Watermen and Fisheries: Chesapeake and Peru

IMG_6033Throughout this semester we have consistently experienced and learned about the watermen culture of the Chesapeake Bay. This culture has affected every aspect of life in this area, starting with the residents connection with food. Much of the population is employed by the fisheries of the bay, whether oysters, crabs or other fish. This lifestyle is one of hard work, harsh conditions, simple living and a constant struggle with the environment and government. Many of these men are therefore independent and strong willed, having suffered through the ups and downs of this livelihood.

This connection with the water was clearly seen along the coast of Peru. Much of these communities are based on the success of the fisheries, mainly Anchoveta. Only second after China, this country is the main export of these fish, producing ten percent of the global catch between 1955 and 2012. With such a large catch I had imagined huge boats with new technology and capacities to catch as many as possible. Instead we found small boats with little to no communication with land as these men headed into dangerous waters in harsh conditions for several days at a time.

IMG_6017Due to this dangerous and difficult connection with this culture and food source, both the watermen of Peru and the Chesapeake seem to share the competition for the largest catch, no matter what the environmental cost. Just as the captains of the bay would fight for the last oyster, my guess is these fishermen would fight for the last Anchoveta in their area.

While this overarching view of the catch is understandable, it has lead to the degradation of not only the oyster and Anchoveta populations and habitats but also that of the connected species. While oyster bars create a unique habitat for several species, the decrease in Anchoveta population has also lead to the falling population of several bird species.

IMG_5745With the decrease in both of these fisheries due to over harvesting and other environmental factors, these watermen are forced to go through even more desperate measures to make a living. As the populations fade the watermen culture in both places is also suffering. The next generation, who have grown up with nothing but this family trade and career, are foreseeing a bleak future unless changes are made in the near future. This unforeseeable future, also affected by hurricanes in the bay and El Niño events in Peru, make the future even less predictable. Hopefully these cultures based on this food source are able to continue and thrive, but only time will reveal the future for this difficult trade.

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Conflict and Resolution: Cusco

IMG_6372After over a hundred years of one of the most impressive empires ever built, the Spanish invaded the Incan city of Cusco.  They brutally collapsed the empire, killing thousands and destroying architecture not even reconstructable today.  The conflict may have lead to the loss of much of the society but it did not fully suppress the culture.

After visiting several Inca ruin sites, a theme of survival began to emerge.  Mainly through religion, the empire was able to infuse their culture into the forced practices of their conquerors.

IMG_6324Many examples of this were seen in the cathedral.  The Spanish built the impressive church on this spot after tearing down the temple of what they thought was the Inca’s main god.  Through this conflict the Incas were able to find a resolution in which they infused their beliefs.  In many paintings and statues the mother Mary was shaped very triangular, representing the mountains that were an important part of their religion.  The crowns on the religious figures also were used to represent the sun while the feet represented the moon.

Like many societies throughout history that have had Christianity forced upon them, the religious figures within the art were made to look like the people of that culture.  In this case the representations of Jesus were made to have the features of a Peruvian, making him more relatable and believable.

IMG_6421Throughout the cathedral it became apparent that in every place possible the Incas included important symbols such as the sun, stars and mountains to the art.  In these creative places it is clear that the culture lived on.  The resolution may not have been ideal for this once powerful empire but through this they were able to live on.

This intersection of conflict and resolution resonated with me throughout the trip.  I had never realized how common it would be for the Incas and Peru in general throughout history.  Through a more modern example, the terrorism and political unrest within the last thirty years, the country is able to find a resolution in which they can rise up from and not let the conflict destroy them.  While many times the resolutions are not ideal, they have preserved a fascinating history of this culture and society.

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Modern Vs. Traditional: Potato Park

Set high in the Andes mountains, four thousand feet above Cusco, is a community that makes up Parque de la Papa.  Also called Potato Park, six thousand people live in this area and are divided into six qeswa communities.  The location is high in altitude and difficult to travel to due to the winding dirt roads.

IMG_6512Although it is not far from Cusco, a bustling city that thrives off of tourism, the community is very isolated.  Parque de la Papa was the first place that we had visited where I felt the culture had not been spoiled with tourism and flash.  As we climbed the mountains into this area, I could tell that this was not a show, but the way of life of these people with or without our existence.  The clothing, architecture, language and economy was all based on a tradition, lost by many other native communities.

While many other Andean communities are forced into a livelihood changed by the government and pressures of the outside modern world, this community holds close to their past.  Their society is based off of three main principles, including equity, reciprocity and duality.  While most of the world revolves around an individual based ownership and work culture, this community continues to act as one large body.  Through these three principles they are able to help harvest each members crops together and share goods and resources, ensuring the well being of everyone.

