Raqchi and the homestay
Trip Start Jan 22, 2011
48Trip End Apr 27, 2011
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Where I stayed
With my homestay mama, Sonia
We arrived at the tiny town of Raqchi after dark and went off with our respective homestay mamas to our homes for the night. Lisa, Gay, Freida and myself were with Sonia. Once we had found our rooms, we had dinner before getting dressed up in traditional clothes and heading off to meet the others for the Pachamama ritual/celebration.
In Andean culture, Pachamama represents the fertility goddess Mother Earth who presides over planting and harvesting. Earthquakes and earth changes are attributed to her and farmers in Peru, Bolivia and Chile still give offerings of coca leaves and chicha to her
During the ritual that we attended, we were given 3 coca leaves in the right hand and 2 in the left. Then, after the shaman/village elder/master of ceremonies had said the blessings (I think they were blessings) he blew on his 3 leaves and put them in one cup and then did the same for the other 2. Then the villagers that were there did the same. Then one by one, we went up and made our wishes, blowing on our leaves and putting them into their respective cups. Once all the wishes had been made, the leaves were taken away and buried. After this, a fire was lit in the courtyard where we were and the dancing started.
While not quite understanding all that was going on, I read up a bit about it later and found that the ritual is similar to something called a phukuy. The three leaves are called a kintus. When you are blowing on the leaves you are sending your finest energy into the kintu and perhaps beyond. If beyond you are announcing your intent to
send your sami in the form of energetic filaments, blended with those of the sacred coca leaves, to
connect with the filaments of other aspects of the cosmos. A common
phukuy is to connect with the pachamama and your community
More about coco leaves. Coca leaves have almost always been part of the Andean culture. Traces of coco have been found in mummies dating back 3000 years. As well as being used for medicinal purposes, coca is used in various rituals and for leaf readings. When chewed, coca acts as a mild stimulant and suppresses hunger, thirst, pain, cold and fatigue. It provides a few useful vitamins and minerals and is widely used in the Andes to help the body cope with high altitudes. From this it is obvious why chewing coca leaves has played an important role in the Andes, where people regularly face very hard work at very high altitudes. The leaves are chewed for a bit, and then you keep them in the side of your mouth for a bit. The addition of compressed quinoa ash, known as ilucta or llipta, activates the alkaloids in the coco leaves for enhanced effects. Coca leaves can also be drunk as tea, mate de coco, and coco leaf tea bags are widely available. I've also tried coca in biscuits, chocolate and sweets but I think I will miss the mate de coca the most. No prizes for guessing what coca-cola originally had in it!
Unfortunately, coca is also the primary ingredient in the production of cocaine, making it illegal in most western countries. In countries where coca leaves are traditionally used such as Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile it is legal to cultivate, sell and possess unprocessed leaves. In some countries cultivation is restricted in an attempt to reduce cocaine production.