We awoke at 6.30am on Tuesday 25 February as sunlight streamed through our window, outside was unusually quiet, just the occasional firework exploding in the distance….
Just after midnight that morning, workers in & around Cusco had started a 2 day (almost) general strike. Their anger, and demands, centred on: lack of jobs & rising prices; cost of living and especially gas prices (Cusco is gas rich but it gets exported); lack of investment in basic needs like education, clean water & sewage systems; broken promises & corruption of politicians at a local and national level; extreme wealth inequality.
We had a quick breakfast and wandered out into town to see what we could find. It was apparent the workers had been up early, transport hubs had been shut down and roads effectively blocked. All municipal/state buildings, schools, banks & tourist sites were shut. As were most shops/cafes etc. The usually rammed roads choking with fumes were empty of moving vehicles, it was a true car-free day!
Throughout the morning workers converged noisily on the city centre from the suburbs & barrios, ensuring nothing moved as they snaked there way around town in groups large and small. Around 11am we’d estimate a good 15000 were in the vicinity of the city’s main square alone.
The strikers were mainly indigenous and mixed race from the poorer sections of Peru’s hugely uequal society, with very few ‘Spanish’ or ‘white’ Peruvians. They included large numbers of female workers, many with their kids in tow.
The marches slowly ended around 1pm, with strikers stopping for lunch in shaded parts of town squares, before going back to their areas. In the late afternoon some shops and cafes/bars did open up, and some vehicles appeared on roads, but it all remained very quiet on a lovely hot day.
Day 1 to the workers! Cusco was shutdown and much of the tourist industry in the area too ie no trains etc to Manu Picchu. What will day 2 bring? Here are some pics of what we saw today….