This woman with the big smile and even bigger heart has overcome incredible hardships, but sees each new day as an opportunity for success. Timotea is a native of Ayacucho, Peru, a centuries old Andean city perched 8,000 feet above sea level. Illiteracy is widespread, and many people, like Timotea, speak only Quechuan, the ancient language of the Incas.
Timotea and her family have overcome much more than language barriers however, surviving the ruthless “peasant revolution” in the late seventies carried out by the Shining Path whose brutality touched peasants, trade union organizers, popularly elected officials and the general civilian population. The sculptures she and her family carve from the stone found in the mountains here are a true symbol of the strength of the human spirit.
The Shining Path destroyed families and villages
In the late 1970’s when the Shining Path was organizing its plans to overthrow Peru, the newlywed teenager and her husband Juan were settling into a small farm in the mountain village of Vincheros. Through hard work and saving, they accumulated a few animals which they bred and sold in order to continue reinvesting in their future. Their future looked bright with two newborns and a third on the way.
The Shining Path would destroy that future, terrorizing the Peruvian countryside by murdering civilians and dismantling infrastructure. Timotea and Juan spent years working their farm by day and hiding in a mountain cave at night, until their cave and belongings were flooded out by a torrential storm.
Forced back into their home, the Shining Path finally caught up with them. Timotea and her now five children were away, but her husband and other family members were home when Shining Path terrorists murdered all of Juan’s brothers and sisters and kidnapped his nephew who was later found dead after being brutally tortured. Timotea leaves with what’s left of her family and enters true poverty.
Like so many others, Timotea and her family saw no alternative but to set off on foot to the closest city with nothing more than the grace to be alive and clothes on their backs. Without capital to purchase livestock or sufficient land to graze, they could not return to agriculture to make a living. With the flood of internal refugees, job opportunities were scarce. Even when the terror ended and the economy improved, Timotea and Juan had little chance of finding employment since they have no formal education and only speak in the antiquated Quechuan.
For eight years, the family lived in unimanaginable poverty. The seven family members wore the same clothing they had on their backs the night they fled from the terrorists. They ate when they could, subsisting on potatoes. When they couldn’t grow food or afford it, the family went hungry and patient until the next meal came.
Carving out a future – with your help. With plenty of time and a team of seven potential workers, Timotea and Juan began teaching themselves how to carve crude animal figures from the stone that is commonly found in the mountains. Eventually they opened a small booth in the local artisan market and could sell enough to ensure no one went to bed hungry and all had a roof over their heads. Today Timotea works with her daughters and sons, and with a 3-year old grandchild at their feet.