photo of person from Peru Cerro de Pasco
Peru glossary


(PERU 30)






local history researcher







Section 1
You mean the differences between town and country children was really marked, is that still so or has it changed?
When I came here it was very obvious, but it has improved which I will explain to you. Life on the big farms marginalises all of us, people often have a battery operated transistor radio so they hear a little local news and music. But we didn't have television, newspapers or magazines. So it was only when I went to Rancas and the city, Cerro de Pasco, that I met another world, other ways of behaving, and a lot of this was bad in my opinion, different times for doing things, and the noise. My first night in Cerro de Pasco was so funny. I got up several times thinking dawn had come. It wasn't dawn but the artificial light in the streets. Then I got used to it. In the country life begins with the first rays of light at around 5.30 am and that's the order of things we're used to. So when I began to study I became a dedicated and enthusiastic student. I did well even though I felt the enormous difference in the way of life and what being free means, having complete freedom to live with nature. In the city I used to leave the house for a walk, I used to walk through street after street, it was always the same, people on the corners, dogs, and folk rushing up and down, it's a monotonous way of life. When I would go out for a walk in the country, I could walk for kilometres through ever changing landscapes. It was fascinating, there was always something new to see.
Section 2
What about communication between farms, did you have friends?
We always found a way to play with a ball or a spinning top, you know the things kids do. We also used to go on hunting expeditions looking for animals or bird-life, fishing for trout or catching frogs. When I was a student in the town it all changed, I saw the violence, the bad feeling in the games and the disdain. So sometimes I preferred not to play and I would lose myself in my books and jotters. This helped me to excel in class and in the exams and I never thought that in the long-run I would become a highly respected student.

Isn't it something of a revenge for what you went through?
But what else was I to do. In my year there were all kinds - acriollados (white upper class, children), know-it-alls and the irksome ones.

So as a young man you got to know a lot about life in Rancas and the Cerro. But mining has brought major changes to the region and the campesinos have been in many conflicts over land-ownership, then there's the pollution of the land and the water. How do you see the problems and conflicts?
My experience was mainly when the mining company was called Centromin Peru. However, my parents tell me that when the company was called Cerro de Pasco Corporation there was a major expropriation of the land. The company fenced in nearly all the community cattle-grazing land so the campesinos had to move to higher parts of the mountain range, and they tried to turn to the authorities for help but with no success until the gringos (westerners, foreigners, in this context North Americans who ran/owned the mines) came to a decision which enabled them to recover the land which belongs to the Community to this day.
In more recent years things have changed. Some Rancans work local mineral resources like silicon, the produce lime which they then sell to the mining companies. We have a better communication network now, especially for trading between towns. However, you can see the impact of the waste water the washing of the minerals, from the silt, on the other side of the mountain chain. Those lands are yellow and don't grow any more, parts of the hills are barren. Even the animals, the sheep, the alpaca and the cows won't graze there. We have always waited for the rains and have used our springs but now even the rains bring pollution and the lakes and rivers are full of waste water from the concentrators which belong to Centromin or the other mining companies. This is all bad for our land. Even the wind carries the mining silt when it's dry, when it's a powder. Pollution is an ever present problem.
Section 3
Don Vicente, for many years your life was totally identified with the country but now I see you as more of a town person and well integrated into local institutional and cultural life. What can you say about your achievements?
As I said it was really hard for me at first, but little by little I got used to it and to urban ways of behaving, I got used to their way of life. When I was in secondary I already had some ideas, some questions about things, but it was only when I finished my studies that I began to do something about them with young people from Rancas. The first thing we did was to set up the Manuel Scorza Cultural Grouping and we set about collecting stories from our land and researching local issues. This was possible because of the number of enthusiastic and questioning people amongst us. We also organised musical groups and we saw that this experience had to be made public somehow or other. This we did through a piece of theatre which we eventually took to the National Theatre Meeting in Lima. We were well received, particularly the Yahuar and Cuatrotablas groups who helped us in everything. Our theatre was essentially based on rural life showing the strong bond campesinos have with nature, and well, ... we were well praised, it was a way of bringing together experiences of rural and urban life, particularly in Lima. In more recent years since I became part of town life I have held some public offices but we have carried on with our own projects, like the re-launching of radio Rancas which now goes out on AM. This means we are always in touch with people in the town and in the country and with the most far-flung places.

