Communal Work in the Andes of Peru

Last may I was invited to organize a trip to visit local communities in the highlands of Peru, bringing tourists to learn the ancestral culture of the Highlanders of the Andes, and in retribution pay a fair price for the services offered by the people of the towns we visited: food, homestay, and souvenirs, It was a win-win. I loved the plan since the moment I’ve heard about it, and I knew this was about to be a life-changing experience for all of us in the group including me.

Ritual table prepared to Pacha Mama Mother Earth) led by a Shaman. Consisting of various eatable products and other more mystical or magical, made to make the animals and land fertile

One of the things that impressed the group the most are the rituals and complex ceremonies still performed by villagers up in the mountains, we all learned that these people rely on this  3 things:

  • good weather (at least  3 months of rains every year) needed for good seeding and harvest
  • fertility of their animals and soil.
  • communal work and mutual respect.
shaving an Alpaca

The last topic is the most fascinating to me, coming from a social context where money buys anything, and where status means everything, it can be shocking to be immersed in communities that live out of a monetary system and are happy without it, they use yet in this XXI century the TRUEQUE or bargain, so basically all people are treated equally, having the same opportunities of development in their communities, and obliged to follow this important commandment: help and be helped in return.

Beautiful Andean women teaching us the art of weaving


This communities still rely on the help of their pairs for pretty much everything : construction of houses, seeding and harvesting, and any other thing they may need, the most famous phrase you will hear here is: “today for you, tomorrow for me” this is the eternal law of our ancestors still being in use in this recondite sites of Peru.

20170513_103823-1When they built, the wife and female neighbours prepare food and bring chicha beer (a fermented drink of corn) while the husband and his fellow friends work in the process of construction of the small but efficient houses, then is chosen a “Padrino” of Godfather for the house (a close friend), this is considered a great honor, after this the love nest is ready, and you also have happier and stronger relationship with the people of your community.

Using footplough called Chaquitaclla

Seeding and harvesting are equally treated, the parcels will benefit in this case big or extended families, but when more hands are needed you always have the hands of fellow neighbors willings to work for you with NO PAYMENT,  in exchange only chicha beer, food, good conversation and laughters, will be welcomed instead.

This camaraderie is very important in societies that still exist far away from big cities and western culture, where police stations are never part of the town layout, and in which no supermarkets, plastic money, hospitals are part of their culture. I think is time to learn more about this people, that for long had been forced to learn from us, to fit in our culture. Is time to be more humble and see that in the simple life there is much more happiness. The best things in life, like true friendship, are priceless.

Community name: Patacancha, Cusco

Photo Credits: Vanessa Vasquez

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