The puzzled tone in the voice of Anibal Durán, school principal in Cusipata, rings in my ears as I remember him explaining that the children of the Chillihuani herders, who descend to the valley to continue their schooling, are always at the top of the class. "They are curious, self-confident, and always respectful," he adds. The other teachers agree. Yet for outsiders this is hard to believe. The families of these children are llama and alpaca herders who live in small adobe huts without electricity or running water. Their isolated village has neither streets nor stores, newspapers nor mail service, and only a few families own a book. Far from the mainstream of society, the Chillihuani herders feel more at home among the high peaks of their snow-covered mountains than among the population in the valley.
"It's a puzzle," the principal and teachers repeated throughout 1984-1985, when I studied the organization of irrigation among agriculturists along the hillsides of the Vilcanota Valley. Herding children made news in specific areas of study and in other activities as well. Since mathematics is the favorite topic of virtually all children in Chillihuani, it was not surprising that a fifth grader from the small school of 164 children took second place in a provincial math competition that included several larger towns. When Alicia, the third daughter of the healer Juan Mamani and his wife Luisa, lived in Cuzco with a comadre (godmother, Sp.), she held second place in her grade after only one year in the city. The children of Chillihuani won all the dancing contests in the district of Cusipata for three consecutive years. These and other achievements are unexpected, as competition is not encouraged in this egalitarian society high in the Peruvian Andes.
Yet despite the achievements of the members of this society, their superb organizational skills, respectful behavior, and the successful upbringing of their children, these high-altitude pastoralists have been subjected to a negative stereotype. Outsiders tend to judge them on the basis of their simple living conditions and adherence to tradition. The herders live in small adobe huts, wear homespun clothes, speak Quechua, the language of their Inca ancestors, and chew coca leaves. (Coca leaves, which have been sacred to the Incas, are still used in rituals and social interactions and release important nutritious elements when chewed.)
When I first met the herders who had descended to the valley to exchange their goods at the Sunday market in Cusipata, I realized that the stereotype had been imposed out of total ignorance. I was struck by the elegant and respectful demeanor of the highland herders. Their culture and religious ideology also stirred my interest. Whenever I participated in fiestas in the valley, my friends and compadres (godparents, Sp.) explained that celebrations and rituals are much more traditional in Chillihuani, where they reach back to Inca and pre-Inca times. Others spoke about powerful shamans who live close to the permanent snow.
Life in Chillihuani sounded intriguing. I liked the people I met on the rare occasions when they descended from their high mountains, and I desperately wanted to visit their village. But I did not dare to ask, knowing that high-altitude communities close themselves to outsiders and harbor a "legendary distrust of strangers" (Flannery, Marcus, and Reynolds 1989:5).
When I returned to the Andes in 1988, my compadre Antolin introduced me to Juan Mamani, one of the healers from Chillihuani. As we talked about the upcoming fiesta, he spontaneously invited me to celebrate the ancient Pukllay fiesta with him and his family in his remote village.
Chillihuani was more than I had ever imagined. Fourteen years after I had first set foot in the Andes, where I had traveled widely and was engaged in anthropological research and applied work in a variety of places, I did not expect to encounter such a unique village, unique in terms of people's respectful behavior, their wisdom and world view, and their strong adherence to tradition.
Chillihuani stands apart not only from villages in the valley but also, in some ways, from other herding societies I have known. Visitors, such as the priest who ascends to many high mountain villages once a year, and merchants who travel with their llama caravans through the settlements along the high routes from as far as Bolivia, stress that Chillihuani's herders are more respectful and cling much more to ancient traditions than do people elsewhere. They also take more pride in their appearance. Teachers who have worked there throughout the years agree with these comments. They say that the children are also much better behaved, more curious, and more creative in their approach to different tasks than children elsewhere. Several teachers stated that all this makes it worthwhile to endure long ascents and difficult living conditions in this remote village.
Strong adherence to traditional values and unwritten moral laws fosters solidarity among the herders within an atmosphere that, despite extreme poverty, radiates energy and exuberance, especially during fiestas. This does not mean that sorrow is absent, or that conflict never arises. Problems do exist and conflict does flare up at times, but it is resolved with remarkable efficiency. Chillihuani does not fit the stereotype of the downtrodden Andean village so often referred to in the literature.
During the first years of my research among the high-altitude herders I focused primarily on rituals of respect as they are practiced during fiestas and in everyday life (Bolin 1998). Throughout these years I observed that children demonstrate respectful behavior at an early age, and I decided to study in greater depth the ways by which respect, the key value of this herding society, is instilled in children. When I asked the healer Juan Mamani and his wife Luisa what is most important in the upbringing of their children, both replied simultaneously, "We must always teach them respect."
