Thursday, February 18, 2010

Rain Rituals in Peru Practiced Since Antiquity

Many of you may remember our mention of Alejandrino Quespe, a native from Ayacucho, Peru, who is working with us in interfaith.   Alejandrino, who's native language is Quechua, is also a trained anthropologist.  Having attended our "Waters of the World" ceremony he was excited to write to me recently to tell me of some work he was doing and the discovery he had made of a water ritual (in this case for rain) that he had discovered. This ritual had been in continuous practice since before the occidental occupation of South America.

He visited 6 different villages that are very remote and about equi-distant from one another.  Until very recently they were accessible only by horse and have had very little contact with the European world. Now you can drive (I am not completely clear here) to the town (or perhaps one of the towns) but must still use horses or walk to most of the (other towns or outlying homes).  I would imagine that what Alejandrino calls "accessibility" should be translated liberally, having seen some of the "roads" in Peru.  These are generally graded, graveled dirt roads that are, when well maintained, really hard on tires and suspension. He reported that these remote villages are about two hours from one another with the same social and economic status, and roughly the same ecological location at between 3400 and 3900 meters above sea level. 

These rituals take place between September and November during the rainy season provided that the upper level lakes do not fill sufficiently with water.  He has received permission from the headman of the pueblo to tape the ritual and take steps to record it in detail in order that it not be lost.  While some of the groups are practicing this ritual in its complete form at least one of the pueblos is in danger of losing its practice. When I wrote back I asked him what support the government was giving him for this project and whether he had access to video cameras and sound equipment for the project.  His answer was disturbing.

He replied that the Peruvian government has a vested interest in promoting the Catholic religion and would prefer to see these rituals die out, so help from that quarter is not forthcoming.  He is currently looking for a private group who would be interested in helping.   Greg and I have told him that we would be glad to help tape and record should he need us.   We both feel that this is really where we can be of best service.

I shall certainly keep you updated as he keeps me informed.  Don gave him the gift of a refurbished laptop during our trip to Cuzco, and I spent some time working with him to train him in its use. We have gifted him with the funds to get him connected to the internet and his own organization will see to it that the monthly fees are paid so this is one person with whom we can keep in relatively close contact.

I will be teaching him English via Skype later this year as well though learning a new language as an adult is difficult at best.

Attached here is a link to a video of some of his work.  He is talking about the river that flows through his home town and how it used to be a large and steady flow of water in which he would fish as a child.  It was fed from a glacier high in the Andes above his town.  The fish were considered a a delicacy and were unique to that area.  Now it is dry during the summer and during the winter the weather is so warm that water is no longer conserved in snow but runs in torrents from the hills above, flooding the low lands and often washing out the bridge that spans it.

In service

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