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Art can help build a village

KIMBERLY NICOLETTI

FRISCO – Now that Deborah and Paul Hage’s 10 children are grown, they’ve dedicated their lives to helping raise villages.After adopting eight children – two of which were from Peru – Deborah Hage went to Peru to find orphanages because she ran an adoption agency in Silverthorne for eight years. But when she traveled to Manchay, Peru, a slum about 45 minutes from Lima, Father Jose Chuquillama showed her the town had more pressing needs.So in 2002, 10 volunteers from Lord of the Mountains Lutheran Church refurbished a building to develop a shelter for victims of domestic violence. The following year, Hage took teens to work in a daycare center in Manchay.Last June, Hage and other volunteers built a center for handicapped children. Kids filled the building immediately, so Hage plans to return in August to construct another classroom for the center.Sacred Peruvian artBut to continue the work in Peru, the group needs about $11,000, which is where its first fundraiser comes in.Today through Sunday, all proceeds from the sale of sacred Peruvian art will benefit additions to the center for handicapped children in Manchay, Peru.Six months ago, Hage brought more than 20 pieces of art from Cuzco, Peru to sell in Frisco. Paintings portray the Holy Family, and hand-carved wooden frames adorn mirrors.The largest painting, an approximately 5-foot painting of Our Lady of Guadeloupe in maroon and dark blue dress adorned with gold, greets guests as they walk up to Columbine Gallery’s second floor, where smaller sacred art surrounded by ornately carved wooden frames decorate the wall.The original paintings, created by older men ranging in age from 40 to 70 who study at the Cuzquena School of Painting, are steeped in the tradition of 17th and 18th century religious art. For hundreds of years, artists have copied a style Spanish monks and priests brought to Cuzco – the capital of the former Inca Empire. The priests used the paintings to teach indigenous people about scriptures.Since residents of Cuzco remain isolated from such cities as Lima, the artists’ style lingers in Old World tradition. Bad roads and difficult air travel can prevent people from ever leaving Cuzco; a drive to Lima can take 24 hours, Hage said.”As the roads get better, maybe this art form will disappear, but it will always have a place in people’s hearts,” Hage said. “It evokes a period of saints and a period of fervor and tradition.”It’s a meticulous art form. These are master paintings. This isn’t folk art. Every one is an original, but the themes have been handed down for several hundred years.”Though all of the paintings Hage brought back share rich, deep tones, symbols of faith and an ornate application of gold paint, each has unique characteristics.One painting blends the Virgin Mary with the ancient, pre-Inca goddess of Peru, Pachamama. Traditional depictions of the Virgin Mary clad her in cool blues and greens, while representations of Pachamama rely on warm oranges, browns and golds. This painting blends the Virgin Mary’s form into Pachamama’s color scheme, resulting in an intriguing portrayal.The display also offers etched metal crosses from El Salvador.Pieces range from $5 for small crosses to $950 for the largest painting of Our Lady of Guadeloupe. Most paintings range from $200-$450.”I think they’re so beautiful,” Hage said. “I can hardly bare to see them go.”A glimpse of what the art supportsHuts fashioned from straw mats for walls and cardboard roofs dot the barren hillside of Manchay. Whenever people find wood, they use it to support their shacks. An entire family with two to four kids – sometimes with grandparents – live in the 8-by-8-foot dwellings.The town of approximately 50,000 people has no running water. Residents buy water out of a truck, but it always contains parasites.Day workers line up at the central bus plaza to travel to Lima, while their children attend Catholic school. Despite lack of plumbing, the children’s navy jumpers and slacks and white shirts are spotless.”When we brought up the fact that there’s no running water, Father Jose’s response always was, ‘We’re poor but not dirty,'” said Frank Bumpus, a Silverthorne resident who helped build the handicap center in June.Four gutted buses make up the hospital; one for geriatrics, one for pediatrics, a back of a bus for surgery, the front for the pharmacy.Sanitation is poor, and the life expectancy for babies is very low, Hage said.Fog rolls in from the ocean, causing plenty of humidity, but the region doesn’t get rain, so the ground remains dry. Squatters first settled the barren land in the late 1970s when a guerilla group called the Shining Path, which originated in the Highlands, revolted against a corrupt Peruvian government. Highland locals didn’t join the guerilla movement, so the Shining Path became violent, killing people and overrunning villages to force cooperation, Hage said. People fled out of the mountains toward Lima and eventually settled in groups in the desert foothills of Manchay.Now the residents embrace gentler groups who come, such as Summit County locals, to implement change.About 600 children line up in rows and sing the Peruvian national anthem and a short hymn to greet Hage and the other volunteers. Residents go out of their way to cross the street, shake hands or kiss the North Americans on the cheek. During lunch, children crowd the volunteers in lines three people deep to touch, hug or find out what their name sounds like in English.”You get caught up in it,” Bumpus said. “I just thought I’d go down there to do my little work (once), but no – it’s impossible not to get caught up in it.”It costs us about $2,000 to travel there, and I asked Father Jose and the people at the school if it would be better just to donate the money. They were very emphatic that it wouldn’t be better to donate money, because they say when you come here, you teach us so much. The willingness to spend time means more and accomplishes more than $2,000 could. That’s what they say.”And so Summit County residents keep traveling to Manchay.Their next trip – which anyone can join – takes place Aug. 5-12. Volunteers will build brick walls, plaster and paint rooms.”Before the handicap center, teachers took care of mildly to severely handicapped children, but there was no place to be schooled,” Bumpus said. “This center makes them feel like they’re going to school like the rest of the kids in a classroom, not just a hut.”In addition, Hage is looking for volunteers to teach English in preschools for one week. She hopes to rotate volunteers so the children receive English classes once a week every month. Teachers don’t need to know Spanish, she said.For more information on the projects in Manchay, visit http://www.deborahhage.com. Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 245, or at knicoletti@summitdaily.com.


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