The Living Inca Heritage by Peter Cloudsley


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The Living Inca Heritage by Peter Cloudsley

INCA and pre-Inca cultures are generally assigned to the realms of history,incarnate only in Machu Picchu and other famous sites. Yet the Peruvian Indians have doggedly preserved some of the ritual beliefs of their ancestors through fiestas, in spite of attempts to suppress them by colonial and religious authorities.

Peter Cloudsley is carrying out research for the Museum of Mankind on Andean musical traditions in southern Peru and the expedition on which this article is based was funded in part by the Emslie Horniman Anthroplogical Scholarship Fund and the Rivendell Trust.

Peter Cloudsley is a musicologist and writer who, since 1980, has created an archive of traditional music and interviews in Peru and collected for the British Museum. He published A Survey of Music in Peru in 1993, and two CDs: Fiesta Music from Peru (2000) and Shamans of Peru (2002). He established the Amazon Retreat Centre in Mishana in 2004.Co-Author of The Ayahuasca Visions of Pablo Amaringo (2011) published by Inner Traditions.

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The Living Inca Heritage by Peter Cloudsley

  1. 1. T H E LIVING INCA HERITAGE Peter Cloudsley witnesses Peruvian Indian fiestas I NCA and pre-Inca cultures are gener- ally assigned to the realms of history, incarnate only in Machu Picchu and other famous sites. Yet the Peruvian Indians have doggedly preserved some of the ritual beliefs of their ancestors through fiestas, in spite of attempts to suppress them by colonial and religious authorities. The fiestas which can be seen in Peru today are the product of a long historical process. Many have Inca or pre-Inca ori- gins, and have been gradually transformed over the centuries through persecution or adoption into the Roman Catholic calen- dar. Other fiestas date from Colonial or Republican times but, today, some are losing out in competition with television, radio and records. Nevertheless, the underlying beliefs and mythologies of these fiestas have, in many cases, persisted, with the formal sponsorship of the Roman Catholic Church. One example of this is the pilgrimage of Qoyllur Riti, The Star of the Snow, which takes place in the bitterly cold Sinakara Valley near Cuzco, at 4500 metres above sea level. For four days and three nights, this desolate place becomes the centre of immense* activity. Over 10,000 pilgrims - Indian campesinos, or peasants and, to a lesser extent, Mestizos of mixed Indian and Spanish ancestry - unite here. Many of them have to walk for two or three days from their villages. The pilgrimage o f Qoyllor Riti occurs high in t h e bleak Sinakara Valley. For f o u r days t h e people, some dressed as Chunchos or j u n g l e Indians (top) w h o are believed t o be t h e Incas ancestors, dance t h e i r w a y up and d o w n t h e valley (above r i g h t ) . Mestizos, people o f mixed Spanish and Indian o r i g i n , (right) t a k e a meal in a f o o d t e n t . On t h e t h i r d day, t h e p i l g r i m s c l i m b t o t h e glacier t o c u t o u t a b l o c k of ice w h i c h t h e y carry d o w n t h e valley (far r i g h t ) , t h e w a t e r f r o m w h i c h is believed t o have magical and medicinal properties84 THE GEOGRAPHICAL MAGAZINE
  3. 3. T H E LIVING INCA HERITAGE The valley is filled with a profusion of temporary shelters and smoky camp fires. The people dance tirelessly day and night throughout the fiesta. The repeating rhythm: J J J pervades the sub- conscious. Whenever I woke in my tent I would hear the drums throbbing monoto- nously and insistently. The atmosphere is truly Indian and pre-Christian. Endless troops of musicians and dancers in bril- liantly coloured costumes snake their way up and down the valley as if preparations were being made for some impending revelation. It is, in fact, preparation for the summer solstice. At night these lines of people are illuminated by candles. A T dawn on the third day, the pil- cier, which overlooks the festivi- each one carves out a lump of ice which he carries on his back down to the valley. The ice is melted down and used to prepare a sweet barley drink in which everyone participates. The unused water is kept throughout the year for its magical and medicinal properties. Throughout these ceremonies, mass is regularly held in the little corrugated iron roofed church which stands in the centre of the valley surrounded by encampments. For the Church, what is being commemo- rated is the miracle of The Apparition of the Lord of Qoyllur Riti in 1780. This was the year in which the Spanish finally crushed the Indian peasant revolt led by Tupac Amaru I I . The nearness of the Inca ruins and the nature of the customs which persist to this day, suggest that Qoyllor Riti was a sacred place long before this date and that the holiday is merely a substitute for a pre- Conquest rite. This was a ploy that the Church frequently used to Christianize the Indians. Legends similar to that of Qoyllor Riti have been discovered in other parts of Peru - Inca beliefs were a religious threat to the Church while being a political threat to the Spanish Colony. Thus suppression or substitution offiestassuch as these were important to both Church and State. The time of year and the geographical location of the fiesta of Qoyllor Riti are both significant, especially when it is re- membered that the Incas were great astro- nomers. Today the date of the pilgrimage has been suitably tied in with Corpus Christi, which is a movable feast depending on the lunar cycle. However, it seems likely that the fiesta was originally held just before the summer solstice. According to a 17th-century priest, one of the main fo- cuses of Inca worship was the Pleiades, the constellation of the Seven Sisters. In the southern hemisphere, the Pleiades dis-86 THE GEOGRAPHICAL MAGAZINE
