La Chocolatada in Peru – Imagine a country where the better off help the poor!
December 9, 2010
Every year thousands of kids from all over Peru get together in their local communities to participate in the Chocolatada. The more fortunate, but not always the wealthier members of Peruvian society join together to give unselfishly to those that are less fortunate. Imagine a society where the fortunate give to the poor!
Chavez Zuniga Family
I have always considered that the gap between the wealthiest people in a country and the poorest, to be a good measure of social and political stability. The larger the gap the worse it is, the lesser the gap the better it is. Peru certainly has a huge gap between the rich and poor, and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. The economy of Peru is growing faster than most western countries, but is it benefitting the majority of the population? The thousands of small communities tucked away in the Andean Mountains, still struggle to feed and clothe their children. The distinct lack basic services such as water, electricity and sewerage make life very different from what most western countries and indeed inner city Peruvians experience.
There are many frustrating things about living in Peru, like crazy taxi drivers and bureaucracy, but I have always been amazed and somewhat intrigued about one thing; the generosity of some Peruvians. This generosity is none more prevalent than at Christmas time, when families, friends and large organizations get together and with their own hard earned cash, and put on Chocolotada events for local communities.
What is a Chocolotada event? Simply, children descend from all corners of local communities, to drink hot chocolate and eat panettone bread (or normal bread rolls). Often there are games and dancing, then follows the giving of gifts and toys. There are often in excess of 200 children at each event, and the logistics of managing this amount of excited children is often challenging.
This year I was invited to participate in the Chocolotada in San Salvador, 45 minutes from Cusco in the southern part of The Sacred Valley. San Salvador is a small village not too far from the more famous village of Pisac, and although there are no Inca ruins near to the village, it is close to the religious and humorously named mountainside church of Señor de Huanca. (Hu pronounced as W)
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The festivities took place on a Peruvian Public holiday (December 8th), in the hacienda of the Chavez Zuniga Family. Children started to arrive around 7.30 in the morning, though I was told that some arrived much earlier; closer to 5am. An orderly queue was formed in the tranquil mountain setting, and the hot chocolate and the bread started to flow. After about an hour most of the children had passed through the queue and were waiting patiently; in anticipation of what gifts they might receive. When the command was quietly given to make a second line for the gifts, the children lined up surprisingly quickly, and with can only be described as military precision. The organizers had carefully put together bags of toys for both girls and boys, which included dolls, toy cars, lollypops, biscuits and a few other bits n bobs. In addition to this, each child was also treated to a brightly colored large ball, though surprisingly, a good handful managed to puncture them before the morning was out.
As a child I remember the sheer joy when my father appeared with a camera, from beneath the pile of gifts on Christmas morning. Only now some years on, I realize just how lucky I was to receive so many gifts. The generosity of Peruvians who hold a chocolotada recognize that not everyone is as fortunate as each other, and a simple small gift can bring great joy to a child, and their parents.
Peruvian girl opening gifts
For all the joy that the Chocolotada brought, I couldn’t help but notice that there were some genuinely sad looking children and some children with health issues, which reminded me that Peru is still a long way from closing the gap of rich and poor. For example, there were several children there with blistered hands, a common problem in Peru, typically caused from infections that the children pick up when searching through rubbish. Plastic re-cycling is a method of earning small amounts of cash, and children as usually assigned the job of finding bottles to re-cycle. One kilo of plastic is purchased by dealers for about $0.15 a kilo.
If you are interested in learning more about chocolotada’s, or wish to donate money or contribute gifts or services, then please don’t hesitate to contact us. Although we cannot accept any payments directly, we can guide you to the right people to talk to.
Alternatively, if you are interested other charity opportunities in Peru, then we recommend contacting Bruce Peru or Globalteer, both non-government-associations operating with local communities around the Cusco region.