In March 2016 we started the development of a small cultural community center in Pueblo Viejo, a neighborhood next to the main square in Puerto Maldonado, Peru, where the Tambopata River and Madre de Dios River flow together. In the middle of the Amazon rainforest, this region is known as being the most biodiverse on the planet.
Pueblo Viejo is mainly a neighborhood of indigenous people who migrate from rural communities to the urban zones. During the rainy season, between December and March, the community experiences many floods. It’s because of this, city authorities have declared the community an “Emergency Zone” and they refuse to support the local people with essential public investments.
With a team of local volunteers and the people from the neighborhood we have created a comfortable small place where we could work with the children and the young people. Mainly we help students with their homework, we realize cultural artistic and sports activities, workshops, trainings. We have a basic mobile cinema infrastructures to run a community cinema and also the children realize a monthly news program as well as documentaries about their local culture. We have witnessed firsthand the power of these cultural centers as places of pride, learning and preservation for local people historically deprived of meaningful outlets for cultural expression. Such expression is essential for indigenous communities, both as an engine of development and necessary feature of social welfare.
Our idea is to beautify the neighborhood and to connect it to the public square, thus creating a touristic urban circuit. This transformation will give Pueblo Viejo’s young people an opportunity to become tourist guides and ambassadors. In this way we can help the community to be sustainable and offer their lovely handcrafts and talented skills to the larger community.
The main goal now is to combine the founding of the center with the creation and management of this urban tourist circuit in the very same neighborhood where the center is located physically, a juxtaposition we believe will aid in making the center both financially and practically sustainable. Young people from the area will be trained as tourist guides and local people will benefit from the awareness raised by the tour, able to sell their products directly or display their trade. The more local people may take pride in their craftsmanship, the better.
Every year, millions of tourists visit our region, but almost none of them visit the city itself, traveling directly from the airport to isolated lodges and back again. In the midst of all this, the wealth of the industry rarely reaches the people that make the industry possible in the first place. The creation of this new intercultural touristic route will valorize local culture, local tradition and local knowledge, and in so doing will contribute to making the tourist industry more humane, inclusive and sustainable.
The cultural center is working with no public or private funds, but thanks to volunteers who collaborate with the local people and work with the children and teenagers of Pueblo Viejo. The cultural center is a place where we volunteer for social and cultural development, we promote personal and community growth of the children and young people by educational, cultural, artistic and sports activities. We encourage free access to these activities to all the children and young people of the neighborhood. In our team we have psychologists, social workers, audiovisual professionals, journalists and anthropologists who constantly give their time to train the kids, play with them and help with their homeworks. We try to generate social responsibility and to encourage local people to be volunteers and help children with less opportunities to improve their future, to be proud of the Amazon, of their local culture and traditions.
Traditional knowledge is an important resource not only for local communities but also for humanity, it is a source of intangible and material wealth that needs to be protected and promoted.