Question: What do Glenn Beck, MC Hammer, and Ed McMahon have to do with indigenous Peruvian laborers in the Andes? The three celebs have all served as pitchmen for the modern day gold rush, whether hawking gold coins or encouraging Super Bowl viewers to turn their jewelry into cash.
With so much economic uncertainty in the world, investors are turning to gold to hedge against other shaky investments. The result: the price of gold has surged some 500% in the last decade. While Hammer and McMahon turn their gold medallions and golf clubs into cash, the rush is on to mine more of the precious metal from the earth. And that’s what brought 10×10 to La Rinconada, Peru.
Siting near a gold mine 17,400 feet above sea level on an Andean peak in Southeast Peru, La Riconada is home to 50,000 Peruvians struck with la fiebre de oro—or gold fever. As gold prices have risen, the population of “the highest city on earth” has doubled in the past five years.
Life in La Rinconada is the harshest our producers have seen among all their travels for the 10×10 film. The mining operations here are grossly unregulated, leaving the frozen, rocky land with sooty trails of contaminated sewage and mercury. Poisonous gases and other noxious byproducts from the goldmines, coupled with low public health standards, make life in La Rinconada physically perilous. Beyond the health challenges, violence is pervasive in this lawless community, with reports of half a dozen homicides per month.
As you can imagine, La Rinconada is especially unsuitable for kids. We witnessed children of miners, who are often laborers themselves, trekking across freezing pools of sewage every day to go to school. With a glint of hope of someday getting off the mountain, their education will be the ticket to a different life.
Since we’ve only made one trip to Peru so far, we don’t yet have a formal way for you to take action and help educate girls so they escape La Rinconada. But we’re heading back there next week. Join our mailing list and we will be sure to let know how you can help in La Rinconada.
Photos by Martha Adams, 10×10