Mamaqucha: the project trying to save Peru’s northern beaches


When we are faced with something we don’t like or something we don’t consider fair, we often complain, curse and wish there was a way to make a difference. Few of us choose to be that difference.

For Diego Jibaja Cueva, it all started when he was little. An avid surfer and always next to the sea, he learned to love and appreciate the beach, especially the ones in the north of Peru. Three years ago, he took a trip to a particularly well-known surf spot: Lobitos.

This town, located in the northern region of Piura, is known for its countless waves, stunning scenery, and warm weather. Unfortunately, what Diego found was far from the surf paradise he had hoped.

_(Photo courtesy of Mamaqucha)_

Cluttering the beach, poorly constructed hotels were ruining the surf. As Diego explained it, these types of constructions were being built right on the beach, preventing enough cross winds to form – the ones that help create the perfectly formed waves.

Trying to make quick money, residents were building these hotels on the “best” spots to give visitors the “best” views. Since the beach’s main attraction were the very waves being damaged, this was in fact driving tourists away.

Like many instances of environmental neglect in Peru, the situation in Lobitos is the result of people (not knowing better) choosing to take a shortcut to make quick money, without considering the consequences of their actions.

_(Photo courtesy of Mamaqucha)_

Diego is an optimist, however. He believes in the people of Lobitos and knows he can help them improve their quality of life by showing them a better way to coexist with the beach and the visitors it attracts. This is why he and his lovely girlfriend, Alejandra Diaz Santibañez, want to show the residents of Lobitos how to live and profit from sustainable truism.

At least that’s what I thought at first. But what Diego and Alejandra want to do goes beyond.

Imagine a place where you can go back to your roots and be one with nature; where everyone is respectful and shares with others; where we can all live in a clean, sustainable, vibrant community; where truism is the driving motor behind providing a better quality of life for everyone around.

This isn’t just a dream or some far off utopia. This is something the couple knows it can achieve and something they are working hard to make a reality.
Mamaqucha, which means ‘ocean’ in Quechua, is the name of their project. They hope to have enough funds soon to begin building in the land they received from Diego’s mom who bought it for Diego – which he jokingly refers to as “an early inheritance”.

_(Photo courtesy of Mamaqucha)_

This is where they will build their community which will focus on promoting three key elements: environmental awareness (creating a conscious community that values the natural resources and advocating its protection); social development (through activities with the community they hope to build a strong bond between them, promoting art, culture and the sport of surf); and economic livelihood (through education and their seminars on alternative building materials, they will show the people of Lobitos a better, sustainable way of making money, without damaging or hurting the environment).

Their goal is for the community of Mamaqucha to be the start of a much larger movement that will help spread awareness and help maintain Peru’s northern beaches.

_(Photo courtesy of Mamaqucha)_

The oil industry is also a threat to paradise. Locals loan out their lands for the refineries to lay hundreds of meters of metal pipes through the beach and into the ocean. Worst of all, after they are done using them, these companies waste no effort in cleaning up the pipes, poisoning the water and endangering visitors.

p=. Piura: dozens of metallic tubes in Lobitos beach

It’s urgent to have an organization that safeguards those beaches. As Diego puts it, “they are a matter of national pride,” especially now that surf is included in the Olympics, the north of Peru could be our Gold Medal Factory.

But there is still a lot of work that needs be done. Diego and Alejandra hope to first collect enough funds to build a place for volunteers to be able to go to in Lobitos. In this building they will gradually organize activities with locals, promoting beach cleanups, seminars on alternative building materials and forming alliances with community leaders.

The road to change is never easy and almost never clearly marked. For many, this is enough of a deterrent. This young couple however is a shining example of how you have to think differently to make a difference. They don’t see their efforts in Lobitos as a chore but rather their responsibility as concerned members of our society.

Now that you’ve finished the story, take a moment and ask yourself: What type of injustice am I faced with on a daily basis and what am I doing to make a difference? I already told Diego and Alejandra to save room for me.


The story behind a young couple’s dream to create a thriving community that advocates art, culture and sustainable tourism in Lobitos.