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Land of winds > The people > Culture | Issue 05. May.-Jun.2011
By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

The Q’eros
The Q’eros

In 1949, anthropologist Oscar Núñez del Prado, from Cusco, was attending an indigenous festival in Paucartambo (department of Cusco) and came across two indigenous people talking in a very pure Quechua. In 1955 he visited, together with few colleagues (Efraín Morote, Mario Escobar), the communities where those people lived and immediately after announcing to the world that they have found the last existing Inca ayllu: the Q’eros.
The Q’eros (officially, Association of Communities of the Q’eros Nation) are distributed in five communities (Hatun Q’ero, Q’ero Totorani, Japu, Quico y Marcachea) and their population totals over 2,100 inhabitants. Located on the Eastern side of the snowcapped Vilcanota range of the Peruvian Andes (near the Nevado Sinak’ara, and the valley where the Qoyllur Rit’i Festival is celebrated), these communities fall under the jurisdiction of the province of Paucartambo, district of the same name, and department of Cusco, Peru.
Largely isolated, the Q’eros have maintained their identity and customs surviving from pre-Hispanic times and continue to practice most of their traditions despite the increasing reach of globalization.
While they have mostly been living on traditional agriculture (mostly potatoes), cattle breeding (sheep, llama and alpaca), the production and sale of textiles is currently becoming an important source of income. Their motifs follow the patterns described in the 16th century manuscripts and the music continues to be made in the style of their rich heritage and played on ancient instruments.
The access between the Q’eros and the outside world has traditionally been through the Qoyllur Rit’i Festival, where they are always treated with respect by other indigenous communities, probably following the belief that they are the last Inca ayllu.
Both, their traditions and religious beliefs are probably the cultural features most often referred to. Since these customs are the oldest in the Andes, they have received a lot of publicity and have been sold as “the shamanic rituals of the Andes”. The majority of tourists currently arriving in these communities come to witness these Andean rituals (in Spanish, “mesas”, “despachos”): regretfully, this is what is known of the Q’eros and not much else.


Community of Q’eros.
Un viaje al mundo de los Q’eros (literally, A trip to the world of the Q’eros) [es].
Video 01. “Q’eros” short film trailer.
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