- An Interview with Nicolasa Cartajena Milano and Norma Vargas Cartajena*
Were you born here?
How old are you, ma'am?
Can you maybe tell us a bit as far back as your childhood?
I was born here. I grew up, my parents lived here, and at the age of sixteen I went to Lima. I worked there until I returned here at age nineteen. I worked here for a few months. I didn't like it.
At the San Jose hacienda?
At the San Regis hacienda, which is now the co-op, I worked a few months. I didn't like it and I didn't continue to work. I stayed at home with my dad, my mom, and my brothers and sisters. From there, I got married at twenty-two years of age. I had twelve children. We continued to live in this house until my husband got sick. I was in bad shape for about seven years. He died and I was left with my children and my grandchildren. The one who lives on the side is my daughter. The one who lives across the street is my son.
Who did you work for when you were young?
With French people in Lima and then with the Cilloniz family.
Where did your mom and grandmother work? [End Page 397]
My dad's mom didn't work anymore when I knew her. I didn't get to meet my mom's mom. She had already passed away.
Are there some stories they may have told you about how the work system was?
Yes. People worked earning $.42 a day [exchange rate in April 2010]. Now what they earn is $4.19 or $5.59 daily. But there's no work.
Before, there was more work? In what?
There was more work. Now it's a co-op. Before, there was the hacienda with owners, like the Cillonizes. They had a good number of people who worked. The co-op has parceled out the land. Each person has his land, four or six hectares. They work it themselves, with their families. Sometimes there's work; sometimes there isn't.
If there's no work, what do men do?
Many have gone to places abroad. For instance last week, I found out that many people had left to go work.
To what country?
Well, Italy, where I have a daughter.
What was the work structure like when you worked for the Cillonizes?
Very exploited. For instance I earned $8.75 a month.
About how much would that be now?
It must be about $17.47.
What part of the hacienda did you work at?
In cleaning. I was the nanny of a twelve-year-old child. I cleaned his room. Because he was the youngest one and was very spoiled, I had to bathe him, give him his breakfast, be with him teaching him things. Anyway, the job was tough and very low paying. With the French family where I worked, my mom had also been a little girl's wet nurse. They didn't want me to work. They said I should do the housework at my house and the lady of the house would send me clothes. I missed my brothers and sisters a lot, and I couldn't be there. [End Page 398]
What were the owners of the San Regis hacienda like?
They treated us with respect. But the nephews who lived at San Jose liked to hug the girls. One day, one of them tried to kiss a girl. She broke a bottle over his head. I didn't keep working there after that.
Was that very common back then? Did it escalate to rapes?
Yes, they even had children with the Cillonizes.
Did your brothers also work at the hacienda?
No, my brothers worked in the fields...