Wednesday, May 20, 2009

the morning the lights when out in carmen pampa

For an unknown reason, electricity was out for most of the morning here at the College. Since my office work nearly comes to a complete hault without access to my computer, I find these electricity-less mornings (it usually returns before lunch) to be good times to organize myself—clean out my desk, sort through and file piles of paperwork, and make to-do lists.

This morning was no exception. After I finished plotting out work tasks, I sifted through a folder in the back of my file cabinet that contained old Carmen Pampa Fund literature.  I marveled at one in particular that stated how the College “would provide education in agriculture and nursing for 400” students.

The orange cover of an old fundraising brochure caught my eye this morning as I dug through the depths of my file cabinet.

The brochure, titled “Not long ago it was a crime for us to learn to read and write. Today it is a crime if we don’t,” provides, among other things, the personal testimony of Jose Tintaya, a Carmen Pampa community member who served as committee chairman of the College during its initial years.  Jose is currently on staff at the UAC-CP—helping with general maintenance on the College's campuses.

Jose’s words take up one panel of the tri-fold brochure: "Making up for 600 years in two generations is no small task.  Up to 1952, most of the indigenous people were indentured servants and learning to read and write was illegal.  My father came to Carmen Pampa when I was six-years-old. As a military veteran, he was free.  But the Patron [landowner] of the hacienda insisted that my father live as an indentured servant. He refused and was taken into the hacienda with the whip-man and the Patron. When my father returned home, his clothes were torn, his body was bloody and bruised. This was the way of the Patron. It was not unusual for the hacienda foremen to whip the women in the fields because they were tardy."

Jose Tintaya's stories remind us that education should never be something we take for granted.

"When we were freed in 1952 after 600 years of servitude, I attended school just until the 4th grade, my wife to the 3rd grade. But today things have changed and I see hope for our future. I have a daughter in high school. She will go on to college next year to earn a degree…My vision is to see that all of our children have the opportunity for an education and a better life."

As proven by this morning’s electrical outage (which, admittedly happen less frequently these days), sometimes things here move at a dreadfully slow pace.  But I appreciate the moments when we can look back and see that we have made amazing amounts of progress in a relatively short amount of time.

To think that the original visionaries hoped to educate 400 students in two areas of study…today we have more than 700 students and more than 200 graduates in five different degree-granting areas.  To think that Jose Tintaya, formerly enslaved and forbidden to attend school…today has children studying at the UAC-CP and a daughter who last Fall defended her thesis and earned her college degree (check out Hugh's November 26th blog post).

Despite it's slow pace, change does happen. But (and forgive the blatant cliché) we often can’t appreciate how far we’ve come until we pause and look back at where we were.  So it was perhaps a strange twist of fate that it took the lights going out in Carmen Pampa this morning in order for me to find an old brochure that so clearly illuminated the College's path...from where it has come and to where it is going.

No comments: