It’s easy to come to South America especially Piura, Peru and be discouraged. For everywhere you look is poverty. It’s dry, dusty, and often destitute looking. Garbage literally spewed everywhere you look. At times it appears everything is impoverished.
However, one can see great progress in the midst of the enormous poverty and even hope. It’s been four years since my last time here in Piura, therefore I have a fresh perspective. So much has changed and yet so much remains the same.
A few things I’ve noticed. There is a huge traffic circle and bridge very similar to what we have in the states (on the way to Catacos). In fact, these are popping up everywhere in Illinois and Wisconsin, and maybe here to in Piura. There are still many moto taxies, but today you see so many more cars and buses. I remember my first time here I saw very few cars except for the parish vehicles, it was all moto taxies.
Today, there many more motorcycles on the streets in and around Piura. Although, you see people wearing helmets, as it’s the law here, you also see some pretty dangerous stuff – entire families on one motorcycle with shopping bags etc. In addition, one can pick up public transportation by bus in several of the neighborhoods. That’s progress, as nothing’s convenient in poverty especially transportation.
So many more people speak English or have practiced enough that they are able to say basic phrases such as “How are you?” and “Where are you from”. Young children in the Catholic school learning English phrases. Apps like Duolingo and Google translator help a lot. Yes, many have cell phones. They do not have packages and plans like we do. They have sim cards that have a set amount or limit that allows access to the internet. It’s disturbing to see how technology companies can provide cheap access to cell phones and ignore basic needs like food, clean water, and access to health care.
We delivered food to one home last week and learned the mother at the house will graduate in one month from the trade school in cosmology. The family received a bank loan and will soon open up a small business called “April Spa” right next door to their home. She will do haircuts, manicures, pedicures, and massage. That was exciting and wonderful to see! Fruits of Fr. Joe’s vision of helping people build skills to create an opportunity of a better life. Pray for the success of “April Spa”.
Then there is my friend Mateo, who used to be an altar boy here at the parish. Today, he’s all grown up and doing amazing things. He now speaks fluent English and helps to translate by volunteering at the parish when in town. Later, this month he will be moving to New York and going back to his job on a cruise ship. He’s traveled all over the world with his job on the cruise ship learning English, trying many food and learning other cultures. It brings joy to my heart to see him do these things and hear his stories. He’s gown into a strong and faith filled man who has hope in his heart.
In all the progress one can still look out and see so many living in extreme poverty; dirt floors, an entire family in one bed, no electricity or running water. Regardless, they have strong faith in God. Here the culture is more religious than secular unlike home. Although, there are places where one can see secularism creeping in. Catacos is one place that is happening. I saw more offensive looking art than previous years here and less religious items. Seriously, I bought them out of rosaries on two different trips and I purchased less than 25! In the states we are closing Catholic schools and here they have over 800 students! Things are booming where the Catholic faith is concerned. So the faith is still very strong, and yet you realize once again our relationship with God takes intentional dedication.
It’s strange really to see so much progress in the midst of some very primitive ways of living life. In all the technological advancements here you still see people cooking over an open flame, bagging rice by hand, or traveling by donkey etc. Yes, there are more cars and more cell phones. The gas stations are full service because it’s basically a cash only society, something of a past time in the states. To the open eye there’s so much contrast, and yet in the midst of bringing love, mercy, and compassion there is no contrast.
And so there is progress. In fact, great progress, it’s progress that brings hope. Hope to people who often are in desperate need of hope, change, and a chance at anything more than what they currently have – which isn’t much at all in reality. But then again faith in the person of Jesus Christ you already have everything you need.
Today, bring hope and the light of Christ to someone who is in need of knowing the person of Jesus Christ.