Children constantly amaze me by the manner in which they combine politeness and responsibility toward family and community with curiosity and surprising scholastic abilities. It is equally intriguing to observe how parents socialize their children by combining their youngsters' individual needs with those of a community that depends on capable and compassionate young people to assure the survival of all in a marginal environment.
Childhood in high-altitude communities in the Andes differs considerably from childhood in mainstream society. In these remote regions, children's culture is not separate from that of adults. There are no children's stories, songs, or dances. Children participate in the adult world from an early age and soon become important members of society. They learn virtually everything they need to know through observation. It has been revealing to follow young children through adolescence—which is not a time of social and emotional upheaval but rather is considered the best time in people's lives—as they take over many of the rights and responsibilities of adults.
As one lives with Chillihuani families, it soon becomes evident that the ways children are raised in this village are highly beneficial to both family and community. Still, there are puzzling issues that are not easily understood by outsiders. I tried to get a deeper understanding of the strategies that are used to bring children to respect their social and physical environment, to be self-sufficient at a young age yet at the same time cooperate harmoniously within the community. I also tried to make sense of the ways children achieve within their society and beyond while always remaining dignified, respectful, and non-competitive. To come to grips with these seemingly contradictory questions, I focused on the following central issues:
- Given a marginal environment with periods of hunger, disease, early death, and extreme poverty, what can parents offer their children that will put them on their way to becoming contented and well-adjusted individuals—honest, hardworking, and always ready to lend a helping hand? How can parents make children realize from an early age that they must acknowledge with gratitude what they receive to sustain their lives and that they must give, in return, to comply with the unwritten law of reciprocity?
- Since children's culture as we know it does not exist in Chillihuani, where children are rapidly integrated into the world of adults, how do their personalities develop given the lack of a "childhood"?
- As Chillihuani children learn almost exclusively by observation, how do they come to master complex tasks, such as playing an instrument or weaving intricate patterns into cloth?
- How is it possible that in an egalitarian society, where the competitive attitude is minimal, children excel at work and play within their society and beyond its borders?
- In Western society mathematics has been labeled a phobia for both students and their parents. Why would the boys and girls of Chillihuani be fascinated by mathematics and excel in that subject even before entering school? How is this interest in mathematics awakened and maintained?
- In Chillihuani, both children and their parents consider adolescence to be the best time in their lives, while in North America it is seen as a time of conflict, rebellion, and power struggle between parent and child. What child-rearing strategies produce adolescents who are gentle and non-aggressive, yet self-confident and courageous even in the face of great danger?
In the chapters that follow I try to shed light on these issues as I present the concerns and strategies of the Chillihuani herders about child rearing and the maintenance of a dignified society. These people know that the perpetuation of their culture depends on the contribution children make in support of their families and in benefit of the community. They understand that the continuation of life in their high mountains requires ancient ways of instilling respect in every new generation. The behavioral norms they show us are significant not only for their own community, but also for people elsewhere who want to build a society of respect on our all-too-disrespectful and rapidly disintegrating globe.
Raising Children in Poverty
It has been sixteen years since I first ventured to Chillihuani, a village of dispersed settlements of small adobe houses perched against the barren Andean landscape. At first it was difficult to comprehend how survival could be possible within this steep, marginal environment, with its extreme weather conditions and only the most basic tools available in the struggle to subsist. It was even more difficult to imagine how children could grow up to be healthy while living in dire poverty, exposed to the vagaries of a severe climate without a heating system, running water, or any other convenience.
As time went by, however, I noticed that below the poverty and the constant struggle to survive lies a wealth of wisdom and experience, a great deal of creativity, and a wide variety of talents. I came to realize that material poverty does not prevent these people from gaining a deep understanding of the most essential concerns of human existence, such as compassion for other forms of life, including the animate and inanimate spirits of nature. In fact, respect for these entities is what really holds the society together in the face of obstacles that seem insurmountable.
I soon learned that given great material poverty and an unforgiving environment, the maintenance of a dignified society depends to a large degree on the raising of children who perpetuate the values of that society. Child-rearing practices in the high Andes have, however, not been well documented. Historical accounts touch on this topic only occasionally and superficially. Even today, due to a lack of trust in outsiders, remote villages tend to close themselves off from mainstream society. Access to marginal regions is difficult as well because of high-altitude stress, extreme weather conditions, and inaccessible terrain.
