About cultural identity

Yesterday I entered a chat to know about a friend in Mexico, I heard bad news about hurricane Patricia where she lives, but there wasn’t luck… While I was waiting a guy from the south of Spain talked to me (I guess a guy) and he asked me, as I had told before that I’m Aymara, the following: “Please teach me about the magic Aymara people used to build Machu Picchu.”

Magic… I told him the truth: we used science. So he begun to ask me questions about my culture but every question was referred to magic and the age of Aquarius… After a long conversation to me was clear that he had a romantic idea about us and actually it’s not so different about what tourists think about us.

Here are some myths I have discovered around the years:

  • The poorer we are the happier we are and worthy of admiration.

False, money has nothing to do with happiness: if you are rich that doesn’t mean you cannot be happy, and if you are poor then that doesn’t mean you are going to be happy. To me happiness is a consequence when we experiment something we like, it’s not a reward. I think Christians have this sense of guilt about happiness that in the last books of bible likes to give as a reward to poor people and says to them that rich men cannot reach.

It’s not worthy of admiration because people so many times has no choice about being poor. I think a rich person that renounce to fortunes for a dream certainly is worthy of admiration because is a hard decision, but not a person that is it because has born in a poor context.

One of the horrible things about tourism (Europeans, Americans, National tourists) is the attraction they feel to photograph dirty children in the streets. Guess what: their parents don’t care their skins or wash them because they know tourists are going to pay money for that “authentic” postcard.

An ascetic deserves respect of all us, poverty just for the fact to be born poor: not.

  • We are forbidden to have gadgets except the ones used by your grandparents

Sometimes I read in travel blogs about the disappointing to see villagers with TV’s. Apparently we are authorized to use just old AM radios with the obligatory two fat batteries. Why we have to renounce to live in an interconnected world? I think if I use my laptop that doesn’t change the fact that I’m Aymara it just makes me an Aymara that uses a laptop. Is that so negative? This extends to malls and fast food enterprises too. I don’t understand that fear to McDonalds or stores, actually they help buying our native products and we go if we chose, in the end it just complete our culture. Since kid I remember Coke Cola sponsors our traditional parties.

  • Our monuments and music serves for meditation and spirituality

Everybody has right to their beliefs so I’m not against them. But I have noted several people that comes to:

  1. Consume drugs to get mystic travels. That’s a part of our culture but it was just a part, the same way I don’t believe that everybody in Europe reads tarot.
  2. Perform oriental meditation. It’s a new age deformation I guess, the beliefs of the Aquarius age.  I went three times to Machu Picchu and it seems I saw in each time a different person meditating. Sorry to say but Machu Picchu was more the palace of an Inca and apparently a place to extend the frontiers inside the jungle, in a certain way is like tourists could go to the White House to perform yoga… I think people forget the Inca Empire was as every other empire, we had ascetics, but also (equivalents of) teachers, historians, scientists, spies, diplomatics, businessmen, etcetera.
  3. New age and Aquarius age. those beliefs has nothing to do with us, our main constellation is the Chakana (known by you as Southern Cross) the Zodiac symbols are imported and has nothing to do with our sky and beliefs. Even more, that is used by people to get your dollars or euros (or soles as people from the capital likes that too as they imitate everybody that is fashion in Europe) because that’s what certain tourists want to live. Sadly that new age music and those theories were never part of us.
  4. Hear our music. Sadly after the Spanish invasion our music was lost, only the religious music survived, it’s similar to imagine a catastrophe in Europe and every masterpiece of Beethoven, Mozart et al had been lost and just had remain the “Amen” in churches.
  5. Try our traditional medicine. Actually in Peru there are two obsessions: try everything that ruins your health and try everything that recovers your health. So our traditional medicine is more a signal of our bad habits, if you walk around you are going to see people usually is so short and don’t have a culture of body care.
  • The culture only survives in the countryside

That’s so sad. It seems people think that if you live in a city you are already a westerner and if you don’t “act” like that then you should go “back” to the countryside. Sadly the evidence shows that we had always more cities than the ones founded by Spaniards, and the capital had several times the size of the European capitals.

