After some failed meetings in Iquique, we believed that Chile was letting us go without introducing us to another life story to tell, but Arica, the northern door to Peru, surprised us with a little corner full of generosity and immensurable faith. Again the coincidences in life guided us by the hand. Everything started when a couple of anthropologists from Iquique came happily to talk to us because they had a van similar to our Gardenia. They gave us a tip on a good mechanic in the next city, Arica. We took note without believing we were going to need it. We didn’t know that some adjustments that we had made with an Argentinean friend had left Gardenia out of base, making it crystal clear in the middle of the dessert with an insatiable thirst for gasoline. We wanted to reach Arica to meet the specialist, Eduardo, who after listening to our project, smiled and immediately suggested the Dining San Alberto Hurtado, or better known in the neighborhood as “Aunt Petita”.
We found the first heir and loyal follower of the steps of Petita, Verónica, one of her daughters, who gladly told us the story about her mother and the Dining Room. A story of unlimited generosity, a Lady with Capital Letters, simple and humble, who having 6 kids and raising the seventh one was a nonstop working machine at the service of others. Her great faith moved mountains, more than once, the cooks worried with the lack of food, Petita would say: `Turn on the stoves, something will come along` and this is how it happened, the donations would arrive just in time to the boiling water that was waiting for some rice, pasta or beans. Continue reading
Father Alessandro and the young group
Salta, Argentina overwhelms with its extended areas, we traveled kilometers and kilometers without leaving the capital city, and the coincidences of life made us camp right next to one of our silent heroes. In spite of the signals received we were asleep or distracted. We were waked up by the music of the guitars and the voices singing “…take me to where the people need your Word…”, but we didn’t take the hint. Talking to the owner of the camping site and telling her what we were doing, without hesitation she introduced us to Alba, a biology professor who was with the kids who were singing earlier that day.
On the other hand, we were invited to meet Father Alessandro, a charming Italian from Rome who invited us to stay the night over the phone. The more we were getting closer to his parish and away from the colonial Salta with the park ‘9 of July’ and impressive houses, the more we were being immersed in a harsh reality with the most humble settlements of the city. Continue reading
Family with eight kids
This is how they know Mauricio Alarcón Vidal at the other side of the Andes Mountains. The Customs officers talked to us about him after telling them about our project. Mauricio climbs the mountains to visit the houses of the most humble area of the region and the second most poor of Chile. The 3 officials contacted immediately the Carabineros (police) to get us the phone number of the Quixote. They even called him and he told us that he would be waiting for us at his home. We took a sinuous gravel road going down the mountain to meet him. We arrived there on a Friday night, he welcomed us with a smile, not understanding much why we were there, but with an open heart to talk and get to know each other. He welcomed us with a “mate” (traditional type of infusion from Argentina) that had a drawing of Buenos Aires, capital city of Argentina, and its typical dance, the Tango. This is how, after 2 hours of conversation without even noticing it, he told us about how it all started. Eleven years ago, when he was just 22 years old, he met all these people who live modestly up in the mountains, isolated and forgotten. Continue reading