For the first time in the Pan American Flame route across Peru, people with an impairment raised the torch to illuminate us all. Six people participated and became a part of the history of the first Pan American and Parapan American Games held in Peru.
Tarapoto welcomed the Lima 2019 Games Flame in a very unique way. First, the relay covered a distance of 26 km, the longest to date. There were a 144 torchbearers in total, including qualified athletes, authorities and citizens that do social work. Their stories are worthy of praise. For example, the story of Jorge Coriat, who created a non-profit football school to help children stay on a good path and, as he said, train the successors of Tarapoto native, Miguel Trauco.
School teacher and second torchbearer, Irma Sangama, also has a life story worth knowing. She had an unfortunate accident while traveling in a mototaxi two years ago that left her in a wheelchair and ended her days of amateur basketball. However, Irma fought against adversity. She had five hip and leg surgeries and is now an example of perseverance to hundreds of students who praise their teacher’s recovery.
Each torchbearer has a story that makes them worthy of carrying the torch and illuminating Peru, but what was seen in Tarapoto was more than just a beam of light. When Naomi Rengifo, a 19-year-old with an impairment, raised the torch, the flame shone brighter than the sun in her hand. “I’m an athlete, but I also know how to pose,” Naomi said charmingly, next to principal Teodosia Alegría of the Centro Educación Especial 0001 in Tarapoto.
The principal’s dreams came true as six of her students participated in the torch relay of the Lima 2019 Pan American Games. Samy Navarro, Temístocles Alegría, Stefano Arévalo, Carlos Manuel Flores, Alessandro Rospigliosi and Naomi Rengifo, who all have an impairment, had the chance to raise the Pan American Torch and be cheered on by those in the Main Square while they danced to songs from the Peruvian jungle, just minutes before the cauldron was lit.
To add even more joy to the Pan American celebration in Tarapoto, the last torchbearer was Luz Vela Marina, the principal of the Centro de Educación Especial 0002 of Moyobamba. Luz has 44 students and some of them traveled two hours to Tarapoto to hug their principal while she lit the cauldron. In the end, the teenagers with an impairment of the Tarapoto and Moyobamba schools were happy to have played such an important role in this story that began with the arrival of the Pan American Flame.