In ancient Peru during the reign of the Incas, the people of each village were required to give a portion of their resources to the state. This not only included the harvest from their fields, the products that they produced but also their labor that was required to build and maintain the roads bridges and buildings of the empire. In some sectors of Peru this practice is still maintained where the villagers gather yearly to rebuild their suspension bridge.
This is the story of a rural area in Peru where the villagers gather once a year to rebuild a suspension bridge across the river. We like this story because it is a representation of the way Quipunet works in using limited resources to build bridges across the digital divide of education in Peru. It shows that like in our motto, with a Sum of Values, a Multiplication of Effort and a Division of Work we can accomplish much more than we could have ever imagined as individuals.
The annual Q’eswachaka bridge festival, which happens every year in the second week of June is a ritual that has been followed since ancient times. The men and women of the surrounding villages come together on this specific day and begin a three-day process of rebuilding the bridge. They bring with them large bundles of long grasses (ichu) along with the necessary tools. The women begin by pounding the stalks of grass to soften them and then twisting them into long strands of thin rope (q’oya). The chakarauwaq, or engineers, then construct the braided grass into ropes, take apart the old bridge, and begin the important task of weaving from both sides of the river.
New ropes are pulled across the river and suspended on rock abutments on each side of the river. To honor tribal leadership, the last of the ropes are bound together by two master builders and thanks are offered to Apu Q’eswachaka, representing the mountain spirits. This grouping of ropes forms the walkway of the bridge. Two large ropes on either side and above the walkway are placed to act as handrails. Smaller rope placed at close intervals are strung from the platform to the handrails to act as sides of the bridge. The bridge is then opened up for traffic until the following year when the bridge is rebuilt again.
According to the master builders, their ancestors say this bridge was first built during the times of the Incas 600 years ago. In those times, there were many such bridges crossing rivers along an extensive road system.