Self-sufficient living in times of COVID

Lucia's mother prepares ají, a hot sauce made of hot pepper, oil, garlic, and fresh herbs

As the pandemic unfortunately continues on, along with the emergence of diverse variants, there is something that strikes me: the fact that people who live in the city have undergone drastic changes in their lives, while our friends from the native communities in the Sacred Valley of Peru have kept up their daily activities.

That is not to say that the pandemic left untouched Lucia, her family, and her community: indeed, the kids stopped going to school, and to this day are still attending virtual school. This change brought along additional expenses for the families, who not only had to invest in a more advanced cellphone for their kids to be able to complete the school work, but also had to buy more data than they ever had to.

The weekly 'ferias' (the open-air markets where farmers from the surrounding native communities would come to sell their vegetables, grains, etc.) stopped for a period of time, thereby preventing the local farmers from selling their products.

The weekly 'feria' in Pisac, where the women from the surrounding native communities come to sell their vegetables, grains, etc. June 2019.

The biggest impact was, of course, the sudden absence of tourism.

Before the pandemic, Lucia and her family often hosted groups of tourists eager to learn about their traditional lifestyle, artwork, culture, and to trek to the nearby Kinsa Cocha lakes. Lucia would also come to Pisac - the main tourist town nearby - on a daily basis to sell her 'tejidos' (the scarves, shawls, hats, bags, etc. that she weaves herself on a traditional back strap loom) to the tourists wandering along the main plaza.

Walter, Lucia's husband, guiding tourists along the trek to the Kinsa Cocha lakes. October 2019.

However, one thing remained unchanged through it all for the habitants of these mountain communities: their independence.

'Even through many of the men here lost their jobs, - many were working as porters on the Machu Picchu trail - they had their land they could go back to, to cultivate and feed their family.'

Amaru families mostly grow potatoes, quinoa, barley, peas, beans, and root vegetables; this, combined with the animals they raise (especially chickens and guinea pigs) allow them to eat almost exclusively from what they have on hand.

Lucia continues: 'Us women, even though we don't sell our tejidos anymore, still have our animals to tend. We continue to cook, clean, and take care of our kids. We're always working.

My family and I do not depend on anyone, not on the President of the Republic, nor on the town mayor. Pachamama (Mother Earth) gives us everything that we need. We take care of her, and she gives us her fruit'.

Lucia and her family do hope that tourism will pick up so that she can resume selling her textiles, and her husband the guided treks he would take visitors on.

'We are ready to receive our brothers and sisters with open arms, for one or several days, so that they can see how we live here, see these lakes, feel the Earth.'.

If you would like to go on a Cultural Exchange trip, please go to or contact Lucia directly at

Quinoa crops in the Amaru community, in the Sacred Valley of Cusco

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