South American Indians: Indians of the Modern Andes

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The Quechua and Aymara Indians of the Andes mountains are the largest group of Indians still existent in the New World. Approximately 28 million Indians and mestizos (persons of mixed Spanish and Indian descent) live along the Pacific coast and in the Andean highlands. About one-fourth of these Indians live and speak as they did before the Spanish conquest in the sixteenth century. Six million speak Quechua and approximately 1 million speak Aymara. For the purposes of this article, the religious systems of both the Quechua and the Aymara will be treated together, and both groups will be referred to, collectively, as "Andeans."

Although some Andeans have moved to large urban centers, such as La Paz, Bolivia, and Lima, Peru, the majority live in small communities (from twenty to five hundred families) scattered throughout the Andes, with a population density of three hundred persons per square kilometer of habitable and arable land. Indians live in rectangular, single-family, adobe huts with thatched gable or hip roofs. The Aymara group their huts in extended-family compounds surrounded by a wall with a central patio. For both Aymara and Quechua, marriage is monogamous, with trial marriages lasting several years. Residence is patrilocal, with bilateral inheritance among the Quechua and patrilateral inheritance among the Aymara.

Andeans practice intensive agriculture using crop rotation, irrigation, dung fertilization, and terracing of fields. They cultivate more than fifty species of domesticated plants, in a number of ecological niches: Potatoes, quinoa, and oca are grown at the highest levels of cultivatable land; corn (maize) at lower levels; and beans, squash, sweet manioc, peanuts, peppers, fruit trees, and cotton in the deep valleys and along the coast. Herders graze alpacas, llamas, and sheep on fallow fields and in high, nonarable tundra regions (14,00017,000 ft.). Although Andeans live dispersed over wide areas, resource exchange unifies the people of different communities. The ecological band narrows as the altitude increases, so that there are many distinct communities, each utilizing the natural resources characteristic of its altitude. Because of ecological specialization, exchange of resources is very important. Andean civilization arose through these efforts to utilize many vegetational zones to furnish communities with a variety of resources.

Andeans have also adapted to this mountainous region by means of a religion that is essentially a system of ecological symbols. They use their ecological setting as an explanatory model for understanding and expressing themselves in mythology and ritual. Andeans are very close to their animals, plants, and land. Their origin myths tell how in times past llamas herded humans; in present times humans herd llamas only because of a linguistic error when llamas misplaced a suffix in Quechua, saying "Humans will eat us" instead of "We will eat humans." Andeans consider coca (Erythoxylum coca ) a divine plant: "The leaves are like God. They have wisdom." Diviners learn about nature by chewing coca and reading its leaves. Andeans see themselves as part of nature, intrinsically affected by its processes and intimately linked with plants and animals. Moreover, Andeans believe they originated in the earth and will return to it.

Pachamama and Achachilas

Earth and mountains provide two principal Andean symbols, Pachamama and the achachilas. Pachamama means "mother earth," but pacha also refers to time, space, and a universe that is divided into heaven, earth, and a netherworld. For Andeans, time is encapsulated in space. Pacha is an earth that produces, covers, and contains historical events, and Pachamama symbolizes the fertile nature of the earth, which provides life. Pachamama is a universal deity, referring to all the earth and the universe because she represents the principle of nature that recycles life from death, and death from life. Pachamama is unlike the achachilas, the mountain spirits who represent certain peaks.

Ritually, Andeans libate Pachamama with drops of liquor before drinking and present her with three coca leaves before chewing coca. The husband places coca leaves daily into the male family members' earth shrine, an indentation within the adobe bench surrounding the inside of the patio, and the wife puts leaves under her household shrine, a table within the cooking house, so that Pachamama will provide the family with food. Diviners also offer ritual meals (mesas ) to Pachamama during August, before Andeans begin planting. Andeans believe that the earth is open at that time and needs to be given food and drink.

Roman Catholic missioners attempted to replace Pachamama with the Blessed Mother, but this resulted in beliefs that associate the Blessed Mother with the bountifulness of the earth. For example, two major pilgrimage sites in the Bolivian Andes are La Virgen de Copacabana and La Virgen de Urkupiña. Nominally, these shrines refer to the Blessed Mother, but Andeans associate them with Pachamama and the earth (Urkupiña means "rock hill"). People travel to these shrines in August to feed Mother Earth and thus ensure an abundant harvest and an increase in flocks, offspring, or, more recently, money. This illustrates how Catholicism became syncretized with the ecological symbols of the Andean religion.

