The Day of the Earth arrived almost without warning. It used to be that people would only make offerings to the earth the first of August in their own homes and in their communities. Nevertheless, it has become much more popular and a bigger, organized public event. They are more ostentatious and far more people participate.
As a result, this year an offering to the earth was carried out on Apu Mount Mama Simona. She is also known as Kimon and according to Victor Angeles Vargas that is a transformed form of some Quechua Word. We do not know with any precision where the name Mama Simona comes from. We only know that she is the highest prominence located to the west of the city of Cuzco. She is 4337 meter above sea level. Because of her location, she is the first hill to receive the sun every morning and is an Apu, or mountain Lord, related to fertility.
The ceremony began very early. Many people had already congregated in order to carry to the top of the mountain their offerings and participate in the rituals directed by a paqo, or Andean priest.
The main authorities from the district of Poroy and many people already on Mama Simona’s top gathered close to the paqo. He sent his first words to the various Apus. Ukuku dancers accompanied the paqo in the ceremony. Among all the people you could hear many voices. Not everyone could hear the words of the paqo. After a moment the authorities, the ukukus and a group of selected persons accompanied the paqo, carrying the offerings to the highest part of the mountain while everyone else remained, waiting for the committee’s return.
The wind blew with force. Some music began to animate the crowd that waited there by the peak. As the caravan left for the top I felt the presence of a man. He was sitting very calmly and speaking in Quechua while raising a k’into (three coca leaves held together) in his hands toward the sun.
It seemed curious to me and I came closer. He was from Izcuchaca, a district close to Poroy. He laughed joyfully and as we began to speak he turned to the fact that so many people have lost respect for the Pacha Mama, the Earth Mother. He claimed that almost no one makes offerings anymore with authentic devotion. They just do so, he held, to seek a change in their luck.
In some ways his thoughts seemed correct. I also reflected on the media coverage and importance given to this Day of the Earth, as they are calling it. The current celebration just seems another spectacle, I thought.
Our conversation took a different turn and he told me a story that he had experienced in person and at this precise time. According to him, the earth is very sensitive in this month of the year and that is why it is the precise month in which we should make offerings if we hope to receive something from her.
I did not understand the last part very well, so he explained to me that in his youth he had seen a flame more intense than fire burning in a place. It was a flame with blue and yellow tones. He did not know what it was until eh told his father about it. His father asked him to take him there and he did. They went back accompanied now by a paqo. One there the paqo tossed coca leaves on a cloth. He had consulted the coca to see what mystery there was in this place.
The paqo confirmed the father’s suspicions. The place had a tapado, a buried treasure. It was an offering of gold the Incas had left there. It was not the month of August at the time so the paqo told them not to attempt to remove the offering. They all agreed to try to remove it when the first of August rolled around.
When the Day of the Earth came, the young man and his father as well as his father’s brother met up with the paqo who had come with a helper. For this kind of work you need the strength of more than two men, the paqo said. He told them that before anything else, no one should be thinking about what they might find and desire what might be hidden there. Everyone should think about something else besides gold and should concentrate on the work they were doing.
The paqo began by making an offering to the earth. Then he started digging in a certain place. Each of the people who were there had to make a circle around the hole. If one of them got tired then the next began digging. After they had dug a hole that was bout a meter deep, the paqo asked them to stand away form the hole a bit. He tossed some liquids on the hole and started a fire. Everything began to burn for a few minutes. Once the fire had burned out the paqo came back to the hole and dug a bit more. He struck a cubical rock. On moving it he found a raqui, the kind of pot that is still used to make chicha.
When they tried to remove the ceramic pot they could not carry it so they tied a cord to part of it so that the other two men could help lift it. Once they were ready to pull it out one of the men suddenly left running from the hole. Another man dropped the rope and the raqui fell to the earth and broke. There was nothing in it other than an old, blackened skin. It weighed almost nothing.
The man who had run away said that he felt the earth shaking. He got frightened and ran away from the hole immediately. The man who dropped the rope said he had suddenly heard a woman’s voice and when he turned saw his grandmother who had died a long time before. From shock he had dropped the rope.
The most incredible thing was that when they tried to pull the pot out it weighed so much yet when it broke open there was only a black skin that was very light. The paqo told them that the gold had moved somewhere else.