SUSTAINING TRADITIONAL CULTURE
ÑAWPA ÑAN (Ancient Path) ANDEAN CULTURAL CENTER
Andean culture and cosmology includes science and religion in a holistic way which never excludes any aspect of life. It is based on respect and reciprocity, achieved through discipline and has survived the past 500 years of colonialism. The survival struggle continues today on many levels, the Andean people and their culture are still threatened everyday by racism, discrimination, and modernization.
Before colonialism land was farmed communally, nobody owned the land. The indigenous people took care of the land together that took care of them. After the conquest, the land was taken from the people and controlled by the conquerors. Haciendas and encomiendas were developed and the people who once freely farmed the land had no choice but to work for the haciendas to support themselves. They were paid very little with, among other things, alcohol. Alcoholism and the loss of traditional life style have created low self esteem and domestic violence. These consequences greatly effect the communities at large.
Peru’s population is approximately 70% indigenous, many of whom are living post colonial life styles. The few who have managed to resist colonial forces and to escape the disease of alcoholism are constantly defending themselves from evangelists and other religious sects trying to convert them. For example, of the 300 or so people living in the community of Amaru, outside of Cusco, Peru, 100 of them have been converted. This type of ethnocide prevents practice of traditional dances, music, ceremonies and consumption of traditional foods, which again leads to only more self esteem issues. Because the majority of the people still living in these communities have little contact with the outside world, they are naive and vulnerable. Because they speak the truth, they believe anything that is told to them as the truth. The media and public school systems, thinking they are doing a service by modernizing, are inducing shame of indigenous culture and fear of speaking the native language.
"Good citizens" consume and support development. Because of their isolation from society, and virtual self-sufficiency, traditional Andean people are an obstacle to development, modernization and globalization. Their culture receives very little protection from the government, other than exploitation for tourism. Those of us who have had the opportunity to travel and experience other cultures, see the contradiction of modern life and live between two worlds. It is our responsibility, our obligation, to help the voice of the indigenous people be heard, and to protect these wonderful societies that have been maintained despite the obstacles of the past 500 plus years. Healing this wound that is not only from the past, but is still gaping today, is the intention of Ñawpa Ñan Andean Cultural Center.
Six years ago, together with other core members, Fielding and Roman Vizcárra of Taray, Peru started Ñawpa Ñan. They work in the schools with the children and teachers doing art, music, puppets, theater and dancing as expressions of the culture, which all have sacred and profound meaning. Ñawpa Ñan works with the mothers of the communities to bring back natural plant dying and real wool to the weaving techniques. Many remember, but just need encouragement to be proud of their traditional culture. Ñawpa Ñan works with all members of the community and employs the memories of the elders to share the old ways. They encourage, through their participation and sponsorship, traditional dances and music based on the sacred agricultural calendar. The teachings in the music and dances are the roots of the culture and reinforce confidence and self esteem needed to endure and to sustain what is so valuable not only to their own survival, but to the harmony of the planet.
All indigenous cultures of North and South America, from Alaska to Southern Chile, are part of a big fragmented body that, although they use different tools, share the common concepts of respect, reciprocity and discipline. By supporting any or all traditional cultures, everybody benefits.
Ñawpa Ñan has built cultural centers, facilities where workshops, ceremonies, and cultural and community events are held, in Taray, Huayllacocha, Amaru and Hapu, Peru. It is their goal to extend this arm to another community in need in Venezuela, and to continue the work that they have been doing with these five groups in Peru and Venezuela.
You are invited to join this network against standardization to celebrate, protect and defend diversity and universal awareness of how to work together with the simple law of reciprocity. To continue their work, Ñawpa Ñan needs your financial support. Any amount you are able to donate makes a world of difference. By contributing to the lives of these people who are truly living in harmony with the Earth, you are also contributing to the well being of our planet and all life on it.