this will provide a source of income to these communities. I could feel the passion that they had towards making the project a success every time we discussed it. As the days went by, I got more and more curious about this project.
Our team had the opportunity to visit the site today and to see the local artisans at work. I was truly awed by the effort that it took to cut and shape a single block of Sillar in hot dry weather with UV radiation levels going through the roof. The quarry worker who was doing this was 66 years old but had the strength of an Ox. I tried to cut the rock but gave up after two attempts which left me breathless. It is hard to imagine that people do this job 365 days a year with hardly any weekends or off days.
The experience gave me an insight about what CIED was trying to accomplish. My respect for them has only increased.
Booker T Washington once said, “Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.” I like to think that, long after we are gone, the work that we are doing here today will help the locals to have a better quality of life. That would make be both happy and proud.
I have titled this blog “The Sillar Chronicles” because to me, it gives an identity and maybe even symbolizes a way of life of the local communities here.