  4. 4. (Top, left) f l a m b o y a n t head-dress t o p so f f the c o l o u r f u l t r a d i t i o n a l c l o t h i n gw o r n by t h e f u l l - b l o o d e d Indianinhabitants of Taquile at t h e i r Fiesta o fSan Juan. They c o n d u c t their o w nreligious ceremonies ( b o t t o m , left). Thew o m e n dance separately (near, top)f r o m the men w h o play s t r i n g e di n s t r u m e n t s and panpipes. Taquile menk n i t their o w n caps (near, b o t t o m ) , theirfine belts are w o v e n by t h e w o m e nappear from sight around the end of Apriland return in mid-June to announce thesolstsice. So this was probably a key pointon the Inca calendar - the birth of the NewYear. The fiesta of Qoyllor Riti is noteworthyfor its splendid setting in a valley over-looked by three shining glaciers. Lying dueeast of Cuzco, it was on one of the lineswhich divided the four quarters, or suyos,of the Empire. This line marked the borderbetween Antisuyo and Collasuyo. Thevalley is situated on the eastern side of theAndes near their steep descent into thejungle. Here the Incas believed theirancestors, the Chunchos, or jungle Indi-ans, to have evolved. Few fiestas are as atavistic and as easilyinterpreted as Qoyllor Riti. South ofCuzco on the Peruvian altiplano, by theshores of Lake Titicaca, there survives apractice which goes back to pre-Inca times.This is the custom of playing panpipeswhich is associated with nearly all thefiestas of the region. The panpipes date atleast as far back as the Moche culture ofthe north coast of Peru (500 BC - 800 A D ) .This civilization developed a sophisticatedtechnology of making ceramic panpipes.Other materials such as feathers, bones,wood and cane were also used. It is clear from ceramic illustrations inmuseums, that the Mochica had alreadydeveloped the technique, used to this day,of playing the panpipes in pairs. That is,the notes of the scale alternate betweentwo sets of pipes played by two differentmusicians. Necessarily, the music takes onthe form of a dialogue as it still does today.P ANPIPES were obviously sacred instruments to the Moche people, just as the lute is to Arabs. The duality symbolized by the dialoguebetween the two halves of the instrumentwas probably an important aspect of itssignificance. The next development in panpipe play-ing was achieved by the Nazca civilization.This was the evolution of orchestras madeup of dozens of musicians and involving theuse of registers, like a church organ. Thepitches of the different registers differ byan octave. Therefore, going down theregisters, each pipe is twice the length ofthe previous one in the series. One of the best places in which to seepanpipe dances today is the Island ofTaquile. This lies in the legendary LakeTiticaca, a three hour journey by motorlaunch from the mainland town of Puno.Taquile measures approximately 7 km by THE GEOGRAPHICAL MAGAZINE 87
  5. 5. T H E LIVING INCA HERITAGE 2.5 km and its 1000 inhabitants are all Quechua-speaking Indians. The commun- ity has benefited from its remoteness. More than anywhere else on the altiplano it has conserved its collective organization. As in Inca times, the inhabitants are divided into six suyos or sub-communities, who cultivate the land co-operatiVely and practice crop rotation. The islanders do their own policing and elect their own mayors and governors by popular vote. They have managed to avoid having their tourist asset exploited by Mestizo outsid- ers, and run their own motor boat service to the mainland. A l l the fiestas of Taquile are part of the Christian calendar, but the islanders, espe- cially the older generation, believe in is indescribable. The remainder of the Peruvian altiplano pre-Columbian gods such as the God of the The fiestas on Taquile differ from most is divided into Aymara and Quechua- Sun. The players, or sikuris, occupy a of those in the rest of Peru in that there are speaking zones. The city of Puno is central role in most fiestas and their no spectators - although there may be a Quechua-speaking but, at fiestas such as orchestras include all four registers of the tourist or a foreign photographer now that Manco Ccapacs day and Candelaria, both panpipes. The timbre of each set of pan- the islands reputation is spreading. At Aymara and Quechua-speaking Indians pipes is further enriched by the addition of most fiestas there are spectators, vendors participate, bringing their distinct dances a row of resonating pipes. These are the and other non-participating elements. and music. The Indian culture of this same length as the fundamental pipes, but These reflect the wide variety of social class region began long before the Tiahuanaco are open-ended and therefore produce a and race which exists today in the Andes. and Pucara civilizations which have left distinct harmonic series. The sheer volume The unusual degree of community con- impressive ruins in Silustani, Pucara and in of sound of a panpipe orchestra of some 40 sciousness which persists on Taquile has sites beside the lake itself. sikuris accompanied by the dead thudding maintained an exceptional level of equality Indeed, the Lake Titicaca basin played rhythm of the enormous sheep-skin drums amongst the community. host to the earliest migrants from the88 THE GEOGRAPHICAL MAGAZINE
