Things That Matter

Husband Is Forced To Carry His 81-Year-Old Wife Six Hours To Collect Her Pension Because The Government Has Failed Them

Sometimes we read stories on the Internet that reveal the best and the worst of humanity. Such a case happened in Peru, a country that, like most places in Latin America, presents disgusting socioeconomic inequality.

Yes, you have the high-end restaurants in Lima that are ranked as some of the best in the world and are over $100 for a tasting menu, but you also have the rural indigenous populations living in poverty. For decades, indigenous Peruvians have been dealt a terrible hand and regardless of who sits in government (and Peru has gone through everything, from neoliberal bullies to even a president of indigenous origin), they are often forgotten. 

A recent story brought to light the precarious situation in which millions of Peruvians (and Latin Americans) are forced to do the impossible to make ends meet. 

She is 81-years-old, he is 77-years-old, and they are alone in the world, so he had to carry his sick wife so she could collect her pension.

Peruvian social media was recently shocked by the story of Ricardo Campos Haro and his sick wife, Victoria Vega Medina. Every two months, the couple takes a perilous three hour journey so Victoria can collect her pension. He carries his wife using a large cloth and keeping the balance with a cane. Ricardo believes that a bus ride would be detrimental to his wife’s health.

In an interview, the man said that if there is a car crash his wife might not survive it and that when she travels on a vehicle she gets a terrible nausea that cannot be controlled with medicine. Then there is a three hour journey back home. The pension amounts to 250 Peruvian soles, which is roughly $75 USD. Yes, you read that right. Next time you have a #firstworldproblem remember this figure. Most of the world’s population lives on that or less. 

This story isn’t “sweet”: it is an indication that there is something seriously wrong with the system.

Ricardo and Victoria travel from the town of Queros to Tayabamba, the capital city of the province of Pataz. Some in social media romanticized this story as an example of eternal love, of the real commitment of a marriage en la salud y en la enfermedad. But the fact is that no one should have to endure this kind of pain just to survive. There is something wrong with a system that makes people risk their lives and shed any ounce of dignity for a government allowance that is barely enough to get by. There are a little over 3 million senior citizens in Peru (over 60), which represents roughly 10% of the population. 

Once Ricardo became famous online, he was granted a power of attorney to collect his wife’s pension. 

After their case became viral on social media and was broadcast on news channels, the director of the Pension 65 program, of which Victoria is a beneficiary, provided Ricardo with a power of attorney to collect his wife’s pension by himself. In an interview, he stated that he had tried to sort out the paperwork but it was not possible for him to work within the time frame that the office demanded. There also needs to be better information programs for older folks to understand bureaucratic processes, particularly if they live in a precarious situation. 

This seems like a happy ending, but it is far from ideal.

 Credit: YouTube. Diario El Comercio videos

Ricardo himself is vulnerable, an elderly citizen who should be treated with more respect and dignity. He is an elder, caray! In an interview, he said that his own body “is completely falling apart”. The mountain area of La Libertad (quite an ironic name, meaning Freedom) in Peru’s Northwest is one of the prime examples of Latin American inequality. Many of the older folk that need to collect their checks also face adversity and are impaired when it comes to freedom of movement.

But the story triggered online discussions around the availability of social programs to the dispossessed.

We like this user’s take on the situation: people are citizens, and those who are poor need much more help. She also pointed out that far from being the exception, seeing elderly people travelling great distances to collect their checks is the norm. It is also common to see long queues in the state owned bank on paydays. There are over 500,000 senior citizens in the program. Other users asked if this is what the Peruvian government judges as justice when it comes to aid programs. According to census data, 21.7% of the Peruvian population lives in poverty. In rural mountain areas, however, the figure reaches 48%.

The ‘Sahuaraura’ Manuscript, An Ancient Peruvian Document That Was Thought Lost—Was Found Just Last Week, Over 100 Years Later

Things That Matter

The ‘Sahuaraura’ Manuscript, An Ancient Peruvian Document That Was Thought Lost—Was Found Just Last Week, Over 100 Years Later

BBC / Twitter

The Sahuaraura manuscript is considered a fundamental part of Peruvian history and culture. This piece Peruvian history, written by hand, was lost for a century and a half. Placed under the care of the then Public Library of Lima, the document disappeared in 1883 inexplicably—and now, over a hundred years later, it’s been found.

