Over 12,000 feet into the Andes Mountains, tucked between two rivers, and far from all the bustle and craziness of Peruvian’s capital Lima, is a small city of La Oroya. Though the trek through the mountains is beautiful, as you enter the city an evident change in the environment is easily noticed; the array of lush green trees of the upper Amazon Jungle is abruptly broken by unnaturally colored white mountains and swarming trucks, honking their horns and swerving in between the local taxis. With a deep breath in it is easy to notice that something isn’t right. The air is thick and a dark cloud appears to loom over the heart of the city.
The culprit stands alone in the heart of the city, a United State’s owned smelting factory. It produces metal products for countries across the world. It employs thousands. The factory also emits thousands of toxic tons of pollution a day.
As I climbed off the bus, I was instantly overwhelmed with welcoming greetings. I am from the United States. My country is responsible for this creation that is killing thousands. Yet I was not being judged; who I am was left for me to portray and no preconceived notion was weighing negatively on my arrival. I believe we all should be able to define ourselves; I believe no one shall be looked down on or held on a platform they have not created themselves.
Throughout the week I partook in numerous activities designed to generate awareness of the current situation in La Oroya. Groups gathered from all backgrounds, including my American group, to echo the desires of these La Oroya citizens. If we could not create change in the way the factory was producing its product, we hoped at least, to change the way the world perceives this small town and its struggles hidden so well from the rest of the world.
At a town meeting a young boy stood up, instead of following the trend of the meeting by criticizing and pointing blame, he bolding said, “We are the future of this city. We, like everyone else, deserve a chance. This city is home to my mother and father and it too was home to their parents. I, too, want to be able to raise my children here.” The boy believed he deserved a chance.
I too believe I deserve a chance, we all deserve a chance.
I was given a chance to help while in Peru. Where I came from and what that could stand for was not taken into consideration; the people I met with allowed me to define myself the moment they disregarded my origin and openly welcomed me.
I believe everyone deserves a chance, a chance like the one given to me. It was chance that came from open minds and willing attitudes to disregard any stereotype so that I was able to freely define myself and my actions.
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