I read the blog entry below last year and found it inspiring, being vegan means you have to know where you can eat/drink or buy beforehand though in modern towns there’s usually at least a health food store. What I really liked reading about was the ‘chicherias’ and their respect to the Andean Earth Mother ‘Pachamama’. Peru is a fascinating country and with the Andes bordering other beautiful and mysterious countries the allure is deeply compelling.
Friday, 11 September, 2015
Dana Roberts discusses experiences that opened her eyes as a vegan traveller in Peru, and provides tips for like-minded vegan adventurers.
When you’re traveling as a vegan, most of the guidebook recommendations aren’t helpful. The stand-out restaurants suggested by Zagat and others will often make you pay a hefty sum for a plain salad, even though you asked them not to include the lobster on top.
However, there is an attractive alternative: use veganism as an opportunity to push yourself away from the well-groomed tourist path. You might just realize that there is still a lot out there to discover.
The market of markets in CuscoWhen my boyfriend Lou and I arrived as fresh-faced vegans in Cusco, Peru, one of the first things we did was explore the local markets. However, we quickly realized that not all markets are created equal. For example, many of the central markets listed in the ‘off the beaten path’ guidebooks were built to support the huge influx of tourists, and the fruits and vegetables they sold miraculously doubled in price in comparison to other, peripheral markets. When I was chatting with a local chef about this problem he happily suggested I go with his father to the largest market, 20 minutes from the center of Cusco, and discover what a real city market was like. This was the holy grail, the market that all the other markets bought from, and it showed. You could only buy in bulk: a crate of strawberries, or a massive bag of potatoes. It was a vegan paradise of sorts.
This early realisation to get out of the centre and to actually talk to more locals was a turning point in my travels. Empowered to continue exploring the city, I met up for coffee with a local photographer named Wayra. He agreed to take us to a few of his favorite ‘chicherias,’ small bars usually run by one woman, where the only drink served is a home-brewed fermented corn drink called ‘chicha.’Drinking ‘chicha’ After hiking up what felt like 100 flights of stairs, we finally made it to one of these local bars, barely visible from the street. It was marked by a small bouquet of flowers hanging in a pot next to the door with a red flag made of plastic – this combination of flowers and ‘bandera’ lets you know that you’ve come across a ‘chicheria.’ As we entered he explained that before we could take our first sip, we must make an offering to ‘Pachamama,’ or mother earth, as a gift, by pouring out a little of our drinks onto the dirt floor. We sat in a small room with a tin roof as the rain pelted down amongst a group of elderly Cusqueño men. After everyone felt satisfied with the number of toasts that had been made to the earth, and to each other, I took my first sip. The only way I can describe it is a mix between hard apple cider and a very sour, almost cloudy beer. Sitting among the locals, drinking a beverage that has been made this way since Incan times, I was struck by how far my plant-based way of life had taken me. Drinking ‘chicha’ with new friends in the outskirts of Cusco will forever be one of the most interesting things I’ve done while travelling.
A Green Point catered partyAfter being on the road for about a month, I could feel myself getting tired of going to restaurants and trying to explain: “no leche, no carne, no mantequila, no huevo, etc…” All that changed the day I was walking through the artsy neighborhood of San Blas and stumbled upon Green Point. It was an entirely vegan restaurant nuzzled away in a side alley that like the ‘chicheria’ could barely be seen from the street. When I sat down for dinner I couldn’t believe my eyes – an enormous menu with everything from vegan lasagna, vegan ravioli, vegan tofu fried rice, lo mein, etc. There were plates from all around the world—all veganised—and all completely affordable. It was such an amazing and exciting moment to kick back with a vegan menu, to be able to relax when the waiter came by, and to finally get to try a lot of Peruvian dishes that had previously been off limits. The chef, Fabricio, had created a vegan ceviche made with avocado, mango, corn, lime and coconut, which was one of the best dishes I ate in Peru. There was even a vegan version of “lomo saltado” a traditional Peruvian dish normally made with steak and sautéed veggies. Getting to try most of Green Point’s menu and meet the wonderful people who worked there made me start to feel less like a traveller and more like a guest in someone’s home.