Achachilas are mountain spirits, indistinct from the mountains themselves, who are the masculine protectors of the earth and ancestors of the community. Diviners feed achachilas with ritual meals. Every Andean community has certain bordering mountains that are considered sacred: For example, the achachilas of La Paz, Bolivia, are the snow-crested mountains (16,00020,000 ft.) of Illimani ("elder brother"), Mururata ("headless one"), and Wayna Potosi ("youth-Potosi"). A more traditional Aymara community, Cacachaqa, near Oruro, Bolivia, has eleven achachilas that together encircle it and separate it from neighboring communities. Each peak symbolizes an aspect of naturea mineral, plant, animal, bird, or personthat is suggested by its shape and its particular resources and natural environment. Condo, a neighboring community north of Cacachaqa, shares with Cacachaqa two achachilas, which shows how neighboring communities are united by achachilas.

Throughout the Andes, there are hierarchical relationships among the achachilas. Ancestral achachilas are related to tutelary peaks of the community, the community's tutelary peaks to the region's, and the region's to the nation's. Traditionally, the metaphor for this relationship is a kinship pyramid: At the apex is the chief of the clan, followed by the heads of the major lineages and then the leaders of the local lineages. Although clans are no longer found in the Andes, lineages are important, and Andeans refer to achachilas in kinship termsmachula ("ancestor"), apu ("leader"), awqui ("grandfather"), and tío ("uncle"). In sum, mountains exhibit a hierarchy that is analogous to social and political systems. The worship of these mountains, then, made Andeans conscious of social, political, and natural systems.

Earth Shrines

Diviners are responsible for naming and feeding earth shrines (huacas ), which are pre-Columbian in origin and are still ritually important. Earth shrines are natural openings or small holes dug into the ground through which the earth is ritually fed. They are found near passes, water holes, knobs, and rocks. Alongside the hole is usually a rock pile, where Indians place their coca quids before fresh leaves are put inside the hole. A shrine's many names may express history, humor, geography, and social relationships. For example, one earth shrine is called Jilakata's Recourse, because it was once a rest stop for Indian officials on their journey to pay tribute to the Spanish. This shrine's knob suggests its other names: Goat Corral, Bachelor's Haven, Coitus, and Chicha (corn beer) Bubble. Another earth shrine was formed, according to legend, when a certain leader expelled his sister-in-law from his land and set her upside down alongside the road. She became a rock shaped in the form of buttocks and a vagina. Today, Andean travelers place coca in the crotch of this earth shrine. Other earth shrines are dedicated to irrigation canals, agricultural fields, and livestock. An apacheta is an earth shrine at a mountain pass, that is, the highest point of the trail. Travelers rest at these sites, discard their coca, and pray, "With this quid may my tiredness leave me, and strength return."

Earth shrines are stratified according to ecological levels, social groupings, time, and historical epochs. Individuals have their own earth shrines; an Andean baby receives an earth shrine at birth, and must reverence it throughout his or her life. If they move from their natal village, they will periodically return to pay homage to their shrines, which continually beckon for their return until they die and are buried with their ancestors near their sacred mountain. The patrilineage has its household shrines dug into the inside and outside of the house; the community has its shrine corresponding to its level on the mountain; and the ayllu, an economically and religiously related group of communities, has its shrines up and down the mountain. Certain irrigation canals have earth shrines that are associated with the Inca civilization, and, in many villages, the chapel in the plaza is often interpreted as another earth shrine, reminiscent of the Spanish conquest. Yet the earth is the center that perdures through time, and that unifies the different places and earth shrines.


Ritual specialists of the Andes fall into two categories: diviners and sorcerers.


