Greetings are very important in our culture. We call them “saludos”. The majority of older people insist that with this simple gesture you reflect the values of your family, while others hold the opinion that it is a symbol of respect. In any case, the saludo, greeting, is very important to us. It is a manifestation of warmth, appreciation, and love that one person has for others.
In our city, everyone shows these values through the greetings they give when they meet up with other people. Greetings happen everywhere, for example when you go shopping, go out to eat, or in any other situation. With a simple good morning, good afternoon, or good evening, recognizing the three times of the day, you show your family’s honor and your own education. You also show your feelings for the other person.
In the markets you will see people greeting each other very warmly using the words, casero or casera. These words refer to a relationship of buyer and seller, with hopes for continuity.
If someone does not greet you, or do it well, you feel bad and ask your self what you did to deserve the slap in the face.
Our parents taught us the importance of this gesture of greeting. When we forgot to greet someone, they would make us go back, pray a little, and then enter again and greet the people properly.
In our family gatherings, each person greets every person one by one. It takes time to shake hands, give hugs, abrazos, and kisses. But this is our custom. If you are really in a hurry you can just shout out a hello to everyone in a general fashion, and then your family will explain since they know what is going on.
But if you do not have a good reason, such a general hello or goodbye can be taken as offensive.
When we talk with people we do not just greet them, but we also send greetings to all their family and often friends. And they will pass them on and return them to us.
People in rural Cuzco are even more insistent on the saludo than we are in the city. There, people tend to greet not only persons they know, but also people who are not known.
In our Quechua culture, our parents taught us to also give a greeting to the Pachamama, the earth. For example, before taking a drink of something like chicha or beer, you give some drops of the drink to the earth and can say “to the Pachamama so that her thirst is calmed”. People also will offer food to the Pachamama. And when you visit the cemetery or when a feast starts you also recognize the earth, as well as make gifts of food and drink to the dead.
Saludar, greeting, for us means much more than simply saying hi. In the recent feasts of Cuzco, people and organizations would perform dances or simply parade as a means of giving greetings and respect to our city. In the revived Indigenous culture people also greet the sun by raising a glass of chicha.
This kind of saludo, raising food and drink, as well as blowing on it to share with someone else, or with the earth, mountains, and sun, is common among us.