Which country feasts could you tell us about?
Well..., there are several feasts in the countryside but the main one is the animals' feast which is celebrated with Carnival in February and March. The animals' feast lasts nearly a week because it begins on a Friday and ends the following Wednesday. Everyone who has a little farm and has some animals celebrates this feast. On the Friday we go into town to buy all we need for the animals' table, and the feast actually begins on the Saturday. We begin with the first ritual which is taking a table up the mountain with an offering of coca (South American shrub the leaves of which as used as a narcotic or stimulant), liquor, fruit and sweets. We take this offering to the mountain, the patron of the animals, because the mountain looks after the animals and all cattle-owners have absolute faith in him. In Quechua this is called Mezachunllay, Auquillo, it means lay the table for the Auquillo, the compadre (literally godfather of your children, used as a term of respect), but in Quechua it's Auquillo. So a group of people led by the head of the family offer the table to the mountain and they put out a glass. Meanwhile they are chewing and selecting the smallest, the most succulent, coca leaves for the glass. The owner of the farm or the head of the family adds wine or alcohol made from sugar cane and raisins. They add the leaves little by little, and also cigarette ends, and the dregs of the glasses, until they have three or four glasses full of coca, chewed coca and cigarette ends and they offer it up to the Auquillo with faith. This is the way they share with the mountain and the whole ceremony is held before the mountain in the open air. It might begin at four in the afternoon or at eight at night and it lasts three or four hours. That's because we do a double boleada (chewing of coca), the first boleada and then the second boleada.
Section 4
Can you explain what a boleada is?
The boleada is when you chew the coca, the chacchar. When we choose the coca to chacchar (to chew) we choose the best leaves and we put them in the glass for the mountain or the Auquillo, and that's the way we share with our patron, with the grandfather, with the great shepherd, this is the Auquillo. We give this to him in faith and with love so that in the next year the little leaves in the glass will become good crops which will grow throughout the year. And the sweets, the figs and the raisins represent the young of the animals and just like the conflicts they must be abundant over the next year ... this is what we do. If you have offered up a good table, and you have given it in faith, your animals will double in number next year, that's what we believe and we all have faith in this here. When we have finished chewing and sharing with the mountain we cover everything we have offered with stones, and each person takes his partner and in happiness goes off dancing to the rhythm of the tinya (little drum) which is also called Tinyapalampa. So they go down the mountain dancing until they get to the house and then they chew another boleada at the animals' table.

This is another table?
Yes of course. When we go to the mountain we take up a table and an offering which we put in a corner between some stones and apart from this we take coca, liquor and cigarettes which we share and put in the glasses - drinking or chewing. This sharing is called gaticollcuy which means follow me, follow me. It means the animals will follow me next year and this is what we ask of the mountain when we prepare the glasses for him.
On the Saturday night we have a grand tinya feast with lots of dancing. On the Sunday we start to mark the animals with ribbon, the horses, llamas and cows. This continues on Monday and the same on Tuesday, Tinyando, singing and dancing we put the ribbons on the animals, and as we put them on the grandparents play the Tinya. We also do the puyada, which is a knot in the animals' ribbons. Once we have finished the owner of the farm offers a toast to everyone and the party begins - we put streamers on the animals and we give them a few drinks too.
Then the owner's feast begins. The owner of the house becomes an animal, in this case a bull and if its a woman then she is a cow. The game is to get a hold of them or put on their ribbon so we use a rope. Everyone takes part in this representation of the bull and the cow, the bulls and the cows charge and buck like an angry bull, they don't let themselves be captured and this goes on until they fall. We have streamers, polish, paint and animal dung and nettles for this game. The woman who is the cow has had a rope put on her and they throw vivas at her, that's what we call sweets and candies and biscuits so that next year there will be more of them and since we do this out on the grass then everyone rushes to pick up the vivas they're throwing at Mrs. Cow, even the dogs and the chickens. It would be amazing, to film this feast with everyone so happy. That's the way Carnival ends, very late on Tuesday night.
On Wednesday the owner of the house offers all the guests, all the people who have helped out, and everyone who has taken part, a pachamanca (meat and vegetables cooked in underground ovens). Everyone is given fruit like apples and oranges, tied together with a string, there's also a portion of pachamanca, and they hang it round their necks. This is the way they invite you to the next year's feast. It's a kind of game here with the ashes from the pachamanca. On the following day, the Thursday, everyone goes back to their everyday life. And a week has already gone by, given that it all begins on the Friday with all the shopping for the feast.
Section 5
Do you know the historical roots of this feast?
Well, I learned it from my grandparents and they in turn learned it from their grandparents. In the past they used to mark the animals and take the blood up the mountain but we don't do that any more. It does vary to some extent, some people only do it on the Saturday and Sunday. Economic problems have taken their toll here.

