Andean New Year: Source of Sustainability in Rural Development

Andean New Year: Source of Sustainability in Rural Development

By Fortunato Escobar

What does “Andean New Year” mean in the background, why all the fuss? Or is it that suddenly, this becomes a source of sustainability for rural development or simply a folkloric face plunged into the past; considering that all men and women know that the new year is celebrated on January 1 of each year.

The celebration of the "Andean New Year" (Machaq Mara) year after year is gaining strength in the Andean and Amazonian world, and together with it, the speeches of politicians, indigenous people and indianistas are used as a figurative role or are interpreted by the press from various approaches. The bad thing is that the newspapers, radio and television paint as something folkloric and make it attractive for tourists as if this event were for sale or the end was that.

Unfortunately, little or nothing is appreciated or disseminated about the true meaning of this event. Even though the celebrations that took place in Puno in the District of Chuchito, in the Caballo Cansado del Collao, in Yunguyo, in Tiwanacu (Bolivia) among other places, its organizers have made an effort to make the population regain awareness of their true sense of reflection and commitment to PachaMama and IntiTata as a symbol of reverence and harmonious coexistence in the best possible way between men and women with nature.

The Andean, Amazonian, Guarani, Kollas, Mapuche peoples, among other ethnic groups, commemorate the New Andean Year on June 21, MACHAQ MARA (in Aymara) MOSOQ WATA (in Qechua), even though the celebration differs between June 20 and 25, depending on each original culture. According to the cosmic agricultural calendar, it corresponds to the year 5514. But what does “Andean New Year” mean in the background, why all the fuss? Or is it that suddenly, this becomes a source of sustainability for rural development or simply a folkloric face plunged into the past; considering that all men and women know that the new year is celebrated on January 1 of each year.

The celebration of the new year for the Andean and Amazonian world does not mean sitting at a table with family and friends to be part of a banquet with turkey, chocolate and pantheon as it is in the new year of the western system; Otherwise, this means sitting at the table of our PachaMama under the watchful eye of IntiTata, where all the men and women who are raised with the PachaMama renew their commitment to continue nurturing the ecosystems that coexist thanks to the benevolence of the PachaMama. In addition, we do not sit on the cement or on the comfortable carpeted armchairs of cut and shredded boards of our forests, but on the earth itself next to the bushes, the rocks and in the middle of mud and dust to reflect, remember, venerate and thank to PachaMama and IntiTata (sun). There are also no gifts of any kind, the only gift that exists is the sacred coca, llama tallow and alcohol for the challa as a symbol of reverence to the PachaMama, and IntiTata to give as an offering.

The ritualized imaginary of the Andean New Year implies, among other things, connecting with the spirits of our ancestors and with nature symbolized by the PachaMama. And it is a way of reflecting not only on human rights but also on cosmic rights (the right of existence of plant and animal life) which are the belief systems and values ​​that are expressed in the rational use and conservation of the resources that it grants. the PachaMama and the IntiTata. In short, this action is a form of renewal of the productive cycles and the beginning of a new commitment to the land and the environment, not only spiritually but also materially and culturally that purifies and blesses the waters of the seas, of rivers, lakes and springs, and makes natural resources run their course to continue feeding current and future generations.

Considering also that the systems of perceptions and socio-cultural traditions of Indigenous Peoples not only believe that the Earth is located at the furthest point from the Sun, where the lowest temperatures are recorded as the coldest nights of the year, where rivers, lagoons and ponds wake up with great layers of ice. Rather, this implies that it is time to make a new commitment to PachaMama and pay tribute to everything received in the year that ends. Within this context, the Andean New Year expresses the thoughts and feelings of the various ways of feeling, thinking and doing, these manifestations are expressed in the following acts, among others:

• On the eve of the Andean New Year, animal life, especially the birds, as they were known from the ritual the next day, begin to sing, such is the case of the lequechos (lec lec lec that indicates that it will freeze hard, free, free, free, free that the frost will not be a consideration). While the other birds announce the arrival of the frost from 4 o'clock until the sun sets
• Tiquichos of the lake or rivers announce the arrival of winds such as KAITE (positive wind) and K`ARI TAYA (negative wind) that announces the arrival of winter.
• While the chocas send messages in their various songs about the change of the weather, like the pisacas, pucu puco, seagull. While the other migratory birds leave the place for other destinations. And the Viscachas from the high areas move towards the shores of the lake. All of them are true teachings of advertisements, in which in another article we have called them the "ancestral alarm" that in the far east earthquake prevented the massive deaths of indigenous people thanks to the ancestral signals.
• The old men and women gathered with their families huddle around the fire and begin to tell stories and myths of their ancestors with which they clarify the noise of the birds in the cold. In the end, the family must understand in the broadest sense possible why the birds announce the arrival of the Andean New Year and why it is essential to practice rituals and assume a new commitment to harmonious coexistence with nature. This is the oral tradition that is passed down from generation to generation.
• At the same time, as if plant life understood birds and men and women, the leaves are detached from the trees (the elders say it is the hand of the spirits of the achachilas), which marks the beginning of seasons of strong frosts used to dehydrate potato called chuño and muraya.
• Indigenous families for generations, from the first hours of the Machaq Mara renew their commitment to continue being raised with the PachaMama and promise to take care of it and to defend its clothing and its veins that are natural resources and water resources, this is a ritualized reverence with the sacrifice of a flame (preferably white) to offer to the tutelary gods of the afterlife, an act that takes place in the early hours of the morning.
• After the ritual, the men and women of these Andean peoples proceed to mark their domestic animals after challa (alcohol - wine) and to decorate with cantuta flowers, today replaced by mixtures of colors and with earrings of different colors as a symbol of reverence to their siblings and domestic animals who raise them as part of subsistence and ecological balance.
• Once finished, the challa to the animals, the men, women, boys and girls surround in a circle with Saiva (milestones -mini wall- of pebbles on pebbles) the agricultural products collected in the year such as potatoes, chuño, quinoa, moraya, etc.) as a symbol of food security by which the family counts its family capital (symbolic capital) that will serve as sustenance, separating it for family consumption, for seed and for sale.
• Once the products have been accounted for during the Saiva, the families go on to store them in “sejes” or ”pirwas” (sejes -mats- made of reeds or made from dry branches of native trees). In the past these were true warehouses with enough food for everyone, in itself, this is interpreted as sustainability of development, that is to say, storing food for the year and for the time of crisis.
• The wise old men and the wise old women instruct the smallest of the house so that at noon together with the Saiva or Pirwa they sing the ceremonial song (uhjú uhjú uhjú, as an expression of mystical song for the gods Apus, QutaMama, PachaMama and Try to listen to their supplications and receive the offerings of coca, sweet mass, alcohol, wine and sacred flame bait.
• During the mythical song, the priests or the elders consult the book of the wisdom that are the coca leaves, where the old and wrinkled hands cast their luck with the coca and corroborate with the tired eyes supported with eggs of wild birds and with tin that will indicate the possible dangers that each family faces or simply see their virtues and vicissitudes that their future actions await.
• Almost at the end of the rituals, the Andean priests or the elders or the old women who learned from their ancestors lead to the central table the sacred birds such as the "Pisaca" caught the night before or other birds who also adorn and decorate them. they challan with wine to release so that they fly. If the bird flies to the east side (sunrise), it is a symbol of a good omen and if it flies to the west side (sunset) it is a bad omen), All the ritual must be done without harming the birds, especially take care so that no feathers may fall, doing so will be a sign of bad omen.
• I release the birds, the elders or the Andean priest proceed to move the bundle (tumult of offering) of mass to one end of the circle of Saiva which is a bonfire prepared to light a fire that must be lit with the blowing of the wind from the remains of ash from the night before (the use of phosphorus is not part of the ritual) with which the ritual of payment to their gods for the new year ends. The elders say that in the past they set fire to them directly with the direction of the Sun just at noon when they would push down a dry bush in a golden cup to set fire, they no longer do so because they do not have the golden cup.
• Once the ceremonial act is over, the Priest or the Head of the Family orders them to sit in a circle and everyone on the ground completely barefoot to sit and have a snack of boiled food made from the best native products, that is, cooked from the best grains of the biggest potatoes. The head of the family that day cooks everything over an open fire with native products, industrial products are not part of the ceremony.
• The native food before cooking has been carefully selected after Challa de ispalla (potatoes selected with wine or poorly formed products so that there is still the best ISPALLA), a representative sign of better products.
• All meals are complemented with the oca tayacha or boiled izaño (maschua) or cooked and / or prepared with frozen barley tortillas on the night of the Andean New Year.

