Taylor Edgar looks at a community in Peru cut off by Covid-19 lockdown

Nestled in a sacred valley in the foothills of Machu Picchu in Peru, the community of Arin is hoping for the best while looking after hostel guests stranded by COVID-19.

There is an air of being encircled in this sacred valley of the Incas, now cut off from the outside world by roadblocks. So far there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in this small community.

But in the neighbouring city of Cusco, a major transit point for people visiting the famous Machu Picchu world heritage site, 104 cases have been confirmed. Nationally, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Peru stands at 5000.

The outbreak has led to the remote valley community of Arin being placed in total lockdown, closing its access to the nearby large towns of Calca and Urubamba. 

Carlos Garavito H, general manager of an arts and research residence (KAI Residencia de Arte e Investigación), remains pragmatic despite the substantial COVID-19 measures being put in place.

“We are taking all the precautions in the town, masks, gloves and limited mobilization,” says Carlos. “Also, we can’t go to other towns because they ask us not to use vehicles for the moment. Now we are moving only by bicycle or by walking.”

By chance, when the total lockdown came into place, the KAI residence had no guests staying, so there was no immediate impact on the business. However, this doesn’t mean an opportunity to put his feet up.

Explains Carlos: “We are taking all the precautions to cover the requirements that the government is planning. Also, they are making papers in law to support artists. There are many ways to focus on what we are doing. For the moment, we are working online with fairs, contemporary art schools and galleries.

"This shift to online working is the most significant change, with the pandemic underscoring the need for digital technology. That, and complying with the government containment measures and trying to maintain as far as possible a normal life.

“While we are in total lockdown, here in the sacred valley, we are talking all the precautions to control people to not hang out, mostly at night,” Carlos explains.

“We have time to buy food and supplies in the morning, but we are very conscious of the situation, so we are spending on just what we need, not more.”

In the valley, most people work their farms and appear to be handling the situation well, Carlos believes. But he notes: “Of course, people are feeling isolated because they depend on the exchange of products in the town markets. In comparison with Lima (the capital of Peru), the situation here is controlled. We need to wait until the government gives us permission to start again.”

Meantime, Carlos must wait until life returns to normal in this corner of Peru, a valley sacred to the Incas, and well-known for its natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. The remote valley sits in the shadow of Pitusiray, one of the two “guardian” mountains of Calca province.

The valley is a breathtaking setting where visitors can work surrounded by inspirational landscapes and without distractions. Outlining the work they do at KAI, Carlos says their centre is designed to help with the development of creative projects. These projects range from research and educational projects such as audiovisual, photographic design, research in social or natural sciences, educational workshops, with particular emphasis on the Andean region.