My time in Peru
As a student I wanted to get to know the world, first my longing fell on Peru. There I wanted to work scientifically in the Andean highlands, living and getting in touch with the people and their culture. I learned Spanish, but that was not enough, you had to learn to understand Quechua and Aymaras. Peru, a country in South America today has about 31 million inhabitants. About 45 percent of them are Indians, the majority are Quechua and Aymara Indians in the highlands of the Andes, also called Indios. There lies the ancient Inca city of Cusco and the famous Machu Picchu with its sacred Inca Trail. In Cusco, as well as on the Pacific coast are numerous prehistoric and Inca archaeological sites. Also known is Lake Titicaca at almost 4000m altitude. That’s where it drew me.
About half of the Peruvians live in the coastal lowlands, 40 percent in the mountainous region and 10 percent in the east, ie in the Amazon lowlands of the country. Some of the folk groups are descendants of the Incas, who had built a large empire in the area of today’s Peru until the 15th century.
37 percent of the inhabitants are mestizos (mixed race between whites – primarily Spaniards – and Indians), about 15 percent are whites. 75 percent of the population lives in cities. The largest city is Lima with over 8 million inhabitants.
On the dry Pacific coast of Peru lies the capital, Lima, with a well-preserved colonial center and important collections of pre-Columbian art.
The whites, mestizos and blacks living on the coast and in the cities of the highlands have a modern, more Western lifestyle, but with very high unemployment rate, accounting for up to 50 percent of the working-age population, while education still does not fully exist for the Highland Indians, it is to some extent made available.
After my studies, I returned to Peru. My Spanish still had to be adapted to Peruvian Spanish. I was working on a scientific study on Aymara and Quechua women and was linked to the Ministry of Education in Lima. I was drawn to Lake Titicaca, although I found Lima very attractive. In the highlands I also learned some of Aymara and played in the national volley ball team. From time to time we also won. Then we got soft drinks from the coach and I was praised as a “Gringa” (name for white foreigners, men are called “Gringo”).
My contact with film
On a trip to the Amazon lowlands, I came into contact with the team of Werner Herzog “Fitzgeraldo“. With them was an actor from Cusco in the Andean highlands and there I met him again. That was very exciting.
Then one day a ZDF team (German Television) traveled to Peru. They sought assistance in language, scripting and accompaniment during filming. That was very appealing. Quickly I became a kind of translator, scriptwriter, actress; today, it would be called “the production assistant”.
The film was about a 15-year-old Aymara girl, who had to raise her siblings next to the school alone, because the parents had migrated in the direction of Lima in search of work.
This film deeply touched German viewers at that time; above all, the difficult life situation of the highland Indians and the educational will of the young Aymara girl had aroused admiration with a great willingness to donate Money by some of the viewers. This Money was used to finance a bridge over a deadly torrential river which was on the way to school and also renovate some classrooms. The film received an important prize.