A part of the history of Peru, written by hand, was lost for a century and a half.

Peru National Library

During the Pacific War from (between 1879 and 1883), a manuscript of great value, was lost. Placed under the safekeeping of the then Public Library of Lima, the document was mysteriously lost.

“Recuerdos de la monarquía peruana, ó bosquejo de la historia de los incas”

Twitter @dossieroficial

The document titled “Recuerdos de la monarquía peruana,ó bosquejo de la historia de los incas” was a historical treaties written by hand by the priest, scholar and national hero, ‘Justo Sahuaraura Inca’, whom, it was believed, was a descendant of the sovereign, Huayna Capac, third Sapan Inka of the Inca Empire, born in Tumipampa and the second to last ruler over the Tahuantinsuyo empire.

The document disappeared for nearly 150 years.

twitter @bibliotecaperu

It wasn’t until 2015, when, by chance, the Sahuaraura manuscript was found thousands of kilometers away. The document was lost for nearly 150 years, nowhere to be found.

It was discovered in Brazil

instagram @shane.lassen.russlyonsedona

As it turned out, a family in Sao Paulo, had had it in their possession for over four decades —and hoped to sell it in the U.S. during a high profile auction by the renowned auction house, Sotheby’s.

Peruvian authorities are organizing an exhibition to show the document publicly in celebration of its return to Peru.

twitter @laurasolete123

After four years of formalities and paperwork, the Sahuaraura manuscript is finally back where it disappeared from, the now National Library of Perú. And to celebrate its return, authorities have organized an exhibition to show the document publicly for the first time. The return of the document took place just last week, and it was amongst 800 other historical and archaeological pieces including Incan ceramics, textiles and bibliographic materials that were all stolen decades ago —and that the Peruvian government finally located and retrieved from 6 different countries.

Of all the objects rescued, the manuscript holds a place of special importance for Peruvian history.

Peru National Library

The Sahuaraura text is considered a fundamental part of Peruvian historiography and the cultural value of the manuscript is ‘incalculable’. “Only this copy exists,” explained the Ministry of Peruvian Culture, Francesco Petrozzi, “and it tells us, very clearly, about a period in our history that we must all know about and study closely.”

It took, Sahuaraura, a member and descendant of the Incan noble family, years of research, consulting archives and documents —now lost— to be able to construct his primal history of Peru with data cited, very rarely, on other works about the arrival of Spanish conquistadors into this region of the continent.

The Sahuaraura manuscript includes an illustrated genealogy study.

twitter @peruturismo

The book also goes into great detail about the genealogy of the rulers of the vast pre-columbian territories that conformed the Incan empire with its capital in Cusco, which provides a huge insight into the history of the region to modern researchers.

The manuscript details Peruvian history, from the foundations of the empire, until the largest indigenous rebellion against Spanish rule in the region.

twitter @bibliotecaperu

The text starts from Manco Cápac, who was thought to be the first ruler and founder of the Incan culture, and follows history all the way up to Túpac Amaru, the indigenous leader who fronted the largest anti-colonial rebellion in Latin America in the XVIII century.

What is known of Sahuaraura, the scholar himself?

Museo Histórico Regional de Cusco

The priest and scholar is an icon of Peruvian culture and history. He was born towards the end of the XVIII century and he was the son of a leader of one of the regions of Cusco, which is why some chroniclers believe he belonged to the highest lines of Incan nobility.  He became a priest and joined the Catholic church, which named him synodal examiner of the bishopric and general liaison with six provinces of Cusco.

It is said that he received Simon Bolivar himself —a Venezuelan military and political leader who led the independence of what are currently the states of Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Panama from the Spanish Empire —in his own house, and that the libertador gave him a medal for his services toward the freedom of Peru.

Sahuaraura also documented important literary works of the Incan empire in his works.

instagram @manu_elera

Among the many other manuscripts that the scholar worked on, and that also compile different aspects of Incan history, there is a literary anthology of the empire. This document includes the codex of Ollantay drama, considered by some, the most ancient expression of Quechua literature.

Sahuaraura himself went missing.

instagram @purochucho

Nothing is known about the death of this scholar. Sahuaraura himself went missing from Peruvian history at a time unknown. All that is known is that he retired somewhere in Cusco, and no one ever knew anything about him after. There is no information on the place or date of his death.