Andeans frequently consult with diviners, the principal ritualists of the Andes. All Andean communities have diviners. Although they are identified from within the group by being associated with some extraordinary natural event (commonly, a bolt of lightning), they are selected as individuals for their divining skills. A typical diviner reads coca leaves by first selecting twelve perfect leaves. He marks them with insectlike bites and designates the significance of each: good luck, bad luck, community, road, a person's name, enemies, or whatever concerns the person paying for the divination. He then casts the leaves, like dice, upon a cloth to see which leaves pair with good luck and which with bad luck. If the cast is unfavorable, the participants often argue about the outcome and require another cast. Because coca leaves usually do not fall in a conclusive way, diviners are free to suggest their insights. There are many kinds of diviners: Some read the signs of nature and predict when to plant and harvest, others are skilled in social dynamics and redress conflicts, and still others understand human problems and treat mental illnesses. A few possess mystical knowledge and can reveal the inner nature of the Andean universe. Such people are highly esteemed, and Andeans travel long distances to seek them out.

Diviners conclude divinations with ritual meals (mesas ), which are the basic rituals of the Andes. Although mesas vary regionally, they follow a similar pattern. A diviner sets a table (mesa ) with a ritual cloth and scallop shells for plates, each of which is assigned an achachila and an earth shrine. He places a llama fetus at the head of the table for Pachamama. Next, the diviner places white llama wool, coca, llama fat, carnation petals, and animal blood on the scallop shells, beseeching the invited deities to accept the offerings. The participants imitate the diviner. There are other ritual foods, depending upon the ecological zone, but the three principal foods are coca, which symbolizes knowledge, fat, symbolizing energy, and blood (preferably from the llama), symbolizing vitality. Finally, the diviner wraps the food with the wool to make about twelve bundles (kintos ) and ties them to the back of the llama fetus. The diviner places this in an earth shrine, and burns it, which symbolizes the consumption of the food. Andeans say that if the fire sparkles and crackles, then Pachamama and the achachilas have enjoyed the meal and will repay them with a good harvest.


Sorcerers are different from diviners. Diviners are usually male and feed the earth shrines with llama fat, llama fetuses, and white llama wool at specific timesWednesday and Thursday nights. They are ritualists for achachilas, Pachamama, and earth shrines. In contrast, sorcerers are often female and feed the wind and river with pig fat, rat fetuses, and black sheep wool on Tuesday and Friday nights. They are ritualists for the supaya, a term that has often been equated with the Spanish concept of the devil, although it actually refers to certain of the dead who either have not completed something in this life or have died in a strange fashion. The supaya belong to the netherworld of the dead (ura pacha ), but they act in the world of the living (kay pacha ) as living shadows. Supaya enter the world of the living to gather companions for the netherworld. Symbolically, they represent the consumptive forces of nature, such as death and decay, which are necessary to renew life. When someone is sick and a supaya is implicated, sorcerers attempt to appease him by killing and substituting the life of a llama for that of the sick person. They also offer pig fat and rat fetuses at mesas de contra ("misfortune tables"), so called because the ritual items are contrary to those employed by diviners in a mesa de suerte ("good-luck table") or mesa de salud ("health table"). Pig fat is inferior to llama fat because Andeans consider the pig a tropical animal that lives on fecal matter and garbage. Rat fetuses, symbolizing destructive rodents, are inferior to llama fetuses, which symbolize an animal very beneficial to Andean society.

Andeans select sorcerers by their reputation for either removing or inflicting misfortunes. Some sorcerers claim responsibility for as many as seven deaths, but others are secretive about their reputation because sorcerers are occasionally killed in revenge by victims of unsuccessful sorcery. Sorcery takes many forms in the Andes, but one way sorcerers curse people is by placing nail filings or hair of the victim inside the skulls of a cat and a dog, whose teeth are locked as if in battle, which symbolizes that husband and wife are fighting. (The breakdown of the household is a major tragedy in the Andes because it is the unit of production and subsistence.) The sorcerer hides the skulls inside the thatched roof of the victim. If the victim is aware of this, he can remove the curse by having another sorcerer perform a mesa de contra. Sometimes the victim has the sorcerer brought before the magistrate, who fines her and makes her take an oath not to do it again. Sorcery is taken seriously and is often the attributed cause for loss of livestock, crops, money, health, and even life.