Cusco will always remain special to me as the first place we travelled as vegans, and where I gained so much perspective when it comes to getting to know a new city. To my fellow vegan travellers, I would recommend doing a little research before landing. Peruvians are familiar with the term “vegetarian” but many of the waiters think that vegetarians only abstain from red meat, not white meat like chicken. As a vegan traveler, it’s worth memorising all the Spanish words for meat and dairy products, especially butter and cheese. Beyond that, I would also recommend remaining flexible and trying to find accommodations that allow you to cook for yourself once in a while. This way you can shop at the various local markets and begin to explore the unbelievable diversity of fruits and vegetables available in Peru.
Dana and her boyfriend Lou run Plant Based Traveler, a vegan travel show dedicated to demonstrating that while being a vegan backpacker involves more planning, it is infinitely more rewarding.
Mum and I aren’t religious or ritualist but I do like the way they ‘pay’ respect to Pachamama and in personal, non-hurtful ways like giving back a little food that wasn’t made via sacrifice. We do similar, every time we cook we give a bit back to the fire and when we don’t it takes it… Hard to explain but it’s not like the usual ‘damn I dropped a bit!’ I’ve been saying ‘thank you’ to anything I use, that seems like it has ‘personality’, even if that just means it works hard and has ‘moods’, for a long time. It’s just a quick reflex but I mean it. So when I wash my hands for example I say thank you to the water, heck I even say it to inanimate objects like the photocopier. Whether they have any kind of sentience or not they help me and I’m grateful even though ultimately ironically I’m not grateful for life or the ‘experience’ as many people put it.
As with any source/’resource’/’fount’ though respect can be turned into homage i.e. a ‘set in stone/print’ allegiance/contract which is usually too ‘gimme gimme gimme’ on some sides who get distracted by codes of coded behaviour over the importance of what it is they should be doing. For example when Catholicism spread in South America, Pachamama was absorbed into Virgin Mary imagery as other goddesses were worldwide and rather than being respectful that’s iconoclastic imo. For example ‘The Virgin of the Mountain’ (there is a lot of Pachamama mountain imagery and some of the ‘symbiotic’ Christian/Catholic juxtaposed images are terrible morphs) and animal sacrifice described below:
The Pachamama is the highest divinity of the Andean people since she is concerned with fertility, plenty, the feminine, generosity and ripening crops, besides providing protection.
The name Pachamama is translated into English as Mother Earth since pacha is a word in both Quechua and Aymara that means earth, cosmos, universe, time, space, etc. in English and mama means “mother.”
The concept of Pachamama is directly related to agricultural wealth since the economy of the indigenous peoples is based on agricultural production. Nevertheless, most of the population in Bolivian cities is indigenous (mainly Aymara and Quechua), including as regards their customs, so their beliefs are still common in modern society. However, there have been some changes as the Catholic faith has become more prevalent. In some ceremonies the Pachamama is worshipped through the Virgin Mary.
This symbiosis or sincretism can be clearly seen in the picture The Virgin of the Mountain where the Mother Earth, represented by the mountain is above the Virgin Mary as well as being her skirt.
Worshipers venerate the Pachamama with offerings through rituals like the challa. Likewise it is very common for the Pachamama to receive the first serving of beer at their social gatherings since believers pour a few drops on the ground before they take their first sip. This is a way to thank and feed the Pachamama.
One of the most common offerings to the Pachamama in the Aymara culture is a llama fetus which, once dried, is buried under the foundations of a building or in the crop fields during August to attract wealth and wellbeing and to keep bad energy away.
Also, in the Andean culture the Pachamama is the goddess who protects all material goods and at the same time rules over the spiritual universe. Therefore, she symbolizes the human environment in every aspect, so those who believe in her will maintain a balanced, reciprocal relationship with her.
