High in the Andes Mountains of Peru, lie the villages of the Q’ero Nation.
The Q’ero Nation includes Kiku, Hapu, Q’eros Totorani, and Hatun Q’eros. While Kiku and Hapu have long had a road connecting them more closely to the modern world, Hatun Q’eros has not. Hatun Q’eros, the HEART of the Q’ero Nation, has remained much more inaccessible and therefore maintained strong ties to their ancestral Inka Wisdom. Living at altitudes from 7,000 up to 14,000 feet, the inhabitants of Hatun Q’eros are the last surviving cultural descendants of the Inka, over 2000 strong. Once part of a vibrant and widespread culture that existed for a thousand years, these indigenous people avoided the Spanish conquest of the 1500’s due to their remote location and the inaccessible terrain of their “villages in the clouds”. They live today surrounded by their holy mountains, known to them as “Apus.”
Photos on this page mostly taken by John Cohen.
Hatun Q'eros Lies at the Heart of the Q'ero Nation
Hatun Q’eros, perched at the juncture of two great forces of nature: the high Andes and the Amazon jungle, lies about 75 miles North East of the town of Paucartambo, and about 125 miles from Qosqo Llaqta (Cusco city). The land is very fertile in lower elevations towards the jungle, and good for grazing higher up, where the people live grouped together in six villages, in houses made of stone and straw. The six villages of Hatun Q’eros: Qolpa Kuchu, Challma Chimpana, Qocha Moqo, Choa Choa, Charqapta, and Hatun Rumiyoq, each elect their own president every year and have their own Q’ero governing documents. To visit Hatun Q’eros you must gain the permission of both the governmental and spiritual authorities. They survive in this challenging environment by working together, following the sacred laws of their ancestors. Maize and potatoes are grown at lower elevations, while at high altitudes they raise their treasured alpacas and vicuña (smaller relatives of the alpaca). At the middle altitudes, they grow potatoes, plowing the fields with foot-plows. All is accomplished through organized, collective work following the principle of AYNI–sacred exchange.
The Q'ero Have Always Lived in Q'eros.
Contrary to some popular myths, the Q’ero are not the Inka who ran away from the Spanish. The Q’ero have always lived in their current location for over 1000 years, and some of their oral tradition says that Q’eros was founded first, BEFORE Cuzco city.
Their culture has always been based on sacred exchange - not bartering. They do not need or use money in Hatun Q’eros. They still follow the ancestral practice of “gifting” - you give what you have, and you receive what others give. This has created a society with very different values from those those the “Western” world are accustomed to, and creates a unifying and interdependent community by the design of their Inkan ancestors, geniuses at social organization.
The Inkan empire rivaled the Roman and Ottoman empires in size, but was built in a much shorter time period, connected through the incredibly high and steep trails through the Mountains known as the Qhapaq Ñan. These rich “trails of abundance” or Qhapaq Ñan - the Royal Roads of the Inka - are an amazing feat of engineering, and have become highly popular with todays’ adventure hikers.
The Q’ero hold a prophecy of a time when the world once again will be required to live their wisdom. One signal for this time would be when their sacred mountain glaciers began to melt and shrink - this would show that the world was becoming more and more out of balance, and would require their knowledge on how to create sacred reciprocity with Nature. As we all can see, around the world, that time is now.
The Q'ero Love Their Alpacas.
The Q’ero culture is centered around their alpaca and vicuña, the smallest of camelids. These beautiful animals are seen as a direct manifestation of Pachamama, the Earth Mother, and provide what the Q’ero need to survive - the luxurious fiber the Q’ero use to make their weavings.
Alpacas make a wonderful companion animal. They easily learn to lead, jump in and out of vehicles, and obey simple commands like ‘sit down’. Because the alpacas have lived where grass grows sparsely for thousands of years, they require much less food than most animals their size. Alpacas are shorn for their valuable fleeces that are easily marketable and provide their most generative means of livelihood. They exhibit a variety of natural colors, with approximately 22 basic fiber colors and many variations and blends. Alpaca fiber has a cellular structure similar to hair and is more resilient and much stronger than Merino sheep wool and is highly sought after.
