March 18, 2014 Huch´uy Runa School & Orphanage Cusco, Perú
¨Cuzco is not a city to visit for this or that painting. Rather, it´s the whole of the city together which creates the impression of the peaceful, if sometimes disquieting, center of a civilization that has long since passed…The semi-indigenous features of the curator, his eyes shining with enthusiasm and his faith in the future, constituted one more treasure of the museum, but a living museum, proof of a race still fighting for its identity.¨ — Che Guevara, ¨The Motorcycle Diaries¨
¨Buenos días Señorita Raquel,¨ the children at Huch´uy Runa say in unison as I walk through the door of each classroom and workshop. They carefully explain the details of their work…
Lucia takes me by the hand. Her tiny eyes, magnified by her glasses, twinkle as she shows me her ceramics work station. ¨Así, Señorita,¨ she says as she shows me how to ball up the clay into tiny pieces to make the walls of her tiny ceramic adobe home. Honorio, 8, sits next to me with a runny nose that he continues to wipe with his sleeve. I hand him a tissue and he heartedly grabs it to blow his nose. ¨Gracias, Señorita!¨ His voice is so tiny and bright.
The professors teach each child to take pride in their craft and in their history as Quechua – descendants of the Inca. The walls of each classroom and workshop are adorned with pictures of the Christ as well as paintings of Incan warriors and moral sayings of the Incan Andean cross: Allinta Munay, Allinta Yachay, Allinta Ruway (Love well, learn well, do well).
A fusion of faith where pride in their culture is cultivated with the love of God shown to them by the professors and staff. The presence of God is tangible as I walk into Huch´uy Runa – almost bringing me to tears. As I spend time with the kids I am reminded of Christ´s words that the kingdom of heaven belongs to little ones such as these. And that is what Huch´uy Runa is – the kingdom of heaven breaking open over each child and each narrative she or he brings with them as children of the Cusco streets.
¨Most of the children here come from broken homes, homes of violence and dysfunction, ¨ Professor Edwin tells me, ¨but when they come here, we tell them that today is a new day for them to succeed and become better than their circumstances. They hold the future in their hands and we tell them they have the capacity to create a positive future for themselves.¨
Professor Edgar adds, ¨The family unit is very important in our Quechua Andean culture. Therefore we meet with the families in their homes every semester. Only children who have no other housing options stay here with us during the week because we do not want to break the family and community bond created in the campo.¨
¨Yet we also want them to know that we are a family here at Huch´uy Runa – we take care of each other.¨ Clara, the director and founder of Huch´uy Runa, smiles as she continues. ¨When we work with them we want to cultivate hope. Although many of them will leave here after sixth grade to work jobs while they are in colegio, we are equipping them with skills in their workshops so that they will not be exploited. These children are our future – and that fills me with hope.¨
Che Guevara, in this travel diary throughout Peru, wrote that there are three Cuscos one can experience while visiting here. The first is the Cusco of the Incas – Qosqo, walls of stone and strength and sadness that linger from the conquest. The second is the Cusco of the Spanish conquest – Cusco of ornate cathedrals and plazas built on the backs of the Incas. The third is a Cusco of the hesitant tourist – a Cusco one passes over superficially while relaxing in the winter of the Andes.
But I believe that if one squints one´s eyes over the Cusco horizon, the cobble roofs and cascading Andes, one might spot a fourth Cusco – the Cusco of Huch´uy Runa – the Cusco of audacious hope that sings and plays and learns and laughs with the supernatural joy of the Holy Spirit in the face of obstacles.
¨Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.¨ – Isaiah 58:12
Just as Nehemiah and the Israelites labored to rebuild the ancient walls left in ruins, the staff at Huch´uy Runa labor to rebuild ancient ruins as they teach just down the hill from Saqsahuamán´s fallen fortress. They are rebuilding the ancient walls of each child´s story – reconstructing an environment where each Quechua child hears the radical truth that they are loved by God. As we begin our day at breakfast, the staff and children sing in Quechua and then pray a prayer of thanksgiving. They walk to class together, smiling, awaiting another day where the fourth Cusco appears to affirm that each child is a miracle and has a voice, has a purpose, and has a part in the Story.
Witness of the Fourth Cusco,