The Ayllu and Its Earth Shrines

The ayllu is basic to Andean social organization. Although ayllu s are often based on kinship ties, they are also formed by religious, territorial, and metaphorical ties. One contemporary example is Ayllu Kaata of the Qollahuaya Indians, who live in midwestern Bolivia. Ayllu Kaata is a mountain with three major communities: Niñokorin, Kaata, and Apacheta. The people of Niñokorin are Quechua speakers who farm corn, wheat, barley, peas, and beans on the lower slopes of the mountain (10,50011,500 ft.). The people of Kaata, who also speak Quechua, cultivate oca and potatoes on rotative fields of the central slopes (11,50014,000 ft.). In the highlands (14,00017,000 ft.), the Aymara-speaking people of Apacheta herd llamas and sheep. The three communities use the metaphor of the human body to understand their ayllu : Apacheta corresponds to the head, Kaata to the trunk, and Niñokorin to the legs. Just as the parts of the human body are organically united, so are the three levels of Ayllu Kaata.

The thirteen earth shrines of Ayllu Kaata are understood in relation to the body metaphor and to ecological stratifications. The three community shrines are Chaqamita, Pachaqota, and Jatun Junchʾa. Chaqamita, a lake located to the east near the legs, is related to the sun's birth, fertility, and corn, making it a suitable shrine for Niñokorin, whose Corn Planting rite reverences this site. This lower lake is also a shrine for Curva and Chullina, neighboring ayllu s. Earth shrines, when shared by several ayllu s, religiously unite separate mountains, and so Qollahuaya Andeans claim that they are one people because they worship the same shrines. Pachaqota, a large lake at the head of the mountain, is the "eye" into which the sun sinks; it symbolizes death, fertilization, and llamas. On the shores of the lake, the herders of the highland community of Apacheta celebrate the All Colors rite for the increase of llamas. Pachaqota is also associated with the lakes of uma pacha (at the top of a mountain), from which animals and humans derive their existence and to which they return after death.

The Great Shrine (Jatun Junchʾa), associated with the liver and the central community of Kaata, is a major shrine of Ayllu Kaata because of its central location and physiography. The Great Shrine rests on a spur, which rises from the slopes and resembles a small mountain. The Great Shrine is nourished at the rite of Chosen Field, in the middle of the rainy season, and it is also the site of a mock battle (tinku ) between the elders and clowns during Carnival. The clowns, who sprinkle people with water, are symbolically put to death by the elders slinging ripe fruit at them.

Similar ritual battles are fought throughout the Andes: The Aymara of the Bolivian Altiplano, for example, wage theatrical warfare between the upper and lower divisions of the community. Tinku emphasizes the importance of contrasting pairs, and in the Andes almost everything is understood in juxtaposition to its opposite. Earth shrines, also, have meanings corresponding to binary opposition. Chaqamita and Pachaqota, for example, correspond to life and death, as well as to the rising and setting of the sun, and each term explains the other; moreover, each leads to the other.

The highlands, central altitudes, and lowlands of Mount Kaata have community shrines reflecting their ecological zones, but from the viewpoint of the ayllu, the community shrine is only one part of the body of the mountain. In some way every level must feed all the mountain's shrines during the allyu rites, such as the New Earth rite. The people of Apacheta, Kaata, and Niñokorin come together during New Earth to recreate the mountain's body. The upper and lower communities send leaders to Kaata for this rite, each bringing his zone's characteristic product: a llama or some chicha (corn beer). The llama's heart and bowels are buried in the center fields, and blood and fat are sent by emissaries to feed the earth shrines of the mountain. The body awakes to become the new earth.

The New Earth rite is one illustration, of which there are many others throughout the Andes, of how Pachamama, the achachilas, and earth shrines are holistically understood in terms of metaphor, ecology, and ayllu. The New Earth rite expresses how levels of land are understood in terms of a body with a head, heart, bowels, and legs, through which blood and fat circulate when ritualists feed the earth shrines. Specific earth shrines not only refer to specific ecologial zones but also symbolize parts of the body that holistically constitutes the achachila and symbolizes the social and political unity of Mount Kaata. Andeans experience the solidarity of their mountain and ayllu similarly to the way they experience the organic unity of their corporeal bodies. The individual's corporeal life is dependent on environmental life. Thus, the New Earth rite assures the individual's organic life by awakening Mother Earth to provide a good harvest.

