Yesterday I received an email from the President of the Sacred Valley Project, Alex Ball.
Here is an excerpt:
"The dormitory currently operates in a 2,560 square foot building that includes 3 dorm rooms (for the 12 girls), a room for the housemother, a kitchen, a dinning hall, study hall and yard. With a majestic view of the Ollantaytambo ruins, it is a beautiful location with plenty of space for the girls to run about, hang laundry and burn off steam.
Last December, after a nearly unanimous vote of approval by the 500 members of the local community, we signed a 5-year contract that required us to pay only $100 per month and discounts 50% of all costs associated with repairs or improvements to the infrastructure.
The community has owned and occupied this space for over 30 years and also built the locale’s entire standing infrastructure. Unfortunately, a wealthy man from Lima with strong ties in government and law enforcement purchased the land from a neighbor who claimed to be the rightful owner. He then entered into a lawsuit with the community to win the land with plans to build a hotel. Willing to pay for the highest quality lawyers and taking advantage of his high level connections, this man has successfully appropriated community-owned land on a number of occasions in a variety of locations.
It seems as though he is winning the suit and we fear that we might lose our dormitory. Because we are a third party, we do not believe that we will be kicked out before the end of the school year and we are already actively seeking out other options. We have begun looking for grants to help with construction and are reaching out for help from the provincial and district governments. This is not the first time that our project has encountered difficulties and we have every intention of continuing to fight against this injustice. "
Am I upset? Yes.
Am I surprised? Not really.
I feel like land disputes like this happen all the time in developing countries, and they were the inspiration for the creation of the Association for a More Just Society (http://www.ajs-us.org) that I visited while in Honduras.
There is some good news, however. The mayor of the neighboring city Urubamba has offered to sell land next to the site of a future high school for $8,000-$10,000. This would be a great long term solution as the SVP would own the land outright (and not rent) and would be right next to the school!
I will keep everyone updated as I hear more about the situation.