A Tribute to Madre Antonia

She was hailed by the likes of nobel prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa as “the lady of the Colca Canyon”, while an article published in renowned British newspaper the Observer in 1999 echoed that Madre Antonia was one indomitable spirit in the Andes that dedicated her heart and soul to helping those less fortunate than her.

A tribute to Madre Antonia, The Lady of the Colca Canyon

July 2011 marks the first anniversary of the death of Madre Antonia. An old friend of Aracari, she sadly passed away in July of last year. But she has left us with an incredible legacy of whole-heartedness, determination and, at times, outright stubbornness.

A Tribute to Madre Antonia, Aracari Travel

A nun hailing from the Maryknoll Order of the Bronx in New York, Madre Antonia later moved to Peru, and settled in the Colca Canyon in the early 1970’s. Over the course of some 40 years, and right up until her death last year, she built a reputation locally as a woman who would give her left arm to help the poor.

Supporting those less fortunate

She provided warm food for many hungry mouths whilst harrying those who perpetrated domestic abuse; she provided vital medical assistance whilst seeking retribution for local wrongdoers; she championed the causes of locals whilst uncovering theft from the church. In the face of death threats and in spite of hostility, she continued ever more determined in fighting injustice in the communities of Colca.

Yanque Soup Kitchen

Perhaps her most remarkable feat, Madre Antonia set up a soup kitchen in the village of Yanque, providing as many as 1,000 people with a 5am breakfast of bread and thick soup made from fresh vegetables that she had devotedly nurtured in her own fields and adobe greenhouses. This would often be the only meal of the day. And in one oft-revered tale, very telling of her stoutness, she stood up to a trio of village bullies, standing on tiptoe to punch the ringleader in the face and warding off their threats to the community.

Marisol Mosquera of Aracari was a good friend of Madre Antonia’s, and to mark one year since her death, we dedicate this article to her memory and legacy. It is an honour for us to say that we were able to give many of our guests the opportunity to meet her, and to see with their own eyes the remarkable work that she did.

To find out more about Madre Antonia, read the 1999 Observer article by Julian Clough In the Shadow of the Condor, or if you read Spanish have a look at Vargas Llosa’s 2006 piece in El Comercio Antonia y los cóndores.

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