Ritual Calendar

Andeans insert themselves by ritual into the cycles of naturenot to control them, but to experience them and be in harmony with them. New Earth, for example, is the second of three rites dedicated to the rotative field of the year. Through these three rites the earth is gradually awakened. One year before planting, the community leaders study the fertility of the fields lying fallow to see which one is ready to begin another growth cycle of potatoes, oca, and barley. A diviner observes nature's omens and asks the neighboring mountains (achachilas ) for their assistance. Once a field is picked, the people of the ayllu celebrate the rite of Chosen Field (Chacrata Qukuy) in the middle of the rainy season. Leaders dance across the field's terraces to the music of flutes, and they offer a llama fetus to the earth shrine of the selected field. The fetus brings new life to the soil, and thus the field becomes the anointed land for the year. Andeans later fertilize their plots by spreading sheep dung along the furrows where they will plant potatoes.

The rains continue to soak the anointed field, and near the end of the rainy season, in April, Andeans prepare to plow. But before the earth can be entered, it must be nurtured by the sacrifice of a grown llama during the rite of New Earth. With this rite the land is vitalized; it is opened for water, air, dung, and blood, until the time of Potato Planting, when it is covered over again. Potato Planting (Khallay Papa Tarpuna), in mid-November, is the field's final ritual, celebrated after the Feast with the Dead. According to Andean legends, the dead push the potatoes up from the inside of the earth. Also in November, people of lower levels celebrate Corn Planting (Khallay Sara Tarpuna), and at Christmastime herders sponsor their herding rituals, All Colors (Chajru Khallay). Although each rite is concerned with the animal and plant life of its zone, collectively the rites influence the corporate life of the ayllu and region, and leaders from the various communities participate in all of the rituals of the ayllu and the region.

Between the cycle of the seasons there is a day when ancestors return to the community2 November, the Feast with the Dead. Ancestor worship remains an important part of Andean religion. Prior to the conquest, Andeans mummified the dead by wrapping them in cloth and seating them in chullpas, which are rock monuments above subterranean cists. The Incas dressed the mummies of their kings in fine textiles and kept them in the Temple of the Sun in Cuzco, where they were arranged in hierarchical and genealogical relationships. Today, Andeans dress the dead person for a journey, provide him or her with coca, potatoes, corn, and a candle, and bury the deceased in a cemetery near the community. Traditionally, many Andeans believe that people originate from and return to the highland lakes of the mountain. They compare death to the eclipse of the sun: Death is ecliptic, hiding the dead within the earth, where they journey with the movements of the sun, seasons, and land.

The Feast with the Dead is an annual rite of passage from the dry to the wet season and from the activity of the dead to that of the living. The dry season connotes resting; the wet season, growth. The living invite the dead to a meal when the harvest and festive times have ended and planting rituals begin. At this pivotal point in the Andean year, the dead visit the living, and then they are sent on another year's journey with their share of the harvest.

At noon on November 1, the leader of the community awakens the dead with dynamite, and for twenty-four hours the dead are served food on tables that usually have three tiers, symbolizing highlands, central altitudes, and lowlands. The arrival of a fly or the flickering of a candle signals to the living that the dead are present. The living and dead share in a meal and communicate with each other by laments and prayers. At noon the next day, everyone returns to the cemetery to place more food near the graves. Relatives of the deceased distribute food to friends, who pray for the dead relatives. Later the same afternoon, the fiesta ends with a meal and drinking.


For Andeans, the finality of death is alleviated by their ecology. During life, Andeans become part of the land that they work: As their bodies get older, their land increases. When they die, they enter into the mountain, journey upward, and have access to the land of the dead. Moreover, the decay of their bodies enriches the land of the living. The visible levels of the living are only half of the mountain; the other half consists of the subterranean waterways of the dead.

