Every January is celebrated “the day of the ekeko”, also known as Iquiqu or tunupa. He is a deity venerated by the Bolivian people from centuries before the conquest of the South American territory by the Spaniards. His area of influence extends through the Andes of the Peru and reaches Argentina where it is usually known by other names.
The ekeko’s origin goes back to the ancient people of Tiahuanaco, an ancient civilization from before the Incas, whose people adored it because they believed that it drove misfortune from their homes. After annexing the former territory of Tiahuanaco to the Inca Empire, the Incas adopted the deity and made it a symbol of fertility and good luck. Despite centuries of Christianization by the priests who came with the Spaniards, this ancestral custom persists to this day.
The ekeko is depicted in a figurine that often has a height of about 20 cm and is depicted as a grumpy man about 40 years old, with wrinkled face and very lively eyes, open mouth and arms extended as If he was expecting a big hug. His dress is typical Andean clothing, consisting of a hat, ch’ullo (knit cap), scarf, poncho and simple sandals.
The ekeko, or god of abundance, is a very benevolent amulet. He can grant all desires just by asking them. For this end he is overloaded with all kinds of miniature objects, be they dollar bills, appliances, cars, food, or, indeed, anything one might wish. For this reason, from his body hang small packages like saddlebags. The holder of the ekeko can add new desires whenever she or he needs to.
To be effective, the ekeko must be given and not bought. To get the ekeko to give them their requests, you place a lit cigarette in the mouth every time you are asked a desire and smokes it until it is completely consumed. If the cigarette is only half consumed then it is bad omen. If the ekeko smokes it until the end then it suggests he will grant your desire. You can only make requests on Tuesdays and Fridays at noon or midnight. Every time you ask to have a desire met you give the ekeko a smoke. If the wish or request is accepted, the cigarette will smoke as if the ekeko smoked it. The ekeko is often owned by single girls, who instead of having a partner prefer to have the ekeko who will grant them all their wishes in exchange for their fidelity to him.
In case the ekeko belongs to a family in which there was a young unmarried woman, people say the ekeko could fall in love with her and even feel like he is her owner. They say he is an extremely jealous personage and could drive away any suitor and even split apart a couple in love. He can bring misfortunes to the home.
When the ekeko is acquired it should be placed in a visible place to be admired, but it should not be touched for any reason because it is said that if someone touches it who is charged with negative energies then the ekeko cannot fulfill desires.
Today in the city of Cusco this custom of having an ekeko at home or in business becomes stronger every day because we all want to make a wish and have it fulfilled.
If you want to buy an ekeko you only have to go to any traditional market in Cusco, among which we can mention the market of San Pedro. There you can find a variety of ekekos.