Alpacas can be expressive, voicing a soft hum, or other sounds to communicate. They have excellent eyesight and hearing, and will alert the herd and their herders of perceived danger with a staccato alarm call. If they are frightened, alpacas will spit at you to get you to back off.
The shy Vicuña, the most elegant and smallest of South America’s camelids, has been declared a “national treasure” by the Peruvian government, and worthy of protection from extinction. Ther soft vicuna wool used to be called the “Cloth of Gold '' by the Inkas because of its unique softness and its impressive ability to retain heat in the Andean cold. Vicuña fur is softer than cashmere and is especially prized for its texture and rarity - only able to be harvested once every 15 months. Vicuña wool was woven by the Q'ero to create amazing, beautiful weavings specifically spun for the clothing worn by the Inka royals - the Sapa Inka and Sapa Qoya (the High King & Queen).
The Q’ero have a word - “AWAY” (pronounced “ah-why”) that carries epic meaning as beautifully expressed here by Elizabeth B. Jenkins:
“When you say the word “AWAY” you are invoking a huge constellation of meaning. For example AWAY evokes: the love with which you raise the alpaca and celebrate its life so it grows beautiful and luxurious hair, then sheared with respect and care that brings the finest fibre! Spin the fibre, invoking the spirit mistress of the spindle, as well as the muse of ancient Inka Patterns QAPA CH’EQA ÑUST’A, so that when the weaving is complete it will be strong, beautiful, filled with ancestral knowledge, and powerful prayers.”
The alpacas are celebrated, loved, respected, and blessed for the sustenance they provide to the Q’ero Community. From the sacred ceremonies, the revenant shearings, and love the Q’ero have for their beloved alpaca, the exquisite weavings they create are infused with so much love you feel Pachamama’s heartbeat through the unspoken story of the weavings -you can feel their divine living energy.
The “history” told of the Q'ero is wrong.
In 1531, the conquistador Francisco Pizarro found an empire embattled in civil war and plotted to take over the Inka empire by setting one leader against another- Atawalpa, 12th Ruler of the Inka Empire, and his half-brother Waskar. Atawalpa (son of Wayna Qhapaq and his Quito Princess), aided by the Spanish, plotted the death of his brother Waskar, who was the last “officially selected” ruler of the Inka Empire, giving the Spanish their needed excuse to take over from the “barbarians who killed their own family.”
For over 100 years, there was an Inka state that lived quietly within the new territories the Spanish had set up during this time until….In the 17th century, the Inka National Movement to reclaim their empire, was ignited by highly Charismatic Paqos in an attempt to overthrow the Spanish. They were so successful at rallying the people that they almost succeeded.
However, the extreme reaction of the Spanish to this uprising, was to decimate everything Inka - or at least try. All forms of native ceremony were forbidden - along with the Quechua language and the Inka weavings with their special patterns that preserved sacred knowledge. The ‘wakas’ or sacred altars to Pachamama and other nature spirits were destroyed, and the Priests and Priestesses, keepers of the Inka ceremonies, songs and ritual knowledge, were murdered. The Spanish went on a rampage, destroying everything Inka in an attempt to destroy this magnificent culture and make themselves the paramount order. As we know all too well, these behaviors were commonplace throughout the “New World.” This is why Oscar Nuñez Del Prado was so astonished when he saw the forbidden traditional Inka Patterns visible in the contemporary Q’ero ceremonial garments at Q‘ollorit’i Festival in 1949. He then mounted the first academic expedition to their villages in 1950. These weaving patterns, unseen in several hundred years, connected the Q’ero to their Inka origins.
The Spanish finally reach the Q’ero - but to no avail
When the Spanish went looking for the supposed “lost city of Inka gold” the trails they were told to take, led them toward the jungle and straight to Hatun Q'eros. However, the Apus (the mountain spirits) had warned the Paqos about the Spanish arrival. Apu Wayruroni instructed the Paqos to build a large stone tower which the Apus would knock down with lightning and thunder. When the Apus hit the tower with lightning, the Spanish were crushed in the ensuing landslide so that they never reached Q'eros.
