For tourists, embarking on the Inca Trail is a bucket list endeavor; an opportunity to immerse oneself in the awe-inspiring landscape of the land of the Incas. For these women porters, working the Inca Trail serves as a therapeutic journey where they can connect with each other and within.
For one woman in particular, Maxi Manuttupa, working as a porter allowed her to voice painful experiences and free herself of past trauma. The documentary that follows her journey, Dead Woman’s Pass, was co-produced by Al Jazeera and the Peruvian production company, Pacha Films, and is available on YouTube.
Maxi is a single mother, a native of Cusco and one of (too) many women who have suffered physical, emotional and sexual violence from men in their lives. In Peru, 2 out of 3 women find themselves in this scenario: suffering in silence, fearing for their life, and that of their children, with little to no support from the government or police.
In addition to cleaning houses, Maxi decides to work as a porter, and the documentary follows her first trip across the Inca Trail. Though the job of carrying the camping equipment for travelers on her back is grueling, Maxi finds the strength and motivation to confide in the other women porters (and the other women travelers) and to continue the hike until arriving at Warmiwañusqa, also known as Dead Woman’s Pass- a sacred Apu for the Indigenous people of the Andean region.
Once she arrives, Maxi prays to the Apus, gives an offering and vows that she will triumph, leave her problems behind, and live a happy life. The documentary ends with her first sight of Machu Picchu, a sacred place that she (like many Indigenous people of Cusco) had never seen before.
Watch the documentary here:
Cover photo: YouTube/Al Jazeera