The Andeans' worldview is an extension of the three mountain levels; they divide their universe into the heavens (janaj pacha ), this world (kay pacha ), and the netherworld (ura pacha ). Each place has an ancient, a past, and a present time, to which specific beings correspond. The heavens are where the elders of lightning, sun, and stars have dwelled since ancient times; where God, Jesus, and Santiago have roamed since past times; and where dead baptized babies are descending to the uma pacha in present times. By their permanent and cyclical features, the heavens suggest origination and restitution, whereas the experiences of this world are temporal and consecutive. The three times of this world are symbolized by chullpas, the cross, and the graveyard, which refer respectively to the ancestor mummies, Jesus, and the recent dead (those who have died within three years). The ancestor mummies and the past and recent dead journey to the highlands within the subterranean waterways of the netherworld, which is the recycling area between death and life. The supaya are dead unable to travel because of some unfinished business. They bridge the gap between the netherworld and this world. The earth shrines denote being, space, and time, the metaphysical concepts for the universe, which are intertwined in each of the three gradient levels; thus the mountain serves as an expression of Andean cosmology.

The uma pacha is the point of origin and return for traditional Andeans. The highlands are the head (uma ) of the achachila. Bunchgrass grows near the summit of the mountain, as hair on the head. The wool of the llamas that graze on this grass resembles human hair. As human hair grows after cutting, so llama wool and bunchgrass grow continually in the highlands. In a manner similar to the regeneration of hair, humans and animals originate in the highland lakes, or the eyes (nawi) of the achachila. The sun dies into these eyes of the highlands, but from the reflections within the lake come all living creatures. The lake's reflections (illa ) are the animals and people returning from inside the earth to this world.

Animals and people originate in and return to the head of the mountain. It is the place of origin and return, like the human head, which is the point of entry and exit for the inner self. The dead travel by underground waterways to the mountain's head, the uma pacha, from whose lakes they can arise to the land of the living. The living emerge from the eyes of the mountain (the lakes of the uma pacha ), journey across its head, chest, trunk, and legs (high, center, and low levels), and die in the lowlands. They are buried and return with the sun to the uma pacha, point of origin and return.

Sickness and Health

Western medicine ascribes sickness to internal disorders of the body or to the malfunctioning of organs within it, whereas Andean curing looks outside the body to the malfunctioning of the social and ecological order. Bodily illnesses are signs of disorders between the person and the land or between the person and his lineage. The diviner's role is to reveal this conflict and to redress it by ritual, which resolves the dispute or reorders the land. Diviners cure not by isolating the individual in a hospital, away from his land, but by gathering members of a sick person's social group for ritual feeding of the earth shrines of the achachila, because if their lineage and mountain are complete, then their body will also be complete (healthy). Community and land are inextricably bound to the physical body, and disintegration in one is associated with disorder in the other.

One illustration of how diviners interrelate environmental and social factors with sickness is the mesa de salud ("health table"), a commonly performed ritual in the Andes. This ritual begins with a preliminary divination session in which the diviner casts coca leaves to determine the causes of an illness. Relatives of the sick person attend and contribute to the analysis of the causes. Diviners then redress social conflicts within the lineage. If the sick person, for example, has fought with her mother-in-law, the diviner delves into the cause of this conflict and instructs the patient to gather some ritual item from the mother-in-law's household. The participants then spend several days gathering ritual items symbolic of the various altitudinal levels: chicha (corn beer) and carnations from the lowlands, potatoes from the central lands, and llama fat and a fetus from the highlands. The gathering of the ritual items reinforces the concept that health is related to the utilization and exchange of resources from different levels. Indirectly, the ritual affects health by reinforcing the need for a balanced diet. In this way, Andean ritual promotes holistic health rather than merely removing disease.

Traditionally, Andeans distinguish between curanderos, who cure with natural remedies, and diviners (yachaj), who cure with supernatural remedies. Andeans have many classes of curanderos, revealing a striking knowledge and classification of anatomy and an enormous list of medical paraphernalia. Because they have excelled in the practice of native medicine, Andeans have adapted to an environment that produces many stresses (hypoxia, hypothermia, malnutrition, and epidemics). Qollahuaya herbalists, for example, use approximately one thousand medicinal plants in curing. Andeans visit both diviners and herbalists for treatment of a disease, because both kinds of specialist are needed to deal with all the physical, social, spiritual, and ecological factors involved.


Andeans have incorporated Catholicism into their traditional way of life by stratifying it according to place and time and thus allowing it to function in ways analogous to the function of an earth shrine. For many Andeans, Catholicism is a state religion that replaced the Inca religion. Every Andean community has a chapel with a statue of a saint who is the patron protector of the village. Sculptors mold a realistic statue from plaster of paris, and seamstresses dress it with velvet and gold cloth. These statues appear almost alive, like waxworks. For some Andeans, the saint represents a white rock; for others, the saints are transformations of the dead ancestors whom they venerated during Inca times.

