Machu Picchu is a bucket list destination for many travelers especially trekkers and hikers but it is also a sacred Indigenous site that requires a team to visit. Popular tours offer multi-day hikes or treks where local porters carry tourists’ items like clothes, snacks and water; while other local workers set up the camping tents and kitchens for the overnight sites. Local Indigenous people are hired to carry out these tasks and most often they are not earning a living wage and face abuses from the tour companies that capitalize on their services. But a group of porters working in the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu have been organizing and fighting back to get protections for themselves and their community.
In this episode of “Spirit in the Material World,” I chatted with Marinel M. De Jesus, Brown Gal Trekker and Equity Global Treks, a women-led trekking travel company. She is also the Founder of The Porter Voice Collective to discuss her documentary, KM 82, which focuses on the workers’ rights of the indigenous Inca Trail porters who take tourists to Machu Picchu in Peru. The voices and stories of these porters are inspiring, showing the power of collective action. Marinel and I talk about her journey from human rights lawyer to “mountain nomad,” the issues of porters globally, and how we as travelers can make more conscious choices during adventure travel.
I really enjoyed our conversation about storytelling and the complexities of being a woman of color from the United States telling stories of a community that we are not a part of. We have a sensitivity and feel a kinship yet have to grapple with our own privilege and positionality. Marinel offers some insightful reflections on how she was able to connect with the community through listening and feeling — things that are not most natural as a trained lawyer that worked for years in Washington D.C.!