Child rearing has never been an easy task anywhere. In fact, this age-old practice is fraught with considerable problems in many parts of the world, regardless of a society's culture or socioeconomic condition. Western society often assumes that problems associated with child rearing are rooted in poverty, leading to deviance or despair. Given this view, it is difficult to comprehend how children who grow up in a marginal environment and under most simple living conditions turn out to be valued community members who adhere to a strong work ethic, have a highly cooperative spirit, exhibit self-confident and respectful demeanor, and show very good scholastic achievements when given a chance. Yet this is the case in Chillihuani, a village of llama and alpaca herders that reaches the permanent snow of the Peruvian Andes.
The high Andes are ideologically quite different from mainstream society, since the high-altitude herders do not separate the natural from the spiritual environment. They believe that not only do humans and animals have spirits, but so do the many features of nature, such as the earth, mountains, springs, lakes, rocks, and meadows. They all are imbued with life and require nourishment, love, and respect. Throughout the years I witnessed how these deep-seated beliefs and values are perpetuated from one generation to the next. I observed how respect translates into rights and responsibilities, as it reminds people of their duties vis-à-vis others and life in general and of the recognition they deserve in return. Thus, by giving and receiving respect, a cycle of reciprocity is created that links people to one another and to all parts of nature in a way that facilitates the survival of all. As the earth remains healthy, it provides for everyone and guarantees a successful life. The Chillihuani people believe that a successful person is one who, in their words, "leads a life of dignity and compassion."
Village Structure, Living Conditions, and Subsistence Strategies
In order to understand the people of Chillihuani—their attitudes and the ways by which they socialize their children—one must know their community and the land that grants them a living and provides spiritual guidance and support.
Chillihuani is located high above the Vilcanota Valley, between 3,800 and 5,000 meters (12,464 and 16,400 feet) above sea level in the district of Cusipata, province of Quispicanchis, department of Cuzco, Peru (see map). This high-altitude environment still allows its residents to subsist on pastoralism and horticulture. Several narrow paths lead to this village, but efforts are underway to extend a rudimentary road from the valley further toward Chillihuani. During the rainy season much of the region becomes impassable. The higher ranges of this dispersed village of 350 families (about 1,600 inhabitants) are within the most mountainous and rugged regions of southern Peru, where condors, pumas, and vicuñas can still be seen. In a day's walk, starting from the center of the village, one can reach Apu Ausangate, which at 6,384 meters (20,940 feet) above sea level is the highest and most sacred mountain of southern Peru.
Homesteads in Chillihuani and other parts of the high Andes are dispersed throughout the high mountains (Figure A). The seasons are strictly defined. The dry season, or winter, lasts from May to October. The rainy season, or summer, goes from November to April. Temperatures vary more between day and night than between summer and winter. They may rise to 20 degrees Celsius in daytime and fall to -15 degrees Celsius at night. Carl Troll observed that temperatures may drop sixty degrees Fahrenheit within several hours (1968:17). Air pressure at an altitude of 5,000 meters (16,400 feet), which is at the line of permanent snow, amounts to about 50 percent of the pressure at sea level.
Due to its high altitude, rugged environment, and isolation, this village has been less affected by mainstream attitudes and ideologies than more accessible villages. Neither has this herding society experienced servitude to a hacienda (landed estate), as have the people in lower villages. In the remoteness of Chillihuani, ancient ideologies are still alive in the minds of its people and are expressed in everyday life and sacred rituals.
As one ascends to this village of herders, remains from Inca and pre-Inca times crop up on both sides of the path. The archaeological evidence is set in stone: well-built settlements, irrigation canals, beautifully worked stones, and intriguing symbols engraved in rock—such as the double-headed snake, the insignia of the powerful Inca Pachacutec Yupanqui, who carried the same name as do many of the herders, suggest that this region may have been important in the ancient past. (See Bolin 1998 for details.) In addition, the presence of bones, skulls with trepanations, and, until recently, mummies, testifies that despite its remoteness, Chillihuani was not a forgotten place. The herders recount that "in the caves we had mummies, dried people who were sitting with their knees bent and covering their cheeks with their hands."
To reach Chillihuani from the Vilcanota Valley, one must pass through several ecological zones—keshwa (between 2,400 and 3,300 meters above sea level) and suni (between 3,300 and 3,910 meters above sea level)—before entering the puna (3,910 to 4,340 meters above sea level) and the high puna (above 4,340 meters) (Gade 1975:104-106), where Chillihuani is located. The village consists of four suyus (sectors): Chullu, Qayara Chimpu, Llaqto, and Chillihuani. Suyu Chillihuani carries the same name as the village itself. The division into four parts and the term suyu itself are reminiscent of Inca times. The Inca Empire was called Tawantinsuyu.