Annually, each village celebrates a fiesta to its saint, whose statue is paraded around the four corners of the plaza while brilliantly costumed groups dance to the music of flutes, drums, and trumpets. The official sponsor, the preste, walks alongside the saint, for which privilege he provides the participants with alcohol, coca, and food. Ritual and natural kin, as well as people in debt to the preste, contribute supplies and sponsor dance groups. For the first day or two, the fiesta is a celebration of great beauty and festivity, but by the third day it often degenerates into drunkenness and brawling. One reason is that during recent times raw alcohol has replaced the traditional beverage, chicha, which has a much lower alcohol content. However, alcohol and coca also relax the participants, making them susceptible to the liminal meanings of the fiestathe basic Andean meanings being expressed in the dance, music, and ritual. These elements are highly structured and communicate underlying symbolic patterns important to Andean culture.

Although the cult of the saints reflects the importance of Catholicism in contemporary Andean culture, Andeans are only nominal Catholics: They baptize their babies primarily to prevent hailstorms and to obtain padrinos ("godfathers"), who provide social and political connections. Sometimes couples marry in the church, but only after a trial marriage (iqhisiña ) to see whether the wife is fertile. Catholic catechists and Protestant missionaries have recently been converting Andeans to an evangelistic Christianity opposed to earth shrines, fiestas, and traditional Andean beliefs. Many evangelistic Protestants emphasize literacy and the reading of the Bible. Protestantism cannot be incorporated into the traditional Andean system because it tends to be comparatively barren of symbols and ritual. Consequently, converts to certain Protestant sects have radically changed their traditional cultural patterns. In sum, Catholicism has been adapted peripherally to traditional Andean religious practices, whereas evangelistic Protestantism has been very effective in changing traditional belief systems. This is because many Andeans see traditional religious practices, which reflect verticality, resource exchange, ayllu solidarity, and ecology, as being unimportant to modernization, with its emphasis on literacy, horizontal links, competition, and individuality.

Nevertheless, the traditional religion retains a strong hold on Andeans, who continue to look to earth and nature for their identity. Their land and their mountains continue to be their deitiesnot as abstract symbols but as real entities with whom they live and work and with whom they share important relations of reciprocity. For these reasons, the Andeans built a high civilization in a mountainous land that they came to worship.


Allen, Catherine J. "Body and Soul in Quechua Thought." Journal of Latin American Lore 8 (1982): 179195. Explores the conceptual basis of "animistic" ideology, focusing on attitudes toward death and the custom of "force feeding." Excellent description of relationship between ancestors and the living.

Allpanchis Phuturinqa (Cuzco, 1969). Published by the Instituto de Pastoral Andina, this review was founded to educate pastoral agents about Andean culture and includes many articles on Andean religion.

Arguedas, José María. Deep Rivers. Translated by Frances Horning Barraclough. Austin, 1978. Noted Peruvian novelist describes conflict within mestizos caught between the Andean and Spanish cultural systems. Shows how myth bridges the gulf between the magico-religious world of the Andean and the social reality of mestizo life. A penetrating book.

Arriaga, Pablo Joseph de. The Extirpation of Idolatry in Peru (1621). Translated by Horacio Urteaga (Lima, 1920) and L. Clark Keating (Lexington, Ky., 1968). An extirpator's manual accurately describing Andean religious practices of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, many of which are still found in the Andes. Shows how missioners suppressed Andean religion and attempted to replace it with Catholicismand how Christianity got off to a bad start in the Andes.

Bastien, Joseph W. Mountain of the Condor: Metaphor and Ritual in an Andean Ayllu. Saint Paul, 1978. A description and analysis of rituals performed by Qollahuaya Andeans, whose diviners are famous throughout the Andes. Rituals provide the context for understanding the metaphorical relationship of Andeans with their land.

Bastien, Joseph W., and John N. Donahue, eds. Health in the Andes. Washington, D.C., 1981. First part contains three articles on how rituals are used to cure sick Andeans. Other parts contain environmental information concerning Andeans.