Then there’s the point that we use our ‘resources’ so recklessly and greedily that there came a point when the Bolivia felt it necessary to establish Pachamama’s ‘legal rights’ as if she’s subject to the bits of her body’s made up jurisdictions; might as well make her human, make all the profit/advantage you can out of her and then charge her rent and utilities for the privilege of being used and act like you’re doing her a favour. I’m not criticising the Pachamama Alliance who were/are working for environmental and indigenous people’s harmony, just the irony of the situation.
This last October Bolivia enacted an expanded version of its already revolutionary 2010 Law of the Rights of Mother Earth. Titled the Framework Law on Mother Earth and Integral Development for Living Well, the new law exemplifies indigenous values in that it recognizes Mother Earth as a “living dynamic system,” and grants Her comprehensive legal rights that are comparable to human rights.
Honoring the Larger Living System that Envelops & Sustains Us
In general, the law “…says Mother Earth has the right to exist, continue life cycles and be free from human alteration, the right to pure water and clean air, the right to equilibrium, the right not to be polluted or have cellular structures modified and the right not to be affected by development that could impact the balance of ecosystems.”
The law is seen as a bold step in the right direction for a number of reasons. Bolivia has particularly felt the effects of climate change, as the video above portrays, as well as environmental damage from deforestation and its dependency on extractive industries. “In 2010, Bolivia ranked 137th out of 163 countries in annual environmental performance index by Yale and Columbia universities.” It is hoped this law will improve environmental and human rights conditions in Bolivia itself, and expand on the precedent Ecuador set when it incorporated rights of nature into its constitution.
Challenges On the Path To Realizing Mother Earth’s Right to Thrive
Not surprisingly, however, there are critics and skeptics who question the appropriateness, and/or perceived idealism, of giving Mother Earth legal rights. And there is also the question of how the law will be enforced. While a Ministry of Mother Nature will oversee enforcement, and an ombudsman will be appointed, the big question is how the law will be realized on the ground. Even champions of the law recognize this will be difficult, at best.
On a practical level, there is resistance to measures the new law calls for that require existing practices to change. For example, the right of Mother Earth not to “have cellular structures modified” means genetically modified seeds will be phased out. At the same time, much of Bolivia’s agricultural industry uses genetically modified seeds. Ninety percent of all soy, Bolivia’s third-largest export crop, is grown with transgenic seeds. Demetrio Pérez, the president of the National Association of Oilseeds and Wheat Producers, says Bolivia cannot return to traditional technology because “99% of crops are transgenic.” And in this article, originally posted in Yes! Magazine, Nick Buxton writes, “In 2010, 70 percent of Bolivia’s exports were still in the form of minerals, gas, and oil. This structural dependence will be very difficult to unravel.”
Two leading Bolivian indigenous rights groups ,CONAMAQ and CIDOB, have also rejected the law, stating that it undermines indigenous rights by not requiring indigenous consent for development projects, and promotes “standard development” that will continue to harm the environment.
On a conceptual level, some argue that the law is contradictory, mixing human’s and Earth’s rights together, leaving the door open for one or the other to be exploited. Carwil Bjork James writes:
The rights of Mother Earth, rights of indigenous peoples, rights of peasants, right to development, and the right to escape from poverty are all intermixed. CONAMAQ argues the law “incorporates the ‘right to development and the right to esacape from poverty’ so as to justify a developmentalist, extractive, and industrializing vision. In my analysis (and here I’ll put my environmental policy degree on the line), combining these rights into a single mix will allow future Bolivian governments to decide on which right gets prioritized. Under the aegis of “‘integral development,” governments can decide to value oil revenues spent on antipoverty programs over an indigenous people’s rights to refuse drilling on their territory.
The validity of these concerns and doubts can only be speculated on at this point.
Stepping Toward a New Vision by Re-thinking What Counts as the “Public’s Interest”
Despite concerns, it’s difficult to deny the law points us in an important direction. It recognizes the inextricable connection between human and environmental well-being, that we are pushing Mother Earth past sustainable limits, and that all people and institutions need to take part in reversing this trend.