The village center consists of a few adobe structures with thatched or corrugated iron roofs. These include the school, the municipal buildings, the house of the Women's Committee, and the health station. The herder families live in small adobe houses with little or no furniture. From the center of the village, settlements reach into all directions for sixteen kilometers (ten miles) toward the permanent snow. The dispersed nature of the settlements, each of which consists of one to three adobe huts, gives the flocks enough room to graze during the day and return to their own corrals at night.
On March 21, 1957, Chillihuani was officially recognized by the Peruvian government as a peasant community with 350 families. The inhabitants, most of whom are illiterate and monolingual Quechua speakers, refer to this village as their ayllu, a Quechua term with a variety of definitions.
The pastoralists subsist on their herds of alpacas, llamas, and sheep, as well as guinea pigs, and on potatoes and other tubers, such as oqa (Oxalis tuberosa), ulluku or lisas (Ullucus tuberosus), and maswa, añu, or isaño (Tropaeolum tuberosum), which they cultivate on steep hills at different altitudes and in different ecological microzones to minimize the risk of crop failure due to frost, hail, floods, and drought. Some vegetables grow in sheltered areas. The total area of Chillihuani, including the pastures, amounts to about 7,000 hectares.
The herders also collect algae (qochayuyu or llulluch'a) from mountain lakes; mushrooms (qoncha; setas, Sp.) that grow in high regions mainly after lightning storms; and the fruit of the spiny roq'a plant (Opuntia), also referred to as tuna de la altura (Sp.).
Trees are few and only grow in the lower part of the village. Among native trees we find the capulí (Prunus serotina), which do not bear fruit at this altitude; the kishwar (Buddleia incana) and kehuiña (Polylepis incana); and the eucalyptus tree (Eucalyptus globulus), which is native to Australia (Tupayachi Herrera 1993).
Although the staples of the food supply consist of potatoes and other tubers, this society is referred to as a pastoral society, i.e., a society of herders. The Chillihuani people identify themselves as pastoralists, since they consider animal husbandry quite prestigious and their herds provide many of the items they require in their daily lives. Alpacas, llamas, and sheep provide wool for clothing, blankets, carrying cloths, ropes, and slings. Male llamas and alpacas carry loads to and from the fields and sometimes to other high-altitude villages. The animals' meat, blood, and skins are used by the herders or are bartered in the valley for necessities they cannot produce themselves. The dung is needed to fertilize the fields and serves as fuel in its dried form. The animals' hides serve as mattresses and pillows; their tendons are used for sewing and for stringed instruments. Fat is made into candles. Bones serve to make the weaving tool tullu ruki. Apart from the fact that the herds contribute much to subsistence, they are also significant in both cultural and religious terms. Just as Pachamama, the Earth Mother, is honored every day for providing food for the people, so are the animals given love and respect for their help and companionship. (See Chapter 5.)
Fieldwork and Research Methods
The first time I asked myself about the kinds of child-rearing strategies that are required to raise a society of well-adjusted and dignified children, adolescents, and adults was in 1977, in the Amazon jungles of Loreto, along the Rio Tahuayo. The elegance and dignity of these people, and their generosity and helpfulness, was astounding. At that time I did research in primatology and could not pursue this intriguing question. Eleven years later, I was again confronted with the same surprise as I ventured for the first time to high-altitude Chillihuani. I am glad I got a second chance.
Fieldwork in Chillihuani has been both difficult and rewarding. The difficult part lies in the extreme weather conditions that can destroy harvests and bring about hunger, sickness, and frequent deaths when the knowledge of the healers is insufficient. On the other hand, fieldwork is also a fascinating experience. I will never forget the interesting conversations, the intriguing fiestas, and people's resilience in the face of terrible disasters. From the moment I arrived, I felt at home among the families of herders and the village at large. Yet it took me years to understand the overall ideology of the herders and to grasp the meanings of the metaphors and ancient symbolic patterns that guide these people's lives. After almost a decade and a half, I am still grappling with some of these issues as I continue my research and applied work in this village under the clouds. But work and research are not the only reason why Chillihuani keeps calling me back. There is an intrinsic harmony in this village, combined with the herders' dignified demeanor, their profound joy of living, and the melding of an enigmatic past that in some ways continues into the present. This special atmosphere has also seized others who have accompanied me to this village.