IMG_6519Because the community is not required to pay taxes, they are very removed from the government and development of the outside world.  They therefore have very little modern technology and continue to use traditional growing and harvesting techniques.  Based on their religion and their main principles, they then focus on the harmony, balance and well being of the land and each individual person.

While most modern communities create competition and materialistic members, this community holds true to a very different society.  I feel this community is therefore able to stay more sustainable and stable even when living in harsh conditions.  The peaceful, generous and hardworking society should be a lesson to us all on the importance of modernization and development, and how it affects our outlook on life.

Referred to: http://www.parquedelapapa.org/eng/02somos_02.html

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Ecology and Politics: Punta San Juan

IMG_6178On the tip of a peninsula after miles of winding mountainous and desert road, lays San Juan field station. The CRA works through this field station as Proyecto Punta San Juan in order to protect the wildlife and habitats for the species there. They are there under contract from the Guano Reserve which harvests the guano from this point. Their relationship creates an interesting intersection between ecology and politics.

The harvesting of guano has become more and more difficult recently as few want to do the work and the company makes little to no money. The work is extremely strenuous with little pay and tradition is what keeps most coming to harvest. Even though the company is bankrupt they continue to harvest because it is used as a political ploy for agriculturists to vote for candidates. With minimal staff and incentive the guano harvest continues to become less efficient and is delayed into the bird’s breeding season. While they obviously need the birds to stay in this location to continue to harvest, they are unaware of the full consequences of this delay.

IMG_6117This is where the field station comes into play, using their research and education to make suggestions on harvesting times and methods that will have the least affects on the birds. In many ways the intersection works perfectly, both with the same goal of the birds staying on Punta San Juan, sharing the area and information.

Unfortunately a the end of the day, one group has politics in mind while the other has ecology. The guano harvesting company wants to harvest get out everything they can where they want and when they want. Proyecto San Juan, on the other hand, wants to protect the species and habitats with minimal human interaction. When the harvesters want to push back the time in which they are there, the field station must prove the research that it will interfere with the breeding season. When the harvesters want to move into prime locations towards the point, the field station must prove the research that the birds will flee the breeding ground.

IMG_6194While these two organizations must work together for a common goal they are also both forced to make sacrifices in order for the relationship to work. It does not come without difficulties but overall the example seems to be more positive than many intersections between politics and ecology at other times. Susanna, a CRA researcher with the project, explained that the harvesters forget that they are not the enemy. The issue is the Anchoveta fisheries that have drastically reduced the guano bird populations. This outside factor based solely on economy creates another intersection with many more conflicts added to the situation.

Unfortunately between the three factors I fear the ecology may not be able to win if the situation becomes a battle. While their fight is for not just guano birds, but for an entire niche, habitat and web of interwoven species of the area, they do not hold the power that politics and economy do. With what little money and resources they are given they continue to fight for the ecology and prove their research but the politics that runs the harvest can do with it what they want.

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Living Ruins: Manchu Piccu

It is a little after one as I settle onto a rock overlooking Manchu Piccu. The warm sun is comforting and the view breathtaking as I reflect on our hike up WynuPicchu earlier today. I force myself to shut my eyes and focus on the quiet sounds around me. The most distinct noise is the eerie whisper of the wind through the mountains. The sound changes drastically as it moves through dry branches and then grasses and leaves growing among the rocks. I can begin to make out the sound of these gusts as they travel closer to me, finally whistling around my ears.

IMG_6740In the valley below I can make out the sound of the water rushing around the rocks, moving at a sickening pace. While far away, the sound is the most consistent in my ears. Unlike the wind that comes and goes, the water flows at the same rate and tone throughout the experience.

The only interrupting noise besides these natural sounds was that of tourists on the site. The crunching of their footsteps were heard long before they rounded the corner where I am sitting. At times I can hear their voices, several languages, ages and tones as they pass.

IMG_6691Blocking out the sounds of the people, I open my eyes and focus on the wind, water and buzzing of bugs around me. I begin to realize that the these sounds are the same as what the Incas would have been listening to as they built this breathtaking empire. The roaring river, whispering waves and soft footsteps would have filled in the silence of their work and life. Were these sounds overtaken by the noise of construction and work?

They would have overlooked the same view of endless green peaks. What was it like to live in this unbelievable stone empire, surrounded by the whispering winds flowing through these peaks and valleys? These questions seemed to bring to life this landscape and I tried to picture it as a powerful empire instead of ruins that have become a tourist attraction. Between this stretch of time I began to think about the absence of sound in this place for the years that it was abandoned, overgrown and unused. The sounds of wind, water and a few native animals would have given this once busy area an eerie emptiness. No sounds of footsteps, talking and laughing would have interrupted the magnificent sleeping city.