  • We all are Indians .-.

Sure?, not, really, Are you sure .-.? I was reading  this tittle “Aymara Indian Perspectives on Development in the Andes” of course I think it seems a valuable text and in our culture we never get offended if things are with good intention but I’M NOT AN INDIAN. I’m an Aymara and nothing more. The same way you’re a French or German. Let’s try what happens if I write:

“After a travel to Europe it’s a shame that French Indians have lost their identity, I saw several young men using jeans and loafers, even is sad the damage Peru has made to their culture because they use our potatoes instead of their local native cuisine; after that I saw German Indians and with such a pity I have to say that they’re a fake culture, victims of cell phones, credit cards and others modern inventions they aren’t anymore a real culture but a group without identity. Goethe would cry to see his culture ruined by the modern world, I feel cheated because I wanted to find real culture and not people with TV’s in their bedrooms.”

  • What books say about us is the truth

Bad news: actually the things you believe to know about us is an image given to Europeans so they could understand something of our thoughts. Inversely we couldn’t understand their gods that were three and one at the same time and that lack of happiness. In our beliefs there aren’t equivalents of Thor, Yahve, Odin, et al, also there aren’t demons. Spaniards thought our Supay was the demon but it was just the way we called the nature when it was stronger.

The myth of creation that Spaniards read also are versions because they couldn’t accept a world without Jesus or where the woman has the same value as the man and could be general or high leader if she was capable.

  • We are like kids

I’ve seen several times that thought, there is no equalitarian principle. If people among us commit a crime sometimes people from the capital don’t apply the law saying it was because our philosophy (LMAO!) and also tourists justify the violence in our society as if we shouldn’t follow the same rules. Once a German blogger friend said me that I couldn’t judge my culture, I don’t know why he can judge his culture, perhaps it’s this myth of the good savage and that nonsense of traditions.

What I try to say

Our tradition is the innovation. Get stuck in the past is for narrow minded people. I studied the history of our civilizations and they developed innovating and evolving, never following traditions because that means being stubborn in don’t change despite the advance of thoughts and knowledge, we cannot ignore the world.

We are like everybody: we grew up seeing Dragon Ball; wishing our classmates would be as sexy as Kylie Minogue :P, watching Hollywood and Bollywood movies; appreciating well made shoes; wanting to practice Kung fu; playing football… I don’t know, sometimes it seems we are only allowed to be poor and dance with a smile for tourists. I’m happy that tourists find ugly my city.

(Post-Data: the photograph is a metallic fountain in the plaza of Tacna city, made by the studio of Eiffel)

Misuse of the adjective “indians” for natives in Peru

shadows biding their time to cross-to our world

shadows bidding their time to cross to our world

Regularly I visit posts tagged with the word Peru. Curiously I see a trend to call us to the people in the highlands or anybody poor as “Indians”. I think that’s an unfortunate word. I consider myself Aymara because my cultural and racial group but my nationality is Peruvian, but I’d never call me an “Indian Aymara”. Certainly I don’t use to any foreigner the word “gringo” that is pejorative and show ignorance. I call people by their names and I don’t tag them by profession, religion or nationality.

The problem is this, Indian is somebody who born in the country of the  India, and when somebody use it to refers to ourselves is quite weird because usually are people from European background that call themselves as Americans (and I see myself as American, although I know US citizens see themselves as the only Americans and that’s right because everybody has their traditions) but we are Indians and that presupposes some bias:

We must to be a primitive society

And that’s a very wrong assumption, we developed our mathematics and civilization without contact with other civilizations thousands of years before Europe, our oldest known city (quite different to the even older villages) was created five thousand years ago. Today there are a lot of amateur artisans that strengthen the idea of the “good savage” but before the European invasion actually we had designers and thinkers whose products in the economy were developed in specialized workshops. The empire was planned at continental scale because we knew about topography and advanced systems in relation to the special environment. A particular obsession was the genetic manipulation in places similar to laboratories. Metallurgy, architecture, environmental management and urbanism were also careful done. Sadly the most of that ended when the fanatic, poor and destructive Spaniard invaded the empire. Spain had a genius in Cervantes, we get instead an illiterate guy as Pizarro. The End of the World already came to us with them.

