In Sullca of Canchis, Cuzco, Peru
On Wednesday, July 15, 2015
As evidenced by the thick white smoke which streamed from the burning collection of chicha dipped coca leaves burning in the manure based fire. The ceremony in the community of Sullca was customary and was celebrated in order to give thanks to Mother Earth for all that she provided. Today, the ceremony was re-enacted by the students, and guided by the elders, not only to give thanks, but also to familiarize the students with a tradition that framed their ancestors’ lives. Previously, the Incan history was not being taught to the children of Sullca, however, the community is now working with the school and parents in efforts to revitalize the Inca influence.
When we first arrived in Sullca, It appeared as if the community was undergoing reformation. The old primary school house which was built in the 1970s out of adobe had collapsed, and a new government-funded school was being built. For several weeks, the children had been attending schools in homes and were now being schooled in the community center.
Everyone was busy doing their part to ensure the prompt completion of the new school, including the mothers who lugged heavy wheelbarrows full of rocks that they had collected from the side of a steep mountain to be used in the construction of their children's’ new school. Not once did I see in the mothers’ faces fatigue or discomfort, in fact, they appeared to be excited about the new school and proud of their contributions. Even the “perro” (dog), who we labelled the school mascot, walked along the mothers while they worked as if it was doing its part in contributing to its children’s new school.
The children of Sullca, although very excited about performing the ceremony, sat patiently in the field awaiting their opportunity. The mascot also made patient circles around the children in wait. Finally, showtime arrived. The elders (called "yacha" in Quechua) of the community prepared the coca leaves and the chicha atop a blanket in the field. Each person in the field, including us, held three coca leaves to the three surrounding mountains and gave thanks. Next, we dipped the leaves in the chicha and they were then placed in a pile to be burned. The collection of coca leaves were placed in the manure based fire alongside the river. We were told that if white smoke flowed from the burning leaves it would be a good year of harvest. The smoke flowed white so we knew it’s going to be a good year!
(click the YouTube link below to view this independent clip about the ceremony)