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The Sounds of life: Paracas

Cold wind blows through my hair as the sun beats down and I begin to take in the world around me. The boat motor slows and we move into an area unlike anything I have ever seen. We are surrounded by the bastilla islands, huge, dramatic and teaming with life. After several minutes of absorbing the bright colors and the massive amounts of birds, seals, star fish, dolphins, jelly fish and mussels, I tried to take in the sounds.

IMG_5942It was difficult to focus solely on the noise when so much was going on around me, vibrant colors and swarms of moving animals. A few times I forced myself to close my eyes for a few seconds, refocusing my mind onto my ears instead of my eyes. When I did this I found myself smiling at the abundance of life and the distinction of their movement and interactions.

Thousands of birds called from the air above me and land around me, almost creating a wall of sound. I could hear the difference in this sound from groups far in the distance, those on the rocks surrounding me and those passing directly above me. While difficult to do with the multitude of sounds, I attempted to distinguish between the different bird species throughout the area. Their wall of sound pierced through the air, at times much quieter but at others overtaking my ears.

IMG_5975I then focused on the sounds of the water, coming from every direction. Closest to me was the sound of the water lapping on the side of the boat, the rhythm of the sound matching with the rocking motion. Next was the sound of the waves hitting the rocks surrounding us. The noise of the water crashing and receding surrounded me from several directions. Listening closely, I could tell a difference between when the waves were hitting bare rock, echoing through caves or rocks covered with mussels. When hitting bare rock, the impact was heard clearly but the water receding back was much less distinct. When echoing through the hallow enclosed areas of rock the sound was muffled and low. On rocks covered with mussels, the sound focused distinctly on the water pulling back, clattering and hissing between each of the shells.

As the boat motored around a corner, muffling the sounds of the birds and waves, we were exposed to sea lions, sleeping, playing and calling from the rocks. A few slid into the water while others barked at each other or made themselves comfortable on the rocks. Their calls were higher pitched than expected, considering their size and weight. The calls ranged from a sound of being playful to territorial.

IMG_5858The sounds of the water, wind, birds and sea lions echoed through my mind as we boated back to shore. The abundance of life was astonishing, the noise molded together into a habitat unlike any I had ever heard.

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Transitions: The Desert Between

IMG_6042Around noon, in between Nazca lines and Punta San Juan, we stopped the bus ride to do a sound scape. Other than a a driveway with a few trucks in the far distance there was little but dessert in every direction. As we walked away from the road and noise of the passing vehicles, I began to think about spectrums.

At first I looked at the transitions of the landscape around me. Flat endless land abruptly transitioned into tall dunes and mountains lining the horizon. Almost white sand slowly transitioned into dark browns and reds. Soft sand transitioned into large rocks and boulders both rounded and angular. Each of these spanned into a spectrum of extremes, some gradually and others almost immediately.

As I sat down in the soft, hot sand I began to listen for the transitions and spectrums of sounds in this almost lifeless section of desert. Even though I had walked a good distance from the road, the sounds of trucks, busses and cars passing took over my ears. While only one vehicle passed usually passed at a time, there were very few moments without the sound of one at least in the distance. I listened carefully to the low hum of the vehicle as it first entered my ears, over the hill and still out of sight. I heard the slow steady transition of the truck approaching and then fall steadily back down as it traveled into the distance. With my ears so atoned to this sound I began to be able to guess what kind of vehicle was approaching without looking, each size and type a different pitch and depth.

I then began to focus on the only other sound around me, the wind. While at times soft and almost in audible, it also reached times in which it blew the sand around me. The wind also captured this noticeable spectrum which changed with the speed and direction. When it was blowing into my face and across my ear it began as a whisper and transitioned into a whistle as the wind picked up. As it slightly switched direction and began to blow into my ear, it instead took on the sound of a low, hallow hum, echoing through my ear.

IMG_6054Sitting and focusing on the sounds of this endless stretch of sand and rock was at first peaceful but soon began to feel ominous. This lack of noise and life left me at times with only the sound of my breathing. I began to then think about myself in the picture of this landscape. Who had walked on the sands of which I was sitting, or touched the rocks I was holding? What was the story of each spec of sand I ran through my fingers? On a spectrum of size I was huge compared to these grains of sand and rocks but on a scale of time I was not even a blink of their lifetime. I was so insignificant in these miles of deserts and mountains that surrounded me. I left behind only the impressions of my footsteps in the sand but brought with me spectrums of sounds, echoing through my ears.

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