One of the reasons why fieldwork is so rewarding is the fact that these people still adhere to the ancient Inca greeting "Ama llulla, ama suwa, ama qella" (Don't lie, don't steal, don't be lazy). In accordance with ama llulla (don't lie), all are careful to tell the truth. They answer questions about past and present events with precision. They feel that facts must be stated in the appropriate way. Whenever I misunderstood what was said or done, people immediately corrected me in a friendly but decisive manner.
Ama suwa (don't steal) is taken seriously as well. Theft is virtually unknown in this village and is further discouraged by a variety of strategies discussed in Chapter 6. Throughout many years of fieldwork, I never lost anything, though I left my equipment and other things unattended at all times.
The herders are equally concerned about ama qella (don't be lazy). They speak proudly about their work on the fields, and about faena (communal work, Sp.). Work is even believed to be part of the afterlife, as people wish for good pastures, plentiful harvests, and a healthy flock of animals when they must depart for hanan pacha, the Andean heaven, literally the "upper world." The strong work ethic is combined with respect for the deities and sometimes with fear of their powers. The deities cooperate in the subsistence activities as they provide the villagers with fertile earth, rain, and sun to make things grow.
The primary objective of this book is to describe and analyze child rearing in the cultural context of Chillihuani, with special emphasis on the issues listed in the preface. I did not engage in psychological testing of any kind, but instead observed the children, their parents, and their other caregivers in natural settings. My observations were complemented by dialogues with children and community members of both sexes and all ages. The examples I have used from other investigators in the Andes and elsewhere show similarities and differences in child rearing and their impact on children's development. No anthropological study had been done in Chillihuani prior to my arrival.
Interviews were held in the form of dialogues, which simultaneously satisfied my interests and those of my herder friends who were curious about customs in other parts of the world. Sometimes I received different answers to the same question, which is to be expected since people tend to view situations in a variety of ways and cultural practices differ to some degree even between families. To learn about a wider range of perspectives regarding the issues at hand and to clarify contradictory statements, I met with groups of people to discuss the observed events and analyze their symbolic significance. Researchers Flannery, Marcus, and Reynolds found in the course of their fieldwork among llama herders of Ayacucho that "it is one thing to collect a series of concepts in an American Indian language; it is quite another thing to have their underlying meaning revealed by someone who spent his entire youth thinking exclusively in that language" (1989:xii). I also agree with Victor Turner that one must try to discover how the indigenous people themselves feel and think about their own rituals (1969:11). For this reason I made sure that the local people spoke for themselves on many occasions, not only in the course of my fieldwork, but also in this book. I was unable to observe a few activities, in which cases I relied on the description of key informants and elders.
The herders have very good memories and remember details of discussions we had years ago. They are also well versed in oral history and are quite articulate. Given the negative stereotype of highland Indians, people in valley towns and in the city were surprised when listening to my tapes. I was especially amazed by old people's positive outlook on life after having endured grim poverty for so long in an unforgiving environment. These people speak with honesty and sophistication, adding wit and humor to their accounts. They showed me that even under the most challenging conditions, life is what you make of it.
I am grateful to the herders for being so forgiving, especially at the beginning of my studies when I was ignorant of their behavioral etiquette and thus unwittingly disrespectful with regard to the moral norms of this society. For example, after a thundering horse race close to the permanent snow, I was eager to discover who was the winner of this spectacular race. I persisted in asking until the healer pointed to the winner, who then looked to the ground in embarrassment. In a society where respect is paramount, no one sets himself above others. I also used to ask people at what ages their children had started to engage in certain activities. Here my questions were equally out of place, since many people did not keep count of the year of their children's birth, and children are not driven to do certain things according to age.
Old people and most women are monolingual Quechua speakers. Young and middle-aged men and those young women who attended school speak some Spanish. Children who have been able to continue schooling beyond grade six in the valley speak good Spanish and often express themselves in as eloquent a manner as they do when speaking Quechua. Village elders estimate that about 30 percent of the villagers are bilingual. I taped most interviews, music, and singing, as well as our joking sessions (chansanakuy). It was interesting to note that despite our very different cultural backgrounds, our senses of humor are very much the same.
