Mahuaypampa is a small farming town about an hour northeast of the city of Cusco. The Andes Mountains surround the community and with the natives speaking the language of their ancestors, Quechua, it truly is a taste of authentic Peruvian culture. Over the past 5 years Cusi Travel has done a number of projects in Mahuaypampa to give back to the community and teach both its inhabitants and visitors the importance of their culture. With Spanish as the second language and the remoteness of the location, it can be difficult for the children who are born and raised there to aspire to professions outside of their community. This past year, in order to continue supporting this local community, Cusi Travel offered a 3-year scholarship in tourism to one of the graduating students. Whichever student was awarded the scholarship would receive three years of schooling to become a guide, English classes, a living stipend, and the opportunity to work with Cusi Travel in order to gain experience. There was a formal interview process and of the students who participated, it was Miriam Ylla that stood out to them the most.
Miriam is a petite, soft spoken 17-year-old who was born and raised in Mahuaypampa. Her family owns a farm and she has spent the majority of her life helping them raise animals and harvest crops, a typical practice for the members in her community. She is the youngest of 5 siblings, two sisters and three brothers, and the only one to pursue a professional career. Her parents told her about the tourism industry as she was growing up, since her father worked as a porter on the Inca Trail, and this inspired her to apply for the scholarship. Mahuaypampa is a town in which it is rare to leave and pursue a profession in another city, let alone to continue schooling after high school. For Miriam, this is an opportunity that truly was once in a lifetime. “I like working with my family and I like the countryside, I do. But I wanted a professional career and that was something I wasn’t going to find in Mahuaypampa.”
She now lives in Cusco, a city much larger in size and population than that of her hometown. She has been working for Cusi Travel for almost a year now, helping out with operations, preparing travel equipment for tours and doing tourist pickups. The latter is her favorite part of the job. “I like to meet people from different cultures and interchange ideas.” Her classes, in particular those centered around archaeology, have invoked a desire to learn more about her country’s history and the different cultures within it. Her job in Cusco didn’t always come easy to her, however, and the transition from working on the farm to working in the city has come with its challenges. With the help of Cusi Travel, she has caught on quickly and has since met people that shared information with her about their countries and encouraged a more outgoing and curious personality.
Once she has finished her schooling Miriam will be a licensed guide and will be able to speak not only Spanish and Quechua, but English as well. She will have a job in Cusi Travel and will be able to share her country’s history and culture with travelers. After she is finished with school she plans on working towards a career that will allow her to travel outside of Peru. “I want to be the kind of guide that travels from country to country. I’ll need to know a few languages to do this, six to be exact.” Miriam is very appreciative of this opportunity and looks forward to gaining more experience and improving her English while working with Cusi Travel. This scholarship has been made possible through all of the travelers who have booked with Cusi Travel, since part of the proceeds of each booking supports the Cusi Projects, including Miriam’s scholarship. Thank you for all of your support!