Thursday, May 5, 2011

La Llanes

There is a small community called La Llanes – which is technically a part of San Francisco, but they are so remote that they have basically been forgotten.

I’m not sure what motivated them, but they decided to form a committee to organize themselves. They came to the Pastoral House to see if we could form some sort of relationship. They sent 2 representatives to the Pastoral House for our bi-monthly meeting last February with the hopes of the Pastoral Team willing to work with them. They have not asked for anything specific.

So we decided we needed to go visit them in their own community to learn more about them.

They are not TOO far away: you head up to San Francisco, take the cut off to the left heading towards San Felipe, go through San Felipe Arriba, head down the road towards San Felipe Abajo … at the REALLY tight and scary steep curve, take the fork to the left. I’ve never noticed this little cut off road before. Anytime I’ve been near that tight curve, I am so full of anxiety that I don’t see anything but the scary drop off at the hairpin of that curve!!

So this little dirt road they said I had to take … it was quite narrow and I was doubtful. Knowing the curvey roads in these parts and how narrow the dirt road looked … (picture a double tire track farm road – single vehicle wide) I was a bit apprehensive!

But – I knew we needed to get there so all for one and one for all and pray for the best.

The entire way was narrow, up and down but not too steep. Picture a dirt road about halfway up a steep mountain and skirting it like a belt. A narrow belt. With amountain wall on one side of you and a drop off on the other. Sigh.

But it wasn’t so bad actually. I went slowly. We had to stop briefly for cows – one baby didn’t want or didn’t know how to moooooove to the side of the road and stop for a vehicle to pass.

We got there only 5 minutes late. And EVERYONE was there waiting for us. That was the first of many good things about this community.

We were warmly greeted with smiles and hellos. When we all settled down, we briefly introduced ourselves one by one: Blanca, Cecilia then me. Then we asked questions about them and their community.

And several people gave answers. Not just one or two people! They were a vocal group and very friendly. They laughed when Blanca said something funny. I had asked the committee if they had a census and they told me they had already brought it to the house. They chuckled when I gave the ladies a ‘look’ because they forgot to show it to me … mostly because the 3 of us made it a light moment.

A little bit of data:
- They are ALL related. Not just related … but directly related.
- There is the MOM of all – she is 89 years old. Her name is Agustina Alvarenga
- She has 7 children – 5 of whom live in La Llanes. The other two live in Berlin.
- I will have to count from our census how many grand-children
- Ditto for great grand-children!
- There are 20 families.
- There are 12 houses. Yup … 12 houses for 20 families
- The most families in one house: four.
- The most people in one house: 16 Geesh.

After our big meeting I said I would like to take a photo of the mom and her 5 children. Blanca suggested I take a picture of each household. Not just each family – but each household!

Blanca was asked to step aside a moment to talk about something – I tried to eavesdrop but gave up because I was distracted by other conversations and things happening nearby. It also didn’t look like things I needed to be involved in yet … It was only 3 or 4 minutes that I had stepped away from the main group. I went back to think about beginning the ‘photo-shoot’ and they said they were ready.

The first family stepped front and center all together to get their picture taken!

Really – that fast?? This easy? Cool. So I took their picture and showed it to them

No sooner was I done showing them their picture than the next family stepped up front and center. Then the next and so on. This was the easiest process for taking pictures that I’ve ever experienced.
I’m thinking that this is a community that can organize!!! Woo hoo!

I walked around a little bit afterwards. I said hello to a couple of horses and took a few random photos of the area.

This is an incredibly poor community. They really have been the forgotten ones. The Pastoral Team had already decided that they were going to give each family a sack of fertilizer to help them with their planting. They plan to use funds from the Don Justo Coffee with Dignity project – the Pastoral Team receives all the proceeds of those sales for projects and community support at their discretion. I am totally in agreement with their decision here.

This community has no city water. They are not near a river either so it is a real struggle to get a little bit of water. City Hall comes out every 8 days and each family gets about 2 barrels of water (about 100 gallons).  That is supposed to last them for a week??? The Pastoral Team was talking on the way back and thinking of getting each family (the 20 families… not just the actual households) a big 2500 liter Rotoplas tank for collecting water. So at least in the 6 months of the rainy season, they will have water sufficient water for consumption, bathing, cleaning and laundering.

Here is a shameless plea on my part: Is there any church out there (topside I call you guys in the States) or organization like PW, or Rotary or Lion’s Club or ???? who would like to make a one time donation for a great cause for a beautiful people? It costs about $125 for a tank that holds 2500-liters (which is 660 gallons). The total cost for 20 tanks would be $2,500. (ish)

I am hoping someone or some group will step forward or a whole bunch of you are going to need to drink a WHOLE lot more Don Justo Coffee! Do that anyway! You can order coffee from Betty and Maurice Dyer at

And no – I do not feel guilty about putting in this shameless plea. But it’s part of my job.

Out in the middle of nowhere!  The roads to La Llanes

A bit of a scary turn - you don't know what follows!

Looking across the chasm to where we were headed.  This was a gentle one!

Actually - it was a beautiful drive

The Committee of 10 committed to being leaders of La Llanes -
men and women, some young and some a bit more mature!

Listening to Blanca (far left)

The woman in the green skirt - the matriarch of them all

Mom.  Agustina - she is 89

These women are hearty women!

Listening intently

A sweet sight - a dad with his baby

These folks live in ONE house.  2 members are missing from the picture

There is a spouse ... she was in town ...

Another group of 4 families ... in ONE house

He is deaf - but funny and sweet!

Agustina lives with grand-daughter and great grand-daughter

This is ALL the water able to be obtained from either the city or rain collection

We brought water bottles for each family.  A VERY small token

A happy camper with his water jug!

A small token - but seemed to be greatly appreciated.  This is a very humble group!

We were invited into this house for a snack

This family received a water filter.  And use it!  Therefore . . .

I could SAFELY drink my fresh pineapple drink!

Hanging out with us.  Wanting to  be with us.

Our gracious hostess in the blue skirt!  She sent some juice home with us!

Inside someone's house - a worship place. This is where they hold their Rosary for the Festival of the Flowers.
A young man was very proud of the fact they have a chorus group!   And instruments!!

Cecilia bought a rooster for her sister

The "bakery" - such as it is ... but how COOL they have one!

The road heading back out of town.  I hated to leave them.

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