Walter Coraza Morveli
In the Andes, the condor is considered a sacred bird. This is not simply because the Incas considered it a kind of deity, but because of its majesty. When it flies it is just impressive. I once had the opportunity of witnessing the flight of the condor in its own habitat and it was so astonishing that I felt as if I were simply more prey. I felt so small before this bird who was flying above my head.
The communities of Chinchaypucyo, located to the northwest of Cusco, by the Apurimac Canyon, have the fortune of seeing this amazing bird regularly. In contrast with the great scenery of its rivers, mountains, and animals grazing in the fields or pampas—where the golden afternoons fill you with joy—while seated on the peak of a mountain, you can see the flight of the condors. It is there, among those people, where stories and legends, real and surreal, are born.
They tell us that the condors have within them magical stones, like crystals, that when the come into contact with people convert into gold and can also be used to save the life of someone by working against their illness.
Magical stones? When you hear this phrase you feel sensitive and you can’t explain why people say such things.
A rural woman from this place tells that one day when she was young she would run among the mountain’s canyons to keep an eye on the cattle that were feeding on the grass. The cattle were free and were left this way for three month at a time to go where they wished. You just had to keep an eye out in case a fox or a puma appeared. Sometimes the animals would die and they would be left for the carrion eaters to devour them.
One day this girl saw a dead cow in the distance. Suddenly a bird came up to it very quickly. It was a condor who was coming down to eat. The curious girl hid among the rocks and observed clearly how the condor got ready to eat. It extended its wings, gave a few steps, and put it beak to the ground as if praying before throwing out of its throat some small stones that looked transparent like crystal. The girl was amazed to know that these stones had come from the body of the condor. She wanted to touch them but felt shy and afraid. Time passed and the conder went to fly away. It took the stones up once again and she was immobile, waiting for the condor to go in order to run up and grab the stones. But when it was finished eating, the condor cleaned its face on the ground, extended its wings, took some steps and then one by one consumed the five or six stones again before it flew.
She told us her experience intrigued to know more about those stones or have them some the people of her area consider them magical and powerful cures.
That is why people seek these stones in order to obtain good fortune or to save people who suffer from various illnesses. It is said that when the stones are taken from the condors that they die. The practice of getting them may be one of the reasons why this great bird is at risk of extinction.