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Rosario (Argentina) -- Solidarity trips to Suripujio with students from Austral University

For the past year, volunteers from the DAS (the Solidarity Assistance Department of Austral University in the city of Rosario) have been traveling to the village of Suripujio. The activity is organized in coordination with the principal of the Exodo Jujeño School there. Pupils at the school, which had already been receiving financial assistance from the Department, frequently sent letters expressing their thanks and inviting the university students to come and visit. Finally the university arranged a first trip for students who wanted to provide help to that remote community (Suripujio is more than 1,000 miles from Rosario). Contributions were collected and plans made to carry out projects to help the people in the area improve their living conditions and opportunities for employment.

Suripujio is located in Jujuy province at an altitude of 12,600 feet above sea level. Some 8 miles away is Yavi, an ancient village that was the site of an important native settlement under Spanish rule. In Quechua, the suri is a bird typical of the area, similar to a small ostrich, and pujio means “watershed.” So “suri-pujio” means “the place where the suris drink,” or “suri watering place.”

Suripjio has no electricity or gas. Some sixty families live in the village, with a total population of about 160. The villagers have around 500 sheep, llamas and “vicuñas” (an alpaca-like animal), from which they obtain meat and hides, and wool that they weave on primitive looms. They also raise vegetables for food, living in a subsistence economy. In the morning they lead their flocks to pasture, and when the sun sets they enclose them in stone corrals called pircas to protect them from foxes, mountain lions and other predators. Overseeing the village is a chief whose decisions are accepted by common agreement. Profoundly religious, inheritors of the Spanish evangelization, they impart catechesis among themselves through oral transmission. During Lent they gather at night to take part in “la doctrina,” a special meeting when the older people instruct the younger ones by means of songs, prayers and psalms.

On the first trip students helped villagers to complete construction of a chapel. It is in colonial style and has two bell towers, a single nave, five glazed windows and a stone altar. This year students painted the outside of the chapel and installed some windmills.

The villagers hope that the windmills will improve their future. They can now fill drinking troughs with water and won’t have to spend hours walking with their flocks to watering holes as they did in the past. The water pumped by the mills will also enable them to irrigate the fields and improve their crops (potatoes, beans, and alfalfa).

Romana, No. 42, January-June 2006, p. 130-131.

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