Begonia Filgueira states in this article, “To say that the Earth is of public interest is also a major shift. There are many EU and UK laws which allow the public interest to trump over environmental concerns; the public interest not being normally defined as the well-being of the Earth community or the Earth, but determined largely by economic standards. By including the Earth in the public interest, there is an automatic shift from the human centric perspective to a more Earth community based perspective. And if there is a conflict between human (individual) and Earth/human (collective) rights, how is this meant to be resolved? The law says that the bar, the limit will always be the destruction of living systems.”
At bottom, Bolivia deserves credit for recognizing, in a more substantive way than any other nation so far, that humans ultimately will not thrive if the Earth as a whole cannot. We’d love it if you would share your thoughts on Bolivia’s law, and/or giving rights to nature in general.
The Inca people had a similar to ethos to other Brown peoples of the Earth whereby when they were conquered (over and above their civil in-fighting) by White people they foretold of a long period of suffering followed by the potential/opportunity of being peaceful, again apparently, and over time that becomes a fusion of invaders with invaded or specific races when it comes to the later Abrahamic religions and peoples. Wishful thinking/planning of the desperate? One group of Inca said that after 500 years of materialism and falling will come the time (1990 onwards) where people would have the opportunity to work together for better. Then there’s more widespread American prophecy of the Eagle of the North uniting with the Condor of the South, the eagle being masculine and condor feminine which makes sense from the right and left hand path philosophy – the feminine is the lower/the left (and in practice for humans ‘dirty’ or ‘wrong’/dark/evil) and the masculine the higher/the right (and in practice for humans the ‘better’/light/good, even ‘enlightened’). In concept masculine and feminine aren’t the same as human fe/males but in practice the older cultures were more feminine and totally so the further back you go, so with the domination of what became the US over the indigenous I can see why many describe the eagle as masculine and condor as feminine. The same goes for ‘The Children of the Sun’ part which is apparently what we’ll be when we unite, technically all Brown people are children of the sun in terms of climate though the term colloquially refers to Native Americans for many people, but the ‘sun’ in this has multiple levels (doesn’t everything?) There’s fireball in space, then there’s the ‘light’ of spirit and apparently these ‘new’ people will have a ‘new’ light. I’m writing this whilst living in a place that almost is sunnyland and thinking over recent years when we’ve moved ‘sun worshippers’ (of all skin colours) have followed; and let’s just say they were grasping, greedy opportunists who were/are obsessed with glorifying themselves whilst gorging on the energy of others. No wonder they’re happy in this place steeped in religious symbolism and clubs.
According to some people the Incas like the Indians may have had ‘ages’, the Inca ones being Golden, Silver, ‘Goni Killas’, Bronze and Iron age/Ayar Auka. Considering that the above ‘prophecies’ weren’t really prophecies but directions given by people to people to guide/be a plan, they remind of people who wish for the return of some ‘Golden Age’. It sounds beautiful but is it? Mass ascension has never been my thing. The Incas were too modern for me (I’ve always preferred prehistory) in that they too had the ‘masonic’ influence other ancients were overcome by. (Using ‘masonic’ – the corruption of the sound/voice/truth of the mother aka ma-sonic- as a description of the influence which under one name or another has over history been obsessed with being ‘all knowing yet unknown’ themselves whilst knowing everybody else’s lives inside out and making ‘sacred’ secrecy (the workings of the universe) and sacred silence (personal reflection/thought) into dogmatic, militant, bureaucratic systems of thought and control, which became prevalent on the ancient cultures and into today’s world.)
The following is excerpted from Shamanic Odyssey: Homer, Tolkien, and the Visionary Experience, forthcoming from Inner Traditions.
The prophecy of the Eagle and Condor is remarkable in that it marks the first truly international indigenous prophecy widely embraced by both Native and European-descended peoples, yet in approaching it, we need to be wary of the word “prophecy.” Anthropologist Adine Gavazzi reminds us that prophecy in the West involves a diachronic historical process, which among the peoples of the Andes and Amazon does not exist. Rather, there is the experience of cyclical and synchronic time, where different levels of perception of reality occur simultaneously. In other words, people do not witness prophecies unfolding in the linear progression of historical time. They live and experience the reality of myth — and in post-colonial America, such revitalization of the mythic core is a potent means of cultural and political resistance.
