22,000 Days Without Drinking Water
Bolivia’s populist president has vowed to lift the fortunes of the rural poor. But high on the Andean plateau, one remote community still has no access to clean water—and one man has the awesome responsibility of ensuring his people are not parched.
It's almost seven o'clock in the morning. The thermometer does not dare to peek above thirty degrees Fahrenheit but the sun bites every time it manages to find its way through the clouds of the high Andean plateau. Jacinto Sirpa, a peasant and member of the Aymara indigenous community, pulls down his camouflage hat over a woolen cap. Everything about him has the flavor of the Earth: chestnut coat, gray trousers, brown sneakers; a pair of beige gloves protects his copper hands while he ropes his old donkey, loaded with four large empty drums. Sirpa focuses his umber eyes, surrounded by wrinkles, on a distant barren slope and starts walking. He has to reach the slope, one hour walking from his home, to get some water. Just as he has done throughout his entire life. The same journey he has been repeating for sixty years now; 22,000 days without clean drinking water.
“I have never had drinking water,” says the farmer, shyly. “I have never drunk clean water.”