Teodora Palli Mamani
In search of a golden dream
Teodora and her husband struggled to make a living for many years in the province of Azángaro, Peru, but due to bad weather conditions and a lack of sufficient income being generated from the harvest, they decided to migrate to La Rinconada in search of a golden dream. “The people where I lived began to talk about the mine and that there was good money to be made there ”says Teodora.
When Teodora arrived at La Rinconada in 1985, following her husband and looking for better job opportunities, she began to start to select ore in Lunar de Oro, a populated center in the area. She, along with other women, sat near the mouths of the mining sites in the area waiting for the residual ore to be dismantled.
This situation has changed over the years. Currently, mining organizations are clearing away from mining sites – properties that are owned by cooperatives, and that is where the pallaqueras work with the permission of the mining organizations.
At that time they moved with their children to the area. Currently, Teodora lives alone. Her husband began to suffer from high blood pressure, so he could not return to the area due to the high altitude. Their 8 children, 5 women and 3 men, no longer live with them, “each one lives with his/her family,” explains Teodora.
Teodora lives in a populated center that consists of temporary homes built of calamine, cane mats, or adobe. She walks an hour to get to work, so she wakes up at 5 a.m. to get ready and meet with the other pallaqueras at 6 to get to work. They return to their homes at approximately 6 p.m.
They meet in the dump area, where cooperatives unload material waste from the mines. They take the bargain, in order to take advantage of the remaining gold remnants. Teodora says that “every day is a different challenge, there are days that they find mineral, and other days that they don’t.”
Together they collect this material in ‘valdes’ or sacks, and when they fill 10 of them, they gather and transfer them to the mill where the ore is milled “and it comes out as powder.” Then, this remaining powder is processed with mercury in order to obtain the amalgam and move on to the final process in which they turn to a collector who burns the amalgam to later weigh it and pay for its weight in grams.
Teodora says that working conditions are very harsh, but thanks to the personal protection elements (PPE) that the Alliance for Responsible Mining has given them and the training on health and safety at work, they have changed their practices and are more safe.
President of the pallaqueras
In her workplace there are small houses where they eat and rest from the sun. “The cooperatives, which do their dismounting here, own these houses,” says Teodora.
Teodora is the president of the Lunar-based Pallaqueras, which has had 7 women’s associations for 2 years now. Each association has its own president and board of directors, but she is responsible for coordinating all associations in order to facilitate communication between them and better develop their activities. Teodora says that “men also work here and help us with vigilance.”
Cultivating the earth
Their work is not constant, due to the great physical effort it requires and difficulties with the weather. They work for half a month pallequeando and, the month they are not in La Rinconada, they go to their hometowns to do different trades. “I am from the province of Azángaro, almost 4 hours from La Rinconada. We manage a farm there. During harvest time we stay 2 or three months to sow potatoes, quinoa, barley …) ”says Teodora. She adds that “every 15 days I go down to my house, and I stay there for 2 or three days] to see my children and my husband.”