Cuadernos de investigación (La Paz, 1974). Pamphlets on Andean culture and religion published by the Centro de Investigación y Promoción del Campesinado. Especially insightful are those by Javier Albo, Tristan Platt, and Olivia Harris.

Isbell, Billie Jean. To Defend Ourselves: Ecology and Ritual in an Andean Village. Austin, 1978. Describes marriage, hydraulic, harvest, and fertility rituals in the village of Chuschi, Ayacucho Department, Peru. Treats the relationship between ecology and ideology through the observation and analysis of rituals.

Lewellen, Ted. Peasants in Transition: The Changing Economy of the Peruvian Aymara. Boulder, 1978. Analyzes the impact of Protestantism on social and economic factors of an Aymara community.

Millones Santa Gadea, Luis. Las religiones nativas del Peru: Recuento y evaluación de su estudio. Austin, 1979. A review of studies concerning Andean religion. Very useful for early studies on Andean religion.

Núñez del Prado, Juan Victor. "The Supernatural World of the Quechua of Southern Peru as Seen from the Community of Qotobamba." In Native South Americans, edited by Patricia J. Lyon. Boston, 1974. Delineates the structure of the supernatural world in southern Peru from the mythology and ethnographic data of two Quechua communities.

Orlove, Benjamin S. "Two Rituals and Three Hypotheses: An Examination of Solstice Divination in Southern Highland Peru." Anthropological Quarterly 52 (April 1979): 8698. Describes two solstice divinations in Peru. Illustrates how Andeans weigh alternatives and make decisions.

Ossio, Juan M., ed. and comp. Ideología mesiánica del mundo andino. Lima, 1973. Compilation of articles by anthropologists and historians concerning messianism among Andean peasants. Many authors employ structuralist interpretations of Andean religion.

Paredes, M. Rigoberto. Mitos, supersticiones y supervivencias populares de Bolivia (1920). 3d ed., rev. & enl. La Paz, 1963. A reference book for religious practices of the Aymara.

Sharon, Douglas. Wizard of the Four Winds: A Shaman's Story. New York, 1978. Documents a modern shaman's view of the world. Describes mesas performed by a shaman in Trujillo Valley in the northern Andean highlands. A well-written and insightful book about Andean shamanism.

Taussig, Michael T. The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1980. Discusses the social significance of the devil in the folklore of contemporary plantation workers and miners in South America. The devil is a symbol of the alienation experienced by peasants as they enter the ranks of the proletariat.

Tschopik, Harry, Jr. "The Aymara of Chucuito Peru." Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History 44, pt. 2 (1951):137308. Examines how ritual establishes social equilibrium among the peasants of Chucuito, Peru. Includes detailed description of ritual paraphernalia.

Urton, Gary. At the Crossroads of the Earth and Sky: An Andean Cosmology. Austin, 1981. Examines the astronomical system of Misminay, Peru, to understand celestial cosmology of modern Andeans. Shows how celestial formations interrelate with the agricultural and ritual calendars.

Valdizán, Hermilio, and Angel Maldonado. La medicine popular peruana. 3 vols. Lima, 1922. An encyclopedia of minerals, plants, and animals used in healing and ritual.

Wachtel, Nathan. The Vision of the Vanquished: The Spanish Conquest of Peru through Indian Eyes, 15301570. Translated by Ben Reynolds and Siân Reynolds. New York, 1977. An account of the structural disintegration of Inca society and culture during the early years of the conquest. Illustrates how a present-day fiesta in Oruro, Bolivia, enacts this drama.

New Sources

Bolin, Inge. Rituals of Respect: The Secret of Survival in the High Peruvian Andes. Austin, 1998.

Gade, Daniel W. Nature and Culture in the Andes. Madison, 1999.

Larson, Brook, and Olivia Harris, eds. Ethnicity, Markets and Migration in the Andes: At the Crossroad of History and Anthropology. Durham, N.C., 1995.

Van Cott, Donna Lee. Indigenous Peoples and Democracy in Latin America. New York, 1994.

Joseph W. Bastien (1987)

Revised Bibliography

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South American Indians: Indians of the Modern Andes

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South American Indians: Indians of the Modern Andes