But worshipping the mountain is an ancient legacy because pre-Incan and Incan cultures worshipped the pacha (the earth, the land) way, that is the land.
Yes that's true and both small and large farmers alike do this. Each year they bring the legacy back to life, though there have been some changes over time, the essence of this is the same, the relationship between campesinos and the land.

And are the feasts more religious in nature in the town?
Most town folk work individually - they either work in mining or they work with natural resources like sand for building, etc. Little by little most people are losing their link with the land.
But the campesino community, San Antonio de Rancas, celebrates the feast and they also have a Production Co-operative where community members are shareholders and they rear cattle, so they still have a strong link with the land.
The co-operative itself doesn't celebrate the animals' feast even though they have beef cattle and alpaca. This is a family feast whereas here in the town we celebrate the patron saint's feast where the whole population is involved for three days. At the moment we are about to open our regional cattle-artisan fair. All the co-operatives from this district and the region take part. The feast is for San Antonio de Padua, the patron saint of Rancas.

Do you know any stories about San Antonio?
They say there used to be another town called Rancas. They say he escaped from the town and hid in a cave 300m from here. But nobody worships this image of the saint whereas in the Matriz church there are two images which they do worship. The story or legend goes that the old town of Rancas sunk giving birth to Lake Aleacocha which is 6km from here. There are different stories about this but there isn't much about today's feasts in new Rancas and the those in old Rancas in Lake Aleacocha which are celebrated simultaneously on the 12 and 13 of June. I know something about what happened to one of our neighbours, Natalio Munoz. Like any campesino he came on horseback and got so merry that he ended up drunk so when night fell he set off for home to his farm. The road back goes by Lake Aleacocha and on the way, quite near the lake he fell asleep. He says that half asleep he heard the sound of a party, and a band with a lot of drinking, and he had a lot to drink there in the party. The day after the man left Rancas his wife came looking for him, trying to find out where he was but no one could tell her anything except that he had left at nightfall. The lady came back on the third day and his whereabouts were still a mystery. With three days gone by they thought he was dead, so as is the custom they began to chew coca to find out where his body lay. At 5 am on the fourth day he appeared in his own home and he said that around 12 midnight on the day he left he was by the lake and that's when he heard the music. Suddenly he found himself in a street and he went into the party, dancing and drinking he forgot all about his home. According to him when it was about five in the morning he remembered about going home, he began to leave with the first cock crows. Once outside he began to look for his horse with his head spinning, you know how it is when you've been drinking. He got home and they all crowded round him because he had re-appeared after three days. They all asked him where he had been all those days and he answered "Me, I've been dancing and drinking in a party ... can't you see I'm drunk?" So where did he eat and drink all those days? They asked at all the drinking places to see if he could have been drinking and eating there, but no news, no-one could say anything about him. His horse had stayed by the lake without moving. Don Natalio says he had eaten patasca (traditional soup) and had taken part in the selection of the community leaders. He only understood what had happened when he got sober again.
The following year he waited for the feast to begin in Rancas, he waited till 11 pm, to go back to the place again. This time he didn't let a drop of liquor pass his lips. He wanted to see what happened in the lake and he waited till midnight. That's when he began to hear the sound of the band, the rockets and the noise of the people partying, the party had begun cut you couldn't see anything. He stayed for about an hour and became convinced that there was another town in the lake and that he had been at their party. So that means they also celebrate the patron saint's feast day. Here in the town they call it the Devils' feast.
Section 6
Have you any other anecdotes?
My father told me one about one of San Antonio's miracles. They were in Vichuascancha where there was a man called Ayala who worked for the Cerro de Pasco Corporation as night watchman. It was two and half months since the Huayllacancha massacre and the people from the mining company on the Paria estate were still very afraid, afraid of another confrontation with the campesinos. On one of those nights the night watchman saw a great crowd of people approaching the Paria estate so he went off to warn the gringos of the new threat, shouting "... they're going to kill us now, they're going to kill us now". So all but one ran off, an administrator who preferred to carry on sleeping. The ones who had fled were still down in the rivers at five in the morning and when they got back they were surprised to see nothing had happened. This shows how afraid they were of clashing with the campesinos. The gringos' imagination had run away with itself.

Do you have anything else to add?
I have been collecting legends and we have examined the best archaeological remains so if you would like another interview we could have a second session which would include jokes, for example there is the story of the priest who touched the drum and rolled off drum and all.
Section 7
Many thanks for giving us you time Don Vicente.
Thanks to IPEMIN for your interest in highlighting the lives of our brother campesinos. I am at your service any time.

Thanks once again.