In sum, the celebration of the Andean New Year is, above all, a celebration of family reflection, this belief is not a religion or sect but a simple spiritual connection with other beings and reaffirm the harmonious coexistence within unity in diversity , since the man or the woman is neither superior nor inferior, nor is anyone more nor less. This gives the opportunity to understand that we are all ONE, we are all the subject we, our plural self. This is the cosmic vision of understanding the Andean world.

The set of facts mentioned, the treatment of birds, the adornment and reverence for domestic animals and the treatment of harvested vegetable products is an expression of reverence and respect for the right to exist of others as a principle of ecological balance, this is also known as cosmic right. While the storage of products collected in the “Sejes” or “Pirwas”, true food banks are constituted to guarantee the survival of current and future families and communities, known in the Western world as “development sustainability”. Unfortunately these events are gradually being lost over time, they have their incidents due to the overwhelming destruction suffered and looted by the colony and "modernity".

Even so, the millennial practices of the Andean New Year, express a harmonious treatment and rational use of natural resources to enjoy equitably its beneficiaries, this is a holistic practice, where the four Sacred elements are present: AIR - WATER - EARTH AND SUN. Every time, that BIODIVERSITY is the variety of life on planet earth of which we are part and that is intrinsically linked to the ancient and millennial thought of the Peoples, because we are nature itself: SUN, EARTH, AIR AND WATER, these elements they create Biodiversity and make possible the preservation of cultural diversity.

In short, the customary value and belief systems practiced in the Andean New Year cannot be considered as mechanisms for promoting tourism or merely folk, but above all these are mechanisms that can contribute to meeting the Millennium Development Goals to reduce the hunger and alleviate poverty and thereby promote the true sustainable human development of the peoples of tradition. In sum, the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger is a task in which indigenous peoples can play a leading role in managing the environment and guaranteeing sustainable development due to their traditional knowledge and practices. As stated in Principle 22 of the Rio declaration, and to be actors with their own voice and decision to promote the democratic principle and that our peoples have the opportunity to freely choose their political destiny, not only in conditions of being the beneficiaries, but also also protagonists and authors of solutions.

Considering that what we acquire from our ancestors is our own identity as a People, and that is why we are the genuine guardians not only of the earth but of preserving the historical and cultural continuity. Our close relationship is intrinsic with the Earth, with the Sea, with the Lake, with the Rivers, with the Mountains, with the Valleys, with the Dry Punas, and with the Natural Resources. It is a spiritual, material and cultural relationship; In other words, it is a holistic relationship, but it is not a repudiation of modernity or sinking there as an escape, rather it is about living together in the best possible way within tradition and modernity.

As a final point, the imaginary of the Andean New Year ritualized with ancestral practices is coexistence, reverence and renewal of commitment to coexist with nature, not to prey on them but to use what is reasonably necessary for the pre-existence of current and future generations. These practices constitute a source of sustainability for rural development and cannot be considered under any circumstances as a simple folklorism steeped in the past and only promote tourism, even though it could be "beneficial".

Furthermore, the aforementioned, it is the responsibility of governments and all peoples to save traditional practices, such as the ritual of the Andean New Year. So that they do not become extinct, but make them a promising future for their populations, so that they really live in the best possible way and feel proud of their majestic past, like the light that illuminates the present and see the path of the sustainable future. All of this can contribute to meeting the objectives of milineo development, considering that as long as extreme poverty in the world does not disappear and we live in subhuman conditions, we cannot consider ourselves free or full citizens, but rather continue to be objects of social policies.

* Director of the Corporation for Socio-Economic Infrastructure and Agricultural Transformation (CCISETA), and of the Indian Council of South America (CISA) Consultative Entity before the Economic and Social Council -ECOSOC- of the United Nations (website: - - e-mail: [email protected]).
ESCOBAR, Fortunato (2005). Ancestral alarm: folklore or source of sustainability of development in wesite:
FREDERNMAA (2005). Resolutions of the I Congress of the Indigenous Peoples of the Altiplano (Regional / International Congress for the Defense of Human Rights, Natural Resources and the Environment), Floating Islands of the Uru People, March 2005.

Video: Improved rural urban linkages: Building sustainable food systems (May 2021).