According to anthropologist Jeff Jenkins, the prophecy of the Eagle and Condor is within several (Andean Quechua, New Mexican Hopi, Guatemalan, Honduran and Mexican Mayan, Ecuadorian Shuar, and other) traditional indigenous cultures of North, Central, and South America. From these different regions come prophecies with a common theme of arriving to a point in time when “the human family would face the choice of evolutionary transformation into symbiotic presence within the more-than-human world or to continue in the destruction of the planet.”1
The genesis of the prophecy is shrouded. Naturally, throughout South America the indigenous Harpy Eagle and Condor figured prominently in the cosmo-visions of Pre-Contact native communities, yet there is no clear lineage of transmission for the version now in circulation.
Jenkins, inquiring into the prophecy’s origin among certain Shuar, Quechua, and Shipibo elders, reports, “What I glimpse into their understanding is that, early in their history as a people, the ways of the Condor and the ways of the Eagle were shown to them. Initially, this understanding was irrespective of north/south dichotomies. Through the generations of emergence, powerful personal spiritual and physical encounters clarified who the Condor was and who the Eagle was, as with any major plant, animal, mineral ally. I understand that the Condor archetype was symbiotic with the jungle Harpy Eagle archetype prior to European conquest. They soared together in both jungle and mountain terrain through the lands. The concepts of north and south and their respective archetypal and geographical resonance became clearer through subsequent centuries, when the symbol of the bald eagle became the dominating force of USA orchestrated mass genocide of the indigenous peoples. The indigenous condor consciousness was seen as inferior. The regenerative efficiencies (harvesting carrion and bringing back the energies of the dead) of the condor’s ways were disregarded. Symbolically and literally, the condor began its journey through torturous endangerment to the brink of extinction. The associations of north and south were, if I understand correctly, emergent and co-arising with the expanded intricacies of the way history panned out in the north and south.”2
One version of the prophecy comes from Lauro Hinostroza, a Peruvian healer who now lives in Mexico City. It states that in the historical cycles of the Incan peoples at the end of the eighth Pachakuti (each Pachakuti corresponds to five hundred years), the Eagle peoples would dominate the Condor peoples for one Pachakuti. This coincided with the arrival of Europeans, with their extractive economy and industries, leading to the exploitation, depopulation, and even genocidal eradication of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. The reign of the Eagle peoples was foretold to nearly bring into extinction the Condor peoples.
The prophecy continues with the claim that the tenth Pachakuti, from the end of the twentieth century, would be a time for the peoples of the Condor and the Eagle to fly and mate together in a creative symbiosis to restore and regenerate the Earth community.3
One marker of this opening of the tenth Pachakuti is the emerging unification of indigenous peoples and traditions, North and South, as well as the “indigenizing” of Westerners previously without a native consciousness of connection to the Earth and its larger, non-human community.
There are no historical documents, however, to buttress the claims of an Incan origin of this prophecy, and one hankers for a lineage. In reviewing our earliest record of Incan folklore and mythological cycles, the Huarochirí manuscript, commissioned by the Jesuit priest Francisco de Ávila in the late 1500’s as part of his campaign to eradicate the power of the pre-Conquest priesthood and worship of the huacas among the indigenous Andean peoples, there is no trace of Hinostroza’s pachakuti scheme nor the particular eagle/condor symbolism of the prophecy.
Yet the absence of written documents does not preclude a direct lineage out of the time depths of indigenous America. Since the inter-cultural nature of the myth supports it being a confluence of many different indigenous prophetic streams — especially if a cross-fertilization with the Hopi and other prophetic traditions of the North, which do have a “turning point,” occurred — it is probably futile to seek an original trace among surviving documents. It is through surviving culture that we need to gaze into the backward abyss of time.
One strong candidate for the cultural origin of the prophecy is the Taki Onkoy movement, which flourished in the latter 16th century and was widely mistaken until recent years to have been simply a short-lived political and cultural uprising against Spanish domination, until the work of Peruvian scholar Luis Millones disclosed the spiritual depths of the Taki Onkoy, including its enduring nature.
