The Potato Park
Updated: Feb 8, 2021
O[My story: first trip to the potato park. Scott Montgomery, 7/30/2020 6:57:44 PM]n a sunny winter morning in 2010, in an effort to meet people from some of the high Andean communities surrounding the Sacred Valley, I shared a van with local school children and village women returning from selling their produce at a local market. The journey took me into the foothills of El Parque de la Papa, the Potato Park, the end of the road for this shared van, known as a combi. It was from the man seated across from me, a resident of the park, I learned that the Potato Park was one of Peru's most important bio-cultural reserves—an autonomous indigenous space dedicated to the cultivation of all shapes and types of the potato—1,400 varieties in this park alone.
The reserve was created to preserve the diversity of the potato, and to unify the six communities within its borders. Like other groups in the Andes, they structure their lives around the Ayllu socioeconomic system known as Ayllu, which can be understood as a local community and a clan, organized by kinship ties. Each ayllu has its own patron deity, a common ancestor, who's presence is embodied by a sacred landmark or mountain.
Fundamental to the ayllu is the concept of the ayni, or gift, offered with the expectation that it will allow for reciprocal exchange. In the Andes, ayni is a sacred force that forges unity and communal understanding. It is present in offerings and prayer, peoples' connections to the land, the movement of energy from one form to another. Those committed towards ayni believe themselves to be part of a larger unity in the cosmos. The community embodies all. To receive blessings and protection from their ancestors, members of an ayllu give offerings. The six communities in the Potato Park don't use money amongst themselves, but instead use a system of barter based from the concept of ayni.