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Runakuna and mountains

The Quechua people of the mountains are deeply sewn into their environment to create a way of life that is very different from our own. The people (Runakuna), the watchers, and places (Tirakuna) weave a band of fabric through collaboration. As an outsider or beginner, it is often hard to completely understand the ways of the strings in the loom. We must move past our own cultural norms in order to surpass the confusion and other reactions we may have to the striking new ways of the Quechua people. Eventually, our group was able to achieve this.

In the fabric that makes up the lives of the Quechua people lays a clear pattern. It is not perfect, but still absolutely beautiful. The strings in the design are the Places, the Tirakuna. They are the the most important watchers, and are therefore praised and sacrificed to as sacred. The Apus (mountains) are known as lords and fathers (Taytakuna). Patterns in the fabric that for significant peaks are recognized as the Apukuna. The valleys and small rolls in the landscape are treated in a more familiar way, as the Quechua people interact with them more often. Together, the Places are the guardians of the land, as they take care of the the people, and come with consequences if the Places are not treated correctly. At the base of Apu Ausangate, we heard the rumbling of the glacier, and did not think much of it until the Condori Brothers explained that the mountain was hungry. It was time for our offering of coca leaves, alcohol, cotton, spices, candy, and chocolate. According to the Brothers, it was likely that there would have been repercussions of bad weather or bad health if we had not made a sacrifice that day.

In the loom of life, the up and down movement of the strings symbolize the changing moods of the Tirakuna, and how the people must address the Places’ needs in return of a nurturing environment.

Another important watcher is known as Pacha Mama (Mother Earth). Different from the Places, she is general, and everywhere. Pacha Mama is given female characteristics, and acts upon the Runakuna in a motherly way. However, she can be angered easily, and therefore punishing. In Paru Paru, we participated in thanking Pacha Mama before agriculture activities, as we were using the resources she provided for us. In my mind, Pacha Mama is the thread (trama) that is woven in and out to make the patterns, and the thread that has the final world of the design.

Last are the Quechua people – the Runakuna – who are the watchers of the landscape and each other. The Runakuna are shy, quiet, and often keep to themselves, but are also kind, accepting and welcoming. Throughout our stay in Paru Paru we learned that the Quechua people use every aspect of their environment for a specific purpose in a very respectful way. The Runakuna are the outside pattern, the colors and bands that holds the piece together. Although I did not include all of the Places, watchers, or the entire complex relationship between the Quechua people and their landscape, I hope to have painted a picture of how the  Runakuna share their lives with Pacha Mama and the Tirakuna.