In the two weeks leading up to Mother’s Day, we could tell that this holiday has unprecedented significance here in Cusco.
Students from all of our schools were whispering about surprise parties, dance performances, and the gifts they planned to present to their beloved mamas. As we traveled throughout the city, celebrations were in full bloom.
Comparable to the market tents erected during the Christmas festival, the entire block surrounding San Pedro Market was a sea of pink and red. Giant banners were displayed shouting “Feliz día, mama!” and the market was skirted with tents selling pottery, sweets, and other goods adorned in hearts. It was as if the Valentine’s Day section of your local Walgreens or Target exploded all over the streets.
To contribute, we planned a Mother’s Day field trip for one of our schools. We decided to take Los Nogales rock climbing, inviting girls and mothers (or whoever their mother figure might be) to join us at a site just above some of the popular ruins in Cusco. The goal was to have the girls and their mothers climb and support one another in a celebration of moms and strong women alike.
The day started out stellar.
From D2, the climbing club in Cusco, Nadher and Mayra volunteered to accompany us to teach the girls how to climb. We loaded up the van with gear, food, and excited faces and set off for the mountains.
When we arrived, we sat for a quick safety lesson led by Mayra. She explained the importance of the harnesses, helmets, and adequate communication. We selected our first couple of volunteers, and once the routes were set up, got them climbing.
The girls were as enthusiastic as they were terrified. They were stoked to get their feet off the ground and learn to trust their harnesses and Rachel and I as their belayers. Every chica hit a point where they realized just how high up they were, allowing a moment of panic to set in. “No puedo, profe, no puedo!” they’d exclaim, clinging to the crag like their life depended on it.
“Si, tu puedes. Respira, descansa, y siga,” we’d say. In a rare moment of following directions, they sat back in their harnesses, breathed, looked for their next hold, and began again. Having their moms (and a sister and abuela) there added an extra level of comfort. They were supportive and excited to watch their littles push themselves higher and higher, and their littles were driven to make them proud.
We had just one girl reach the top on her first try; Alina, who had been telling herself she could not do it even before she began. She came down shaking, but with a huge smile on her face. I know that had she and the rest of her teammates been given a second opportunity, they would have crushed the second route too.
Unfortunately, the weather had other plans for us. The pesky cloud that had been looming over all morning finally opened up on us. Rain and hail poured down as we ran to a nearby cave to take cover and wait for transportation to arrive.
Despite this, the girls were still in high spirits. We spent the 45 minute wait playing word games and giggling at ourselves. We shared fruit and huddled close. I was really proud of how positive the girls remained, how excited they were to talk about the progress they had made on their first climb with their moms, and how much they looked forward to doing it again.
Thank you to our D2 climbing pals, Nadher and Mayra. Thank you to our girls and their mothers for making what could have been a miserable afternoon memorable and fun. Thank you to all of our mothers out there raising strong girls who keep climbing. Happy Mother’s Day!