- Issue: Spring 2014
Every Monday, Anderson Huaymacari Pacaya leads his students through the village to pick up trash and stuff it into old rice sacks. He teaches them to use water sparingly. He makes sure they know that by protecting the trees, they are showing respect to wildlife—from the red howler monkeys that leap from branch to branch, to the snakes that sometimes scare the youngest in his school.
Their village, Nueva York—named after the New Yorker who once ran a sugar cane distillery on the land—is tiny. Here, thatched roof, open-air houses sit on either side of a pathway bisecting the village. It takes only four minutes to walk from the single-story concrete school at one end to the village entrance on the banks of the Ucayali River.
That short pathway has great symbolism for Huaymacari. As the sole elementary school teacher in Nueva York, he is dedicated to the message that a good life begins with education, moves through your home village, and can lead you out into the world.
But the importance of education wasn’t always a prevailing sentiment in Nueva York. The quality of local education was poor, likely because the village is so small and so remote. But thanks to Huaymacari, children are now being taught about ecology and the protection of natural resources for the first time.
“I saw the necessity in this village, because no one was teaching the children well,” Huaymacari said through an interpreter. So, at age 29, he left behind his work as a farmer and began a government job as a teacher, moving to Nueva York from a larger nearby town.
With a thick, tangled curtain of rain forest as his backdrop, Huaymacari instructs first through seventh grade students in a one-room schoolhouse, where the only adornment on the mint green walls is a fading vine above the chalkboard. It reminds Huaymacari of the importance of incorporating conservation into his lesson plans.
“Not many teachers have focused on conservation, but he does,” the community’s mayor boasted to a group of travelers who stopped by the village to drop off school supplies. “Ecology has become very important here because of him.”
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