Spanish chronicles report an ecstatic dance, conducted at the huacas: sites (or loci, since humans, plants, animals and other beings could also be huacas) in the sacred topography of the Andean people where the divine nature of the cosmos was especially manifest and accessible. There the participants underwent a process of purification, sloughing off the imposed foreign traditions cutting them off from their ancestral memory and vital connection to the indigenous cosmos, while reestablishing their communion with the huacas.
The dance of the huacas, (so akin to the tragically short-lived Ghost Dance of the Northern plains), we now know has continued through the centuries, in disguised forms such as among the Danzantes de Tijeras, until the present. For example, in Arguedas 1962 account of the “Rasu Ñiti,” or death dance among the Danzantes, we see the ancestral spirit of the mountain, Wamani, appear in the form of a condor to the agonizing dancer. In this way, dancer can die in peace, because in the trance of the dance the continuity between the past of the ancestors and the future of his surviving family and pupils is guaranteed by the presence of the condor.
Among the Ashaninca of the high rainforest, whose ancient culture displays the ability to integrate the knowledge of newcomers (as they did upon receiving many of the Incan refugees into their communities), the practice of Taki Onkoy particularly flourished. Yet it was not a mere Incan import into their culture. It rather appears both as a form of shamanistic revival that erased religious superstructures, Christian and Incan, as well as a millenaristic practice, intended to reestablish the original balance with the natural world, the spiritual ancestors and the sacred landscape thru the awakening of the huacas. The messianic rebellion of the Ashaninca, led by José Santos Athahualpa in the 18th century which attempted to reestablish indigenous rule in Peru, appears to have drawn much of its spiritual inspiration from the Taki Onkoy.
In the end, it is clear that the Taki Onkoy is not just a historical episode. As Lawrence Sullivan writes, “The myths and rites of the Taqui Ongo religious-dance uprising…defy, escape or recreate their own initial historical setting in the sixteenth-century Peruvian Andes. Not only by their periodic reappearance in Andean History but also by their reappearance in ethnographies and in our own imaginations, these images transcend their original situation. Their presence among us in the twentieth century makes them and their meanings part of our own historical situation in a way that must be reckoned with”4
This way of ceremonial re-membering, with its messianic promise of the resurgence of native consciousness, enduring for centuries under the baleful, coercive glare of the European invaders and their predecessors, is not simply a heroic expression of a profound cosmology capable of encompassing a foreign belief system. It reminds us that the prophecy of the Eagle and Condor did not materialize out of thin air — it is a gift to us of hundreds of years of native resistance and tenacious remembering.
It is, in short, a brief lyric from a profound song of nostos.
1. Jenkins, An Ecozoic NeoNative Wisdom: Interfacing Cosmological Indigenous Ritual And The Story of the Universe, 10-11.
2. Personal communication.
3. Jenkins, An Ecozoic NeoNative Wisdom: Interfacing Cosmological Indigenous Ritual And The Story of the Universe, 10-11.
4. Sullivan, Lawrence, Icanchu’s Drum, 56.
Jenkins, Jeff. An Ecozoic NeoNative Wisdom: Interfacing Cosmological Indigenous Ritual And The Story of the Universe. Ph.D. diss. California Institute for Integral Studies, 2012.
Sullivan, Lawrence E. Icanchu’s Drum: An Orientation to Meaning in South. American Religions. New York: Macmillan Co., 1988.
It’s interesting, we’ve got the human and indeed more-than-human or non-human perspectives on Mother Earth and how we coulda, woulda, shoulda in terms of behaviour. I wonder what hers is, I doubt she’s willing to forgive and forget.
I like the Earth but she’s a little Mother who needs more than the ‘help’ ‘here’, I think I’ll wait for a or the Universal Mother to come and clean up proper.
In short musical form this is what I think happened 😛
So now its:
Tick tock the clock’s about the stop and She won’t be placated nor mollified.
Oh well you shoulda treated ‘your’ woman right, too little too late and too insulting trying it now, as these ladies say: