Syncretism in The Rural Community of Chinchero

Chinchero is one of the communities that to this day has maintained many traditions from Inca times. It has an economy based on agriculture; the cultivation of the potato is at the the base of it. Because the altitude in which it is located (3790 meters above sea level approximately) it is good for the cultivation of this crop and also is good for raising domestic animals.

One of its main deities is the pacha mama (mother earth) that provides food. Other deities of great importance are the apus, the mountains, protective spirits of the inhabitants and animals.

The inhabitants of Chinchero know the name of each mountain that surrounds the community and during the payment ceremony to the earth they invoke each of them. Among them we can mention Chicon, Salqantay, Antaquilca, Pitusiray and others, the cult of mother earth and the Apus are indigenous beliefs.

On the other hand, the Chinchero residents also believe in the Virgin and the saints and in heaven and hell. These beliefs are part of the religion that the Spaniards imposed. It is a religion totally different from the one they had where their deities were an integral part of nature.

However, despite the imposition of religion, the Indians have never completely lost their culture nor their religion, as it has survived to this day, forming a syncretism with the Catholic religion.

The union of the two cultures can be seen in different aspects. For example: In the paintings and sculptures of virgins, you can see that the virgin’s is covered from head to toe by a mantle that gives it the triangular shape. In the Andean world this is a representation of the Apus, the mountains. When the Indians take the virgin out in procession, they are also worshiping their mountains. When the Spaniards learned that the mountains were sacred deities for the Indians, they placed crosses on top of them as a form of imposition of Catholic religion on Andean holy places and to this day there are still crosses on them.

In paintings a snake is designed in the dress of the virgin. In the catholic religion it represented sin, but in the Andean religion it represents the pachamama, and wisdom.

Another tradition that we can mention is when someone invites us to drink a glass of something. The first thing we do is go out to the door of the house and throw a little bit to the ground before drinking it. By doing this we are practicing reciprocity with mother earth.

In many of the communities that are located at the top of the mountains such as Chinchero, where the Quechua language is spoken and many Inca traditions are practiced, on Sundays, their inhabitants descend very early from the mountain towards the colonial church where they have a mass in Quechua. Despite all attempts to make our religion disappear, this was never achieved. In every work that the Indians did in some way they put their culture so that it would survive through the years and it did.

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