Google Awards Peruvian Scientist For Her Research That Could Change How People Are Diagnosed

Fierce

Google Awards Peruvian Scientist For Her Research That Could Change How People Are Diagnosed

autismspeaks / Instagram / Macarena Vittet / Facebook

As we near the end of a decade, Google has awarded $500,000 in funding to two Peruvian scientists to continue their quest to use artificial intelligence to diagnose autism, a method that would be affordable and accessible for underprivileged communities. The Google Research Awards for Latin America (LARA) aims to elevate world-class Latin American researchers in academia and their students by funding a selection of cutting-edge projects. This year, the Peruvian University Cayetano Heredia produced the seventh annual awards winners, esteemed researcher Mirko Zimic and his 27-year-old student Macarena Vittet. 

The research duo was awarded $500,000 to fund another two years of research and development of a portable, non-invasive system to diagnose autism at an early age for low-income children.

Over the next two years, Mirko Zimic and Macarena Vittet will now be able to produce a product that will diagnose autism in just two minutes.

CREDIT: MACARENA VITTET / FACEBOOK

According to Andina, the award-winning research will eventually produce a portable system that will record eye movements while the child watches two videos. The eye movements are presumed to signify where the child’s attention is grabbed. The system will also analyze facial gestures to measure emotions. Combined, these measurements are meant to detect neurological abnormality in the child in less than two minutes, and without any highly specialized training. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be difficult to diagnose since there is no one medical test. Diagnosing ASD is a lengthy two-step process in the United States. A doctor might rely on parents’ assessment of their child’s behavior along with their own developmental screening. During the screening, the doctor would talk and play with the child and observe how they learn, speak, behave, and move. The second step is a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation, which might include “a hearing and vision screening, genetic testing, neurological testing, and other medical testing,” according to the CDC. The evaluation is meant to be thorough and likely done by specialists like a Developmental Pediatrician, Child Neurologist or Child Psychologist.

Often, the kind of extensive, specialized screening processes to diagnose ASD is not available to low-income children.

CREDIT: @INVESTIGAUPCH / TWITTER

It is a universal truth that affordable and fair access to healthcare is highly correlated with wealth. Wealthy, urban areas are often where specialized doctors congregate. For low-income families, the burden of travel expenses and the ability to take time off to transport their children to meet with an ASD specialist may be impossible. While facial recognition technology has become a controversial topic as governments across the globe begin to rely on the technology to monitor its citizens, these Peruvian scientists are putting the technology to good use. 

The researchers’ next task is to standardize the algorithm that will be used to diagnose ASD. Treatment for any disease is almost always preceded with a diagnosis. Developing a tool that doesn’t require extensive education for the medical provider to use, or extensive time for the parent and child will allow for the most vulnerable populations to get the diagnoses they need to get help.

Google chose the autism diagnosis project as the winner out of 670 applications.

CREDIT: MACARENA VITTET / FACEBOOK

Vittet is currently working towards her Master’s degree in Public Health at University Cayetano Heredia but has been working in ASD diagnosis in children since 2017. Alongside research to aid in early diagnosis, Vittet wants to work to create public policy that supports parents of children with ASD.

“I also aim to work towards the development of measures and policies that can support both the parents of children with ASD and the children, themselves, leading them to have better performance and allowing them to integrate into society. I believe that research in this field is crucial especially in countries like Peru, where mental health, despite its drastic impact on society, is not yet a priority,” Vittet said on her LinkedIn page.

“Let’s hope that we can obtain a result that will fill a gap within a community that is not well-known in the country,” Vittet told Andina.

Nearly half of Google’s award recipients have focused their research on creating health tools.

CREDIT: @UCINOTICIAS_PE / TWITTER

Engineering Director of Google Latin America, Berthier Ribeiro-Nieto, told Andina that “Almost half of the projects awarded by Google use health technology tools. Alongside Zimic and Vittet’s award are 24 other winning projects of the Google LARA 2019. The country with the highest number of representative winners was Brazil, with 15 winning projects, followed by Colombia with five winning projects, Chile with two, and Peru with one winning project. “All these initiatives are aimed at solving various problems that affect people, such as skin cancer classification, automatic detection of Aedes aegypti breeding areas, pest detection, lung nodules detection and more,” Ribeiro-Neto told the outlet. Felicidades!

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