By Marinel de Jesus
The Classic Inca Trail in Peru has been in operations for over 50 years. Machu Picchu is one of the 7 wonders of the world. But many tourists don’t know about the inequities that porters faced on the Inca Trail. The Porter Voice Collective (PVC), a global advocacy platform that was launched in July of 2019, conducted an independent investigation into the porter conditions on the Inca Trail by way of interviewing porters in Cusco, Peru. PVC also simultaneously began an investigation in Nepal’s Himalayas and Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro. All three regions employ the biggest number of porters. PVC is comprised of volunteers who all share the same mission: to listen to, celebrate, amplify and elevate the porter voices. The investigation revealed that all three regions share the same inequities faced by the porters.
To reach the masses and educate tourists on these issues, PVC launched a crowdfunding campaign to produce a documentary entitled KM 82. KM 82 documents the realities of the working conditions for porters, the porters’ struggles, their vision and hope— both individually and as a collective movement—for the betterment of their lives and for the well-being of their families. The film project will focus on the lives of the porters on the Classic Inca Trail, most of whom belong to Quechua-speaking communities in Cusco, Peru. The film will share a collection of stories of porters on the Inca Trail as told by them directly to the world. These stories belong to porters who have been working for decades, those who are retired, those who are relatively new to the industry, and to female porters who recently joined this industry against all odds.
Like Nepal and Tanzania, Peru has seen a rise in women porters in the past two years. PVC learned that women porters are facing hostility and discrimination on the Inca Trail which warrants regulations and laws to ensure the safety of women porters. KM 82 will address this topic, as well as, the valuable contributions of women porters to this male-dominated industry. It aims to bridge the gap between men and women porters so they can create a unified stance against the exploitative practices of companies.
The documentary will capture the porters’ personal experiences and struggles toward individual and collective efforts to change the industry. The collective effort is led by the current Porter Federation president and elected leader, Alberto Huaman Huamanhuillca, who will lead and guide the audience through this documentary as the focal point of hope for the porters, but with the kind of leadership that is also filled with its own challenges and uncertainty.
The documentary is written and produced by Marinel Malvar de Jesus, a former human rights lawyer from Washington, DC who launched her social enterprise, Peak Explorations, and her media site, Brown Gal Trekker, both of which aim to create equity and inclusion in the trekking tourism industry. Marinel teamed up with Jose Luis Palomino Escalante and Iris Vela Paredes, who are Peruvian filmmakers based in Cusco, Peru.
This film is a first of its kind as it will explore the porter working conditions in depth and utilize the porter voices to drive the story. Tourists must watch this film in order to educate themselves about where their tourism dollars go and to advocate for Workforce Equity Tourism in order to ensure the humane treatment of porters worldwide.
The crowdfunding campaign is a joint project with the women weavers and wives of the porters. Backers can purchase the textiles to support the weaving community and the creation of KM 82. Also, backers can buy a limited edition of Kula Cloth, which is a scientifically designed pee cloth for women that reduces trash and impact on the environment. This limited-edition Kula Cloth is especially designed by Celia Qispe, who is one of the female weavers. See Crowdfunding Campaign page here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/km-82/
This is a film in support of the mission of the global advocacy organization, The Porter Voice Collective.
This worthwhile initiative is fully supported by Camping for Women. Readers are urged to support KM 82: A documentary on the porter voices of Peru’s Camino Inca.