The Indians of the high Peruvian Andes refer to themselves as runakuna (the people), or runapunakuna (the people of the high puna). They speak runasimi, the Quechua language. Quechua was not a written language in Inca times; therefore we find considerable variation in orthography. My spelling of Quechua is based on the 1995 Quechua-Spanish dictionary published by the Academia Mayor de la Lengua Quechua. For an occasional clarification of concepts, I used the Diccionario Quechua Cuzco-Collao (1976), by Antonio Cusihuaman, and the Diccionario Kkechuwa-Español (1968), by Jorge A. Lira. I have added the English "s" to designate the plural, since Quechua does not have an equivalent suffix and the Quechua suffix -kuna (as in wasikuna, meaning houses) cannot be used in all cases where the plural is warranted. Quechua words and expressions are typed in italics. Spanish terms are in italics, followed by "Sp." Quechua quotes from documents, as well as names of people and places, have for the most part been left in the customary spelling as it appears on the relevant documents and maps. My sources for Latin names of animals and plants are not always consistent. The principal sources for Latin names of plants are Daniel Gade (1975) and Antonio Brack Egg (1999); for animals it is the dictionary by the Academia Mayor de la Lengua Quechua (1995).
I am responsible for the translation of all documents and communications that required translating. Spanish-speaking herders and experts of the Quechua language assisted in translations from Quechua to Spanish and/or in the clarification of complex ideas expressed in Quechua. Possible errors in facts and interpretation, of course, remain mine.
Having lived in Chillihuani off and on between 1988 and 2004 (1988, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004), my descriptions are based on accumulated observations and experiences over the years. Thus, for example, Anali, one of my godchildren, was three years old when I met her for the first time. Now she is seventeen. It is not always easy to establish the ages of the people in Chillihuani, since in the past only a few families kept track of the year in which they were born. But everyone knows the season when the births took place. Part of my research was carried out before 1996, while the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) was active in Peru. It is probably due to Chillihuani's inaccessibility that this region was not directly hit by the problems of that time.
Although I know most of the families in Chillihuani and was allowed to observe their customs and lifeways, I usually lived with any of the four healers and their families, who therefore enter more frequently into the discussion of specific events. The people of Chillihuani are pleased that I wrote a book on child-rearing practices in their village. Most people insisted that I use their photos and their proper names in the book. Others were not quite sure, in which case I used pseudonyms. Indians of the Andes use two last names, their father's and their mother's. I have sometimes used only the first of the two names, since both were not always given.
Although this book focuses on child-rearing practices, it also describes and analyzes community activities, fiestas, and ideological issues. These are important, since children grow up in a cultural milieu where they observe family and village activities and become participants in due time. As I compare situations that exist in Chillihuani with those in Peruvian towns and cities and the Western world, I use the term "modern" to describe these societies, since neither cling to traditional ways of life.
Change: For Better or for Worse
In 1997 I concluded my book Rituals of Respect: The Secret of Survival in the High Peruvian Andes by expressing the belief that the magnificent culture of the Chillihuani herders will continue for a long time, given people's pride in their culture and customs and their determination to survive in their high mountains. The herding way of life in the Andes has continued and adapted to turbulent conditions for more than 6,000 years, since the llama was first domesticated. Llama herding has evolved "in response to countless sociopolitical changes around it . . . it has adjusted to the rise and fall of the Wari state in the Ayacucho Basin (AD 600-800), the expansion of the Inca empire (AD 1450-1532), the Spanish conquest of the sixteenth century, and the war of Peruvian independence from Spain (AD 1824)" (Flannery, Marcus, and Reynolds 1989:2). Legend tells that the first Incas originated in Lake Titicaca and made their way to Cuzco, from where they founded an immense empire that included the present countries of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, southern Colombia, northern Chile, and northern Argentina. In some cases the memories of the Andean people go back to Inca and pre-Inca times (see also MacCormack 1991:179).
Throughout their empire, the Incas created "enormous structures in stone and adobe, earthquake-resistant architecture, outstanding irrigation works, and superb agricultural terraces. They knew about astronomy, practiced brain surgery, and organized their empire in ways unlike any other known society. Tawantinsuyu became the largest native empire that ever arose in the New World" (Bolin 1998:4).
In colonial times, significant events took place in the provinces of Quispicanchis and Canchis, at the very margins of Chillihuani. Thus, in the early 1780s, Gabriel Condorcanqui, who was born in Tinta as a direct descendant of the Inca royal lineage, took the name Tupac Amaru II and together with his wife Micaela Bastides led a revolution against the exploitation of native peoples by colonial authorities. Against their intentions, the uprising turned into the bloodiest rebellion of the colonial epoch (Sallnow 1991:285), with both native peoples and the Spanish suffering devastating losses. Tupac Amaru II and his family were killed in the most cruel manner on the large central plaza of Cuzco. But in the memories of people throughout the region, they live on as heroes.
