Author Archives: Colleen Connolly

Finding the Bigger Story Behind the Chinchero Airport

Posted by Colleen Connolly – MA Candidate at CLACS / Global Journalism at NYU

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The Plaza de Armas in Chinchero, Peru. (Photo by Colleen Connolly)

I ended my field work in Lima, about as far away as you can get from Chinchero in Peru. I swapped freezing night temperatures and extreme dryness for the gray humidity of Lima’s winters, mountains for coast and Quechua for Spanish — and even some English. The transition was striking. Even my body felt the effects (but not in a good way — I got the flu).

Lima offered me the chance to step back from the conversations and observations I’d had in Cusco and look at them from another perspective. Like in the United States, there exists a great social conflict in Peru between the coastal “elites” and the campesinos. Those in Cusco who support construction of the Chinchero airport have much to say about “el centralismo de Lima” and their hatred of it. Now, here I was in Lima, talking to some of these “elites” who don’t want to give the Cusqueños their airport.

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Feeding chickens, attending asambleas and surviving the cold in Chinchero

Posted by Colleen Connolly – MA candidate at CLACS/Global Journalism at NYU

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The road leading to the airport site in Chinchero.

Despite a rocky start to my trip to Peru (a lost credit card, a canceled flight, the deathly cold), I have been extremely fortunate with my research here. My first week was spent in Cusco and the next two weeks in Chinchero, a small rural town about an hour outside of Cusco. Despite its proximity to the large and vibrant city of Cusco, Chinchero could not be more different. Here, Quechua prevails over Spanish. I haven’t seen a single bar. I wake up in the morning and help my host feed the chickens, the llama and the guinea pigs. People here appear shy at first, but they are the friendliest people I’ve ever met. As a foreign reporter, I am so grateful for this.

I’m about halfway through my time in Chinchero now. Though the freezing temperatures make me want to sleep in and relax, I’m making sure to get out every day and talk to people or attend asambleas, a nearly daily occurrence here and a part of small-town life everywhere. These two weeks are my most important weeks of research and reporting. For my thesis, I’m exploring the relationship between tourism and globalization using the international airport in Chinchero as a case study. The airport is not built yet — it’s at least five years away from completion — but construction has begun, and the project is the subject of many conversations and asambleas here. I have read many articles about the airport in Chinchero, but none of them mention the local feelings of the Chincherinos, who stand to gain or lose the most. These are the people I want to populate my thesis and my story.

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