BY ELENA AGUILAR
It is one of the most diverse countries in the world. A multicultural country, full of traditions, gastronomy, and vast natural reserves.
Payment to the Earth
It is one of the many traditions we have, but for me it is the most important. It is a rite that was performed by the Incas and is still practiced today, where the Andean man thanks the land (Pachamama), for the products received by it. Instead, they offer him different offerings to satisfy his hunger and thirst.
This is an ancestral custom where our ancestors developed a very close bond with nature of respect, love and worship. And I believe that this is very important now that the rates of pollution on the planet are increasing, we have to become aware that the earth, nature, is our home and for being so we must be grateful and generous to her. We must always ensure that our actions leave a green mark.
INTERVIEWED BY ELEANOR PARK
What inspired you to write this piece?
I was inspired by the pride and love I feel for my country, a multicultural country, full of traditions and vast natural reserves.
What are some other traditions you celebrate? Could you explain why you view this tradition to be the most important?
The main reason why it is considered important to make payment to the land is that it establishes a very close link or bond between man and Mother Earth. Many years ago, the ancestors lived in harmony with Mother Nature, and there was no suffering for food. Today, this has become unbalanced. Due to this imbalance, the farm no longer naturally produces, and there is no longer any grass for the cattle. By making the offering to Mother Earth, a very strong bond is created between man and Mother Earth, and thanks to this, Mother Earth blesses the fields with abundant products so that man and Nature can live together.
Could you describe your experiences of what typically happens in this practice?
Pachamama Raymi is the feast of Mother Earth (payment to the earth). In the first week of August, specifically in the district of Ccatca, Cusco, the tribute is celebrated. The main date is August 1, the day when peasants do not work so that the land can rest.
To make the offering, they dig a hole in the ground where they will put all the provisions, and begin a series of prayers and songs, often accompanied by dances. The ritual ends with the burning of the offerings.
In many cases, this celebration is carried out by the Pako (Andean priest), who will be in charge of making the Haywasqa (payment to the land).
What kind of offerings are given to Pachamama to “satisfy his hunger and thirst”?
Among the offerings that should not be missing are the coca leaves that act as mediators between humans and nature, a variety of cereal seeds, unworked silver, sullus in Aymara (fetuses of llamas or sheep), chichi (fermented or unfermented beverage most commonly made from maize), wine, animal fat, candy and huairuros (seeds with symbolic and magical powers). The ritual begins with these offerings. The villagers cook in pots various tubers, drinks and huairuro seeds, which are placed underground. This cooking is a sign of respect.
Are there any particularly memorable moments you have of practicing this tradition?
The moment where the Kuraq Akulleq (Andean priest) make the offering, choose and order the three coca leaves to create k'intus, and communicate with spiritual beings.
Does this practice vary in different areas/cities of Peru?
As I said, it is an Andean custom, therefore the payment to the land is made in all the towns of the Andes mountain range, since before the Incas. And it does not vary in many respects, it is similar.
Do you know how the tradition differs between current traditions and when the Incas practiced it?
I know that the Incas celebrated this tradition in a different way than today. For them, the Pachamama (Mother Earth) was a protective God who was present in everyday life. They offered coca leaves, camelids, ceramic pieces, fine textiles and even children. This last Inca ceremony was known as the "capacocha" and with the arrival of the Spaniards, this belief did not die but coexisted with Christianity.
What does a close bond with nature, respect, love, and worship look like to you? And what do you hope people would do to preserve the earth and “leave a green mark”?
Living in harmony with nature is very important--enjoying the wonders it offers us, going out to see nature, meditating, and feeling united to it as part of God himself. Let us remember that to love God is to love his work. When we love a person, we respect what he does, and we protect him; equally, we must respect and protect nature because it is part of God himself. I understand that to survive, human beings cannot stop producing and consuming goods and services, but we must not forget to do good for the community even when it doesn’t contain self-benefit. As Jane Goodall says, "You cannot spend a single day on earth without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” So let's leave a positive ecological footprint, because it will be the legacy for future generations.
The wisest things would be to know and be aware to:
Relate children with nature from an early age.
Educate others in human and environmental values.
Promote harmony and balance between man and nature.
Consume natural foods responsibly.
Care for and preserve biodiversity.
Participate in environmental programs or campaigns.
Recycle to reintegrate the garbage.
Reduce, reuse and recycle.