In Cuzco and in our Andean culture, one of our principle values is to share. Our parents teach us this value strongly and we put it into practice in our different walks of life. We even do so when playing a competitive sport, such as soccer.
People from other places often seem surprised by this action. Of course their culture is different from ours. For example, people from the United States take a drink of soda or of beer straight from the bottle. They tend to do it individually and this surprises us. It seems strange.
In Cuzco, when we are eating or drinking something, we share the food or drink with everyone present. Sometimes we even use the same glass or eat from the same plate. This seems to surprise the North Americans.
If we are drinking something, whether it is a soda, chicha, or beer, we all drink from the same bottle, but we do so by pouring it into a single glass. Each person takes the bottle, and then the glass to serve themselves. They then hand the bottle to the next person and drink from the glass. Then they pass the glass on so the act can continue. Once everyone has drunk, the round starts again, if there is still drink in the bottle or if a new bottle has appeared.
Another important thing is that before each person drinks their first sip they say to everyone gathered “salud” or “health, greeting”, lifting the glass. They then pour the first sip to the earth, to share with the Pachamama, the Earth Mother. They also will blow the drink, if it is alcoholic, to the Apus (or mountains) which are around the city. Sometimes they take foam and flick it to the mountains with their fingers while saying “for” and then adding the mountain’s name.
Sharing is very important. It identifies us as people, thanks to the teachings of the generations that went before us. We also like to teach this value to all those around us.
Whenever people gather, you can appreciate this solidarity. When we sit at the table, either with a group of friends, or in family, we share with each other. This custom of sharing even appears in meetings, social gatherings, and even in the most distant corner of the Andes.
In Bolivia they call our way of serving and sharing beer or chicha, even soda, “the Peruvian way”. We even carry this to eating. For example, even when in a restaurant where we may have ordered different foods, we eat from each other’s plates so everyone gets a taste of everything.
Though the Bolivians may call this “the Peruvian way”, it is mostly found in the highlands, especially in the rural communities. In Lima it has been lost, for example.
I remember very well how I learned this value. My mother and my grandmother would always tell me that one should share. Even if one only has one grain of corn, you should divide it among all your brothers and sisters.
Maybe it is this sharing, among other things, that makes people fall in love with our city and our culture. When they are here, the equality among all people in sharing is the same. There is no distinction or racism because we are all from the same earth, the Pachamama.