In my profession I’m always innovating, I don’t consider myself a westerner so I’m not waiting what are doing in Europe or US, I also produce knowledge and rediscover the old knowledge. For example I don’t use Spaniard traditions because I don’t understand them, Spanish is just a language to trade or business, I like to read a lot about sciences, especially science in the frontiers, in high school I deduced by myself a mathematical formula trying to solve the Fermat theorem (very badly I admit) I learn about the world with my point of view.

Sometimes I think foreigners or westerners from the coast wants that we just dance like monkeys for them. Fortunately there are dances but they aren’t for tourists, they are because traditions.

here we come

here we come!

We have to be poor living in the countryside

Haha, ok, I’m poor. But I don’t want to be rich and before the invasion the highlands had very rich people, in some museums there are still the armors of gold of the leaders and in legal documents the rich persons with tens of thousands of cattle of traders at the beginning of the invasion (I don’t call it conquest because that would sound as if I was of European origin)

When people call us Indians they think we have to live in this kind of home (by the way the house in the picture is in an amazing place in my city, Juliaca):

peaceful home

peaceful home

I’d love to live there, but my profession make me go to the crowded cities. Usually when we build buildings of six or seven floors people in the coast feels anger, we should stay a primitive society or transform into westerners. And when you call us Indians you extend that harmful stereotype.

We are cholos

Spaniards called us “cholos” (or “cholas” to women) from a nahuatl word from Aztecs that means “dog”, the descendants of Spaniards use it for themselves with pride, but they use (and we among ourselves to be honest) it against us as an insult, the other insult they say us is, have a seat, Indians…

In my photographs I never use those words, I’m very respectful, for example you for me would be sir or lady, never “gringo” that in Peru usually is used in a condescending way, also thieves use it too.

to the secret place for ladies

to the secret place for ladies!

My great Grandmother dressed like the ladies in the photography above, but she was from the high society so she used gold with her traditional shawl of vicuña, and silver with her black shawl of silk.

So please, don’t call us Indians, call us Bolivians or Peruvians and if you want to highlight our cultural groups call us, the same way you would do with jews: Quechuas, Aymaras, Shipibos, etcetera.

I use traditional textiles, hats, as you can see, like anybody in the world. But people try to tag me as a westerner as if they would be doing me a favor. If I were westerner I would be proud of being one of course, but I am not.


Signed: an Indian. XD, just kidding. My name is Francis.

Juliaca – Qashwa: The big War/Party

young happiness

young happiness

The Qashwa is an old festivity, it’s the bond with the mythology thousand of years ago. It survived the Spanish invasion disguised with the Catholic carnival.

It celebrates the first siege of the year (remember that summer in the southern hemisphere occurs since the end of December) and has a warrior nature. Two sides, always every native city has two sides, dance to win. In this case it’s the Machuaychas versus the Chiñipilcos, the winner gets the Tokoro of Gold, and it’s celebrated in the most sacred place in Juliaca, our Apu Huaynarroque (the Apu is a hill believed as an ancestor, there aren’t equivalents of creators Gods) and in the streets.

It’s not a touristic celebration, the dancers dance to win, not to get money from foreigners, the people drink seas of beer and everything is a mess and chaos. It’s not understood by foreigners and if you want a similar but more touristic experience you could go to Oruro carnival or other cities where the party is part of a calendar to get every dollar you’ve in your pocket, and if it’s possible even your pocket XP

(The photographs were shot in the Qashwa of 2014)

The place

party in the apu

Party in the Apu

The Apu Huaynarroque is a hill with two peaks, in the photograph you can see the bigger, with a white Christ (Spaniards couldn’t destroy the Apus so they put crosses in their peaks) and the platform between the two peaks where the dances are executed. The platform has thousand of years of use, of course today it was modernized with concrete because our culture is not dead, it’s alive and evolves.

old ages in modern times

old ages in modern times

Bellow you can see a view of the other peak, needed to show the duality masculine/feminine, up/down, left/right, etcetera.

