Issue - June 2007

June 2007

This month's issue: Dual Tourism. Bolivian Theatre. More from the Museum of Archaeology. The Peace Corps in Bolivia and many others! Read on and familiarize yourself with some of Cochabamba's happenings! Do not forget...we enjoy recieving feedback from our please write to us and share your comments with us and the rest of Cochabamba! more...

June 2007

Worshipping Water: Ancient Rituals in Cochabamba´s High Valleys

By: Walter Sanchez
Photographs: Iván Montaño and Walter Sánchez
Illustration: Iván Montaño
Intitute of Archeological Research, Mueso de Arqueología San Simón

They say that the cantaritos on the stone were caused by lightning,” says a young peasant boy talking about the cavities that exist on in the rock near Calicanto River, in the K’ara Kara community of Tarata-Cochabamba. Just three decades ago, this place was used for prayers, asking for rain during the drought season. “When I was a child, my parents took us and we would kneel and, together with the entire community, ask for rain. We would say ‘Yacu Tatay, Paray Tatay’ - ‘Father Water, Father Rain’. The whole community would go, including children, boys and girls. Kneeling, we would pray and shout for rain. For this, people would bring water in jugs from a spring that was close to the Convent in Tarata. From there, the water was brought and put into the cantaritos.”

But these people do not do this anymore. What was the relation between the lightning, the rock, the cavities in the rock, and the rain? During Incan times, Illapa, the god of lightning, was one of the most important gods of the Andes. Juan Polo de Ondegardo, an emissary in the Paso, a valley of Cochabamba, who was an expert in indigenous religions, emphasized in his 1871 book Tratado sobre los errores y supersticiones de los Indios the significance of these gods. “The Incas, lords of Peru, the most adored after Viracocha and the Sun, gave the names of Chuquilla, Catailla and Inti Illapa to thunder, pretending he is a man in the heavens with a club, who held in his hands all rain, hail, thunder and everything that creates the clouds in the skies.” The relationship between Illapa and the rain was further explored by priest Bernabé Cobo, who, in his 1653 book Historia del Nuevo Mundo states that the indigenous religious “Gave thunder the ability to rain or hail with everything else that touches the clouds n the skies…thus, under the name of thunder or as followers of him, adored the lightning, thunder, the arch of the sky, the rains, the hail and even the storms.”

With the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors came the illegality of these gods, and this is the reason that today indigenous people still dress their gods in Christian clothing, to continue worshiping them in secret. Therefore, Illapa became Santiago and the traditions of water and the rain were concealed underneath the face of Christian appearance. In other places, these rituals were performed in the name of other saints, although many old rituals were maintained.

At present these rituals have lost their relevance. In Tarata – and in K’ara K’ara - the local rituals have disappeared because of acute drought at the beginning of going back nearly three decades, brought on by El Niño. Desperately, the people in Tarata and smaller surrounding communities asked the priests of the Franciscan Church to perform processions in the name of San Severino, believed to be the saint of miracles. After one such procession, a huge storm began, causing flooding. This “miracle” passed through the mouths of the people from town to town. It was then that San Severino was baptised as “Saint of the Rains” with an adjoining cult that grew to the extent of becoming a regular regional festivity.

Forgotten, the ancient rock cavities or domes remain as the only mark of the ancient rituals that came before these processions.

The Guacharo Birds Canyon
It is now recognized that our community must work to conserve bio-diversity. Bolivia cannot fail to awaken the interests of visitors to discover this countrys amazing natural, cultural and rich bio-diversity resources...
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