Despite these upheavals, the ancient herding way of life has maintained essential elements from times long gone. Given Chillihuani's remote location, social change has been much slower than in more accessible regions. Yet for the last fourteen years, and especially since 1997, I have witnessed changes in Chillihuani that have brought along both beneficial and devastating results for the community.
The people of Chillihuani assert that prior to 1988, the village had never received assistance in its efforts to develop basic amenities. The only projects that reached this village had been a church, built in 1938 using the labor of the local people, and a small school, also built with communal labor.
On my first visit to Chillihuani in 1988, adobe walls destined to be a health station had been built in the center of the village. Given the subsistence way of life, this project could not be brought to conclusion, nor could other urgent projects be started. Formerly people could survive in their marginal environment, but extreme weather conditions caused by global warming had destroyed harvests and caused death among many herd animals, making survival difficult throughout wide regions of the Andes. During such dreadful times I would have felt uncomfortable if the sole reason for my presence had been to study rituals and child rearing. It was gratifying to be able to assist the villagers, with the help of individuals and organizations, in their struggle to survive (Bolin 1992:14).
Thanks to the funds provided by the organizations I contacted, environmentally safe projects were implemented. With communal work and the help of the Yachaq Runa group of Cuzco, which I founded to deal with Andean medicine, nutrition, and ecology, the community built a health station, three first aid stations, a building for the Women's Committee, three drinking water projects, and a water reservoir, and organized several seed projects, a reforestation project, a project to curb hunger and malnutrition, several health and food campaigns, a greenhouse project, a fish project, and a library project. To protect the delicate environment, people started to use solar cookers to cook meals and sterilize medical instruments. Solar water heaters and solar lighting systems for the health station and the school were also much appreciated by the local population (Bolin and Bolin 2003). Three of the Chillihuani healers and two young herders joined the Yachaq group (see Pantigozo de Esquivel 1995). The group members appreciate the Chillihuani herders for their knowledge and excellent cooperation, and the herders, in turn, learn about other ways of healing from the various Yachaq members, who come from different regions of the Sierra. Aspects of modern medicine, such as courses in hygiene and family planning, are taught in various villages along the Vilcanota and Urubamba Valleys by the Yachaq healers, nurses, and physicians. We implemented a variety of grassroots projects in those regions as well. Finally, in 2000, the province made a move and helped Chillihuani build a new school with four rooms. Then, in 2002, Marcial, the mayor of the district capital of Cusipata, who used to teach in Chillihuani, honored our request for more drinking water projects, a washroom for the health clinic, and the repair of the water reservoir. In 2004 we provided the school with solar lighting. All of these projects were considered priorities by the local population and were much appreciated.
Yet the community has suffered various setbacks. Among these was the sudden death of Ignacia, the president of the Women's Committee. She was a generous person and a great organizer who knew how to make the most of the scarce resources. Soon thereafter the esteemed elder Roberto Yupanqui Qoa, whose memories of his ancestors reached back to Inca times (see Bolin 1998), died as well. In October 1999, Juan Mamani, the tireless and much-appreciated healer, fell to his death from a steep cliff.
The extreme climatic conditions between 1997 and 2000, which destroyed harvests and killed more than 30 percent of the herds, forced increasingly more people to leave the village in search of work in agriculture; in households in larger urban centers such as Sicuani, Cuzco, and Quillabamba; and in logging and gold washing in the jungle regions of Madre de Dios. The exhausting work and tropical diseases caused many people to fall ill. Sometimes death followed.
In 1996, after the danger of the Shining Path had passed, a variety of religious sects infiltrated the Vilcanota Valley. Some of the Chillihuani villagers descended to the valley to engage in a food-for-work relationship with specific religious groups. In September of 1998 representatives from one of the sects ventured to Chillihuani for the first time. In 1999, when I participated in the Pukllay fiesta in the heights of the village, the Chillihuani herders celebrated this ancient event with enthusiasm and serenity. Irrespective of torrential rains, hail, and landslides, they danced and made offerings of respect to the deities and their fellow humans in their adobe huts and between the borderlines of the suyus. But a small group of twelve people followed the leader of a sect to a different place in the high mountains, where they burned the sacred paraphernalia used in ancient rituals. This small group did not come to the Pukllay dances either. Influenced by sect members, who promised food and other amenities, these herders stopped chewing the coca leaves that provided them with much-needed calcium, vitamins, and minerals and instead started to chew gum, which slowly rots their teeth. There is no money in Chillihuani for toothbrushes and toothpaste, let alone dental bills. Coca leaves also suppress feelings of hunger, thirst, cold, and fatigue and figure importantly in rituals and social interactions. Alan Ereira (1991) notes that coca leaves and cocaine are as different as rye bread and rye whiskey.
Many Andean people understand little about the basic premises of these religious sects, and they are not always sure which group carries out what activities. It is quite clear, however, that the propagators of various sects are competing with other sects who work in the same or neighboring villages, causing much conflict and even casualties.
The few Chillihuani herders who joined the sects confided that they were not allowed to follow any of their previous beliefs and rituals or sing traditional songs, dance, and tell stories from the time of their ancestors. Some local people were offered a salary by religious groups to go from house to house to convert villagers. Although only a few people joined the sects, the elders feared that the strong solidarity of the village was in jeopardy. They wondered what kind of culture would develop, given the many different beliefs and conflicting attitudes, and what would happen to their fragile, high-altitude region when the earth, water, and mountains were no longer acknowledged and respected as they have been since time immemorial. The village elders continue to hope that the people who abandoned their Andean culture and beliefs will come to their senses and return to the ancestral religion that has thus far assured respect and solidarity within their community.
When I returned a year later, in 2000, some people had gone back to their Andean religion, which contains some elements of Catholicism and otherwise reveres nature in all its forms. By 2001, other people had exchanged the Chiclets they had started to chew for the traditional coca leaves that provide them with important nutrients. They again wore their ponchos and llikllas. In February of 2002, the elders reported that all of the families participated again in the ancient Pukllay celebration that honors Andean culture and religion.
The shock waves discussed above have introduced change but have not destroyed the most significant characteristics upon which Chillihuani society is built. This points to both great resilience on the part of its people and their determination to keep their culture intact. The chapters that follow show that now, as in the past, the people of these high mountains are concerned that their families and community continue to live in dignity as they instill the respect they have received from their ancestors in their children for generations to come.
Central Ideas of Chapters
In order to understand a society, it is necessary to consider how people live their lives, starting at birth. One must understand how children are accepted into this world and how the birth of a child can bring not only much joy, but also sadness when things go wrong.
As we accompany a young family throughout pregnancy and birth, Chapter 1 illustrates people's joys and concerns regarding these events. Natural childbirth techniques, the use of ancient Andean medicine, postpartum activities, and cultural beliefs throughout and following birth will be discussed. Although boys and girls are loved and treated equally, in the high Andes people pray for the firstborn to be a girl, contrary to many other countries where the firstborn is hoped to be a boy. Rituals for the newborn include unuchakuy, which introduces the child to godparents and to a sacred mountain that takes the role of a godparent, protecting the child throughout its life.
Wrapped in a swaddling cloth, an infant is always in close contact with its mother or other caregivers, as we will see in Chapter 2. Infants are raised in a permissive way and childhood is usually a happy time as children grow up in a world of adults. As they learn to honor the manifold forms of life by which nature presents herself, as kinship ties connect them with people from outside the family circle, and as they receive their rights and responsibilities, we witness the many ways by which respect is instilled in young children.
The permissive attitude toward infants and small children continues as they are allowed to playfully explore their environment and assist their families in everything they can. Chapter 3 defines how play and work merge into one entity. Creativity is stimulated as, in the absence of store-bought toys, children work at creating their own playthings. They meet with further challenges and get prepared for life as they begin to help in the fields and take their family's herd to pasture.
The great variety of stimuli children are exposed to at play and work impacts their further learning and performance in school. Chapter 4 reveals why children who are deprived of the tools and experiences believed instrumental to success in "modern" societies are actually well prepared for life, excelling in mathematics and rising to the top of the class when they continue schooling in the valley. The reason why children excel in a society that has no appreciation for a competitive attitude is also examined.
Chapter 5 discloses how fiestas, ceremonies, and rituals provide children with further opportunities to learn organizational skills to become more familiar with metaphors and understand the significance of respect. It analyzes the importance of rituals during the ancient fiesta of Pukllay and shows how respect and reciprocity connect people not only to their fellow villagers, but to all life in the cosmos.
By the time they reach adolescence, Chillihuani children have established a framework of knowledge that accommodates new experiences in an organized way. Chapter 6 explores why these children feel neither lost nor unhappy or awkward during adolescence, and why physical changes are welcome. This chapter also discusses the challenges, rights, and responsibilities the adolescents assume at this stage in their lives, when they start to participate in various local institutions that convey knowledge, pride, and a strong sense of adventure.
In conclusion, Chapter 7 brings together the key issues that make child-rearing practices in the high Andes so effective. Comparisons with child rearing in other settings shed light on ways of living that can benefit children and societies everywhere.