DixPix Photographs

     

SOUTH CORDILLERA

 
     
  Problems : POVERTY  

 

Poverty has so many faces and so many contexts, that it is difficult to treat, without making unwarrented judgements about what is important in the lifestyles of other cultures.  Chile, Argentina and increasingly Peru have a large middle class, which reduces the number of poor.  Bolivia is lagging in this regard.  But there is a big difference between the face of poverty in the cities and its character in rural settings.

 

As a casual observer, how do we measure poverty.  Is it by dilapidation and squalor? Click to see big picture (640x409 pixels; 133 KB)
Or by the clothes one wears, or the humility one must show to "superiors". Click to see big picture (640x440 pixels; 129 KB)
Or perhaps by our means of transport. oxcart
By how one must scrounge for food. Click to see big picture (640x361 pixels; 93 KB)
Or by the houses we live in? Click to see big picture (640x406 pixels; 115 KB)
Or by what we must sell-- but wait, this is the sign of subsistence farming. la paz
Subsistence farming may look like poverty to the gringo eye, but it is very different.  True, education and health amenities may be primitive, but barring crop failure there is usually enough to survive and raise a family. Click to see big picture (640x435 pixels; 110 KB)
And there is community.  Here in the valleys of the Cordillera Negra of Peru, every bit of arable land is put to use, and these small plots, together with the social fabric sustains the habitants. Click to see big picture (613x480 pixels; 139 KB)
And no matter how strange you or your lifestyle may look to outsiders, there is a community in which you fit. Click to see big picture (640x409 pixels; 75 KB)
That community provides social occasions and sets social rules, Click to see big picture (504x480 pixels; 109 KB)
True there is a lot of hard work in subsistence farming or herding, and the lifestyle may seem primitive.  Yet this is how virtually everybody lived not so many generations ago. Click to see big picture (318x480 pixels; 77 KB)
A birthday apple substitutes for a birthday cake, yet this was one of the writer's most memorable birthdays. In the long run it is the social settings, not the props, which make things special. Click to see big picture (640x403 pixels; 73 KB)
And the rhythms of rural life still sustain a major portion of the worlds population. Click to see big picture (640x415 pixels; 93 KB)
But being poor in the city is something different, especially if one wishes to keep even a little appreciation for things wild and beautiful. Click to see big picture (640x417 pixels; 56 KB)
Homelessness is by no means a problem relegated to the "third world".  It is less obvious here in Santiago than in many North American cities. Click to see big picture (379x480 pixels; 62 KB)
A subsistence farmer is at least close to his source of nourishment.  This is a food distribution center (Lo Valle, 1975) for the city of Santiago. Click to see big picture (640x417 pixels; 123 KB)
And it is not just the big cities, most towns have a poor quarters somewhere, often referred to as the "barrio picante". Click to see big picture (640x421 pixels; 135 KB)
So what draws so many young people to the cities?  An illusion of excitement is the major draw, as well as the feeling of being left behind in the dull cycles of rural living as the world charges into the information age. Click to see big picture (640x417 pixels; 63 KB)
All too often, the opportunities available to those poorly educated and poorly connected, are anything but exiting. Click to see big picture (608x480 pixels; 103 KB)
A typical lower-middle class suburb from a helicopter.  Usually housing presents a continuous, dilapidated wall to the street, but behind there are often small gardens and other hidden amenities. Click to see big picture (640x417 pixels; 131 KB)
Most city folk in southern South America work long hours, and hold a work ethic.  There are, of course, exceptions. Click to see big picture (640x353 pixels; 90 KB)
"Siesta de los borachos".  In the southern Cordillera as elsewhere, alcohol has taken its toll, in both the city and the countryside.  Cheap wine is very cheap. Click to see big picture (640x462 pixels; 130 KB)
Perhaps in the end, poverty of life is best measured by a feeling of hopelessness. Click to see big picture (640x404 pixels; 93 KB)