I'd make shine your boots

I’d make shine your boots

your time to shine

your time to shine

I’ve always seen that the oldest sponsor is Coca Cola. It’s curious, they are very integrated to our celebrations; now there are other brands, usually beers and Peruvian sodas as Kola Real. They also represent the continuity of the tradition because before the contact with Europe the chicha (our drink) was also in the core of the party.

one in the crowd

one in the crowd

Usually the assistants are from the countryside. There are no much people from the cities because a long story that would require another post. The problem is that they have no use of the city, although the city hall cleans the Apu the next morning I think the ideal would be don’t let garbage. Fortunately every year is less worse than the previous one.

seeing to other side

seeing to the other side

The Apu Huaynarroque is one sacred place, so it has a lot of crosses, usually rich people build them, I think I would prefer that they could build, besides, museums or libraries.

The Dance

dance in orange

dance in orange

Basically the dance is running in circles with complicated movements, at least so complicated that I couldn’t dance it XP



is there a problem officer

Is there a problem, officer?

master leading the orange army

Master leading the orange army


That was the last dance in the hill. I can’t have time, but at least I could go a bit. But the party last days, and the people still is drinking and celebrating.

serenade for the lady in black

serenade for the lady in black

dull and colorful

dull and colorful

didyaseedat hat

Didyaseedat hat?!

party time in the sky

party time in the sky

The streets

As I wrote the party is not touristic, so it’s not organized. The streets are blocked and the traffic is a mess, but anyway there is party.



time to dance

time to dance

I'm not nervous

I’m not nervous

pristine melody

pristine melody

Well, it’s also carnival so people uses to spray with foam.





a smile in the night

a smile in the night

at the end of the long route

at the end of the long route

happy light

happy light


And that would be a little glimpse about a celebration that last days and have ceremonies to pay to the Earth and involucre hundreds of thousands of people drinking and dancing.

musicians playing a joyful good bye

Musicians playing a joyful good bye

Greenpeace does Peru (very badly) in Nazca.


A symbol of our ancestors for us but an objective to destroy for Greenpeace.

(Read here the message without rational explanation of Greenpeace )

Centuries ago Spaniards destroyed our sacred places to force us to give them the gold of our lands, our art and divinities; years ago a group of Chilean young tourists did a graffiti in the stone of the twelve angles (a stone sculpted with the highest level of mastership); Months ago a Peruvian mayor took sculptures of a Peruvian civilization to a museum built with corruption; days ago Greenpeace put in risk the remains of one civilization unique and special as every civilization in the world that has disappeared and deserves better than an act of violence.

Initially I thought in name this post “Greenpeace piss (off/on) Peruvian culture” but perhaps I’m wrong and there is a little hope that it was due to ignorance and not because they could think that historic legacy is insignificant in relation to the climatic change. Is that or our native civilizations exists just to satisfy sadists pleasures of destruction by ignorant (Peruvian and foreigner) subjects.

I think it’s a problem of unbalance: the Spaniards thought that their poverty gave them an excuse to rob us; the young Chilean thought that the freedom of their youth was more important that the respect to the work and dedication of the young people of other times; the corrupt politician thought that his need of money was more important than the common good of the people that chosen him; Greenpeace thinks that the fight for the environment is more important that anything else. ANYTHING. And that’s wrong, nature is important but history, science, art, and happiness are too. Beyond that when you consider yourself a God then you’re unbalanced, that in my dictionary is the origin of extremisms. For example I support the end of that torture disguised of art named bullfight, but I don’t support the people that paint private walls promoting its end because that is violence against the freedom and rights of others.

And that was the action and message of Greenpeace, the new “conquerors”, when they entered without permission, respect nor conscience to Nazca’s Lines. A place extraordinarily sacred: violence.

I promise them I’ll never forget (and I never forget)