  6. 6. | indigenous ceremonies to be conducted by the Indians themselves; in their sermons at ! subsequent masses, they may try to inject a [ Christian interpretation into the events of the day. I once heard a sermon in which the priest suggested to his congregation that they ought to invest some of the immense effort and cost of the days festivities in more permanent and bene- ficial work. As in the case of Qoyllor Riti, it is hard to tell what the Indians really believe. While continuing to worship the sun, the moon and the mountains, they have been forced into adopting Catholic ritual prac- tices. W HEN Indians kneel in church before the altar, and kiss the ground, who can say whether they are worshipping Christ or Pachamama, the Goddess of the Earth? Similarly, while the dances appear to be honouring the Virgin and the Saints, who can say what the dancers are really thinking? Many pagan rituals, such as payment to the Pachamama, are openly practised to- day. Gone are the days of the Inquisition which severely punished such activities. In recent years the clergy have stopped pre- tending that these rituals do not take place, provided that the Indians also take part in official Church ceremonies. The Popes planned visit to Peru in(Top left) music ensemble in t h e village towns and villages. Such distinctions can February this year has been anticipatedof Checacupe t a k e part in a carnival. become blurred at fiestas in Puno itself as with great enthusiasm. It will be celebratedTraditional musicians are an essential many Indians come in from outlying areas. by innumerable fiestas. The people ofelement in Peruvian Indian fiestas and As on the Island of Taquile, life in the Paucartambo are preparing to bring theircarnivals. ( B o t t o m left) Manco Ccapacs Indian communities of the altiplano is Virgin of Carmen to Cuzco so that thelegendary landing at t h e c i t y of Puno o nt h e shores of Lake Titicaca is re-enacted highly collectivized. Peasants organize Pope may bless her. Paucartambo is aboutevery year. M a n c o Ccapac w a s t h e f i r s t themselves into groups, and work on one four hours by lorry from Cuzco. The muchInca and is greeted by Indians f r o m anothers land, common land, or in public venerated Virgin of Carmen plays a centralmiles around. (Above) Indian f a m i l y works. The community assures the future role in a myth which is enacted every yearrests d u r i n g a fiesta of each individual. Similarly, when it com- by the inhabitants of Paucartambo. The es to the organization of festivities, the drama, which involves local history, takesAmazon River Basin who hunted wild whole community takes responsibility and the form of a ritual battle between Collas,cameloids. The descendants of these peo- provides the food and drink. The same Indians from the high Puna, and theple have preserved their culture in their spirit also operates in the choreography of Chunchos. The Chunchos invariably defeatmusic and dance, and in their magnificent the dances. Unlike the dances of the West, the Collas and succeed in abducting theircostumes, which are worn at fiesta time. which can be performed by a couple or beautiful Virgin. Despite a continual process of evolution, even an individual, fiesta dances require Despite the humiliation that Indian peo-which has destroyed and created many new the participation of everyone present. ple have suffered over the centuries, theydances, more than 100 dances are still The significance of most dances is rooted have managed to retain their dignity. Theperformed today. Some have variants in the myths and legends of the pre- living traditions which can be observed atwhich take different names according to Columbian religion. Cintakana is a dance fiesta time represent an important aspect ofwhere they are performed. For example, in homage to the sacred bird Lulli, a the self respect of these serene and gentlethe sikuris mentioned above is elsewhere symbol of peace. According to Aymara people. They have managed to avoid thecalled morenada or diablada. legend, Lulli would come to announce worst excesses of Western life which are so Other dances, such as carnaval, extend good news but, since it has no longer been often evident in other parts of the conti-across the barrier of the Quechua and seen, man has constantly suffered from nent. Many factors contribute to the gra-Aymara languages. It is possible to disting- terrible disasters. dual break-up of traditional Andean socie-uish between indigenous dances and ty, but it is certain that the rich folklore Tdances which have evolved from colonial HE puli is a dance which cele- which exists today, plays a vital role in thetimes. It is not, however, thought that the brates quinua, the most important equilibrium of their society.Spanish brought folk dances to the New and ancient crop of the altiplano.World. They only brought popular dances, Fiestas take place on Church holi- Peter Cloudsley is carrying out research forsuch as the waltz, mazurca and the minuet, days dedicated to the Virgin Mary or the the Museum of Mankind on Andeanfor their own pleasure. patron saint of the village. Processions musical traditions in southern Peru and the Nearly all the dances of the altiplano are dance to the village church where mass is expedition on which this article is based wasIndian in that they are danced by campesi- heard. The clergy, of whom more than half funded in part by the Emslie Hornimanno Indians. Only the pandilld is a Mestizo are foreigners, adopt a tolerant and Anthroplogical Scholarship Fund and thedance, and therefore more often found in amused attitude. They leave the more Rivendell Trust THE GEOGRAPHICAL MAGAZINE 89