Peru – Salesian riverboats: from "Pekepeke" to "María Auxiliadora"

27 December 2017

(ANS - Yurimaguas) - "When the ship sailed from Genoa, I experienced one of the most beautiful moments of my life. As the ship moves away from the port, with immense slowness, one feels that everything is dying. Your friendships, your land, your people die. I remember praying, 'Lord, I lost everything. Now I have nothing but You.'" These are the words of Salesian Fr Luigi Bolla, a missionary who, to bring the Word of God, travelled thousands of kilometers in the Amazon jungle between Peru and Ecuador, often sailing aboard a small boat known as "Pekepeke."

"From Pekepeke to María Auxiliadora" is a title that clearly expresses the story of over 50 years of missionary work in the Amazon. Fr Bolla first arrived in Peru in 1984 and settled in Kuyuntsa, a city located in the district of Barranca, province of Datem del Marañon, Loreto region.

"Yankuam Jintia", or Twilight, as the Amazon natives called the Salesian, travelled from one place to another, walking in the rain and mud of the forest, or on the river. His only vehicle was the "pekepeke", a boat capable of carrying only a few people throughout their journey with the sound that gave rise to its name: peke-peke-peke-peke ...

The Salesians of Peru, who continue the missionary work of Fr Bolla in that region, with the help of the Don Bosco Foundation of Peru, have succeeded in acquiring a new boat.

Fr Román Olesinski, SDB, narrates: "the boat we have inaugurated and blessed is called 'María Auxiliadora' and will be destined for long journeys on the river. It is our only means of transport to reach some otherwise inaccessible places in the Amazon.

The visits to each community are called itinerant and represent pastoral visits of animation and evangelization that take place in all the indigenous Christian communities located on the banks of the river. Thanks to the new boat, we will reach over 120 communities. These are visits that last for 3 weeks and are an opportunity to visit schools and animate young people."

The María Auxiliadora is also a house," says Fr Olesinski. "We navigate from one community to the next. On the boat we sleep, we cook. It is a floating and missionary house. Now we will no longer hear the 'peke-peke-peke-peke' sound for hours and hours because it's the 'María Auxiliadora' that accompanies us now."


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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