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A young arriero leads a mule across fresh snow in the Peruvian Andes. Photo by Benjamin Swift (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest Finalist), South America Semester.

Nación Q’eros initiation ceremony

After arriving to Ocangate and promptly chowing a chile relleno, our group made the walk to Sewar’s house with Miguelinti. Before entering Nación Q’eros (the territory in the Andes in which the direct descendents of the Incas live) we needed to partake in a ceremony that involved asking Pachamama and the Apus if we could stay there for 5 days.
As Joel began to rip on the flute we were each handed 3 coca leaves and Sewar lit some Palo Santo. One by one we handed our leaves to Patricia and she made our offer for us, speaking in Quechua. As this process continued the moon rose up behind the Apus. Bright and full. The fire behind us crackled. By the time all of our offers had been made the moon was high in the sky and the fire was barley breathing. The next morning we would enter Nación Q’eros