The true significance of the Q'ero and the search for Inkan Gold
Because of this incident, and thanks to their remote location, the Q’ero have retained their cultural foundations; they are still “original.” It is only because they were so far removed from the centers of conquest that the Q’ero were able to maintain until now, 500 years of resistance. They never knew their weavings were forbidden. Today, they continue an ancestral knowledge and customs that are pristine, untouched, pure.
The “gold” that has attracted so many seekers to their death is not material - it is not jewelry or coins. Q'ero oral traditions says that once they recognized the danger of the Spanish invasion, they took the heart of their sacred ancestral knowledge to the east, into the jungle - to the metaphysical cities of Miskayani (the Sacred Feminine city of Powerful Priestesses) and Paititi (the corresponding city of the High Priests). The modern stories we hear about the “Lost city of the Inkan gold” are based on these myths - similar to the lost Tibetan city of Shambhala. The Inka wisdom IS their spiritual “gold and silver”. The sacred gold and silver storehouses containing the ancestral knowledge of the Inka are still held safely by the Q’ero, as they were able to retain much of their sacred teachings, safeguard and preserve their knowledge over the last 500 years. This ancient wisdom continues to be passed on in the old ways - orally through in Hatun Q’eros, and through their weavings, from one generation to the next.
Inkan weavings depict the deep and rich wealth of their stories and knowledge, and blessing
The weavings made by the Q’ero carry “living energy” and represent the authentic Andean traditions - unchanged by outsiders. Each weaving contains meaning in every line. Each pattern carries the ancient knowledge of the Q’ero, encoded with their living energy prayers. When you hold one of these pieces of sacred art in your hands, you feel the rich love of Pachamama - you feel inspiration and divine connection. You experience the age-old wisdom woven into each piece.
The weavings enrich your spirit through this beautiful connection to love and nature and the Inka wisdom lineage. They help you remember that nature is alive - that you can learn to drive your own life and that “victim” and “war” is no more than an adolescent stage of human development. There is more to do to become an adult. You can learn to be in tune with your deeper self, inextricably part of great Nature.
Purchasing these weavings helps strengthen and maintain the Q’ero culture as well. This exchange creates great reciprocity (Ayni) and helps support the Q’ero people - financially and spiritually - and enables them to continue in their traditional ways and lifestyles. These people are directly aware of their connection to their own Nature beings as sources of love and healing, and wish to share this knowledge for the betterment of the world, and to expand their authentic teachings through GPS.
The Q’ero teach us how to live a modern truth of a direct relationship with Mother Nature.
The Q’ero teach us how to live a personal and intimate relationship in sacred exchange with the very essence of Mother Nature, and to find our way back to ourselves in these exceedingly challenging times. We are taught how to bathe in her healing nectars to become whole, full human beings, and maintain a sacred harmony of gratitude in this time of Taripaypacha - the age of meeting our true selves.
At the core of their teachings lies the transformation of consciousness, a spiritual awakening that is seen as the next step in human-nature evolution. An essential aspect of this awakening consists of transforming our fear-based state of consciousness to one of trust, love, and personal responsibility by deepening our intrinsic Nature Intelligence. This is considered a prerequisite not only for personal happiness but also for healing our ‘victim-perpetrator' relationship with Nature, shifting climate change, and the growing biophobia epidemic on our planet.
And so, in this time of societal disruption and increasing environmental challenges, the Q’ero have come forth to teach what is needed to help restore the natural balance with Pachamama, to help us rediscover peace of mind, once again find meaning in life, and to live in harmony and balance with humans, and with nature.
Their weavings and their teachings play a huge part in creating and maintaining the Sumaq Kausay - the Exquisite living energy field generated by humans and Nature living in sacred reciprocity with each other.
Despite the uncertainty, confusion, and chaos we find ourselves in, we can live in a world of beauty and spiritual power - guided by the Q’ero, blessed by Nature, and contributing to the preservation of the most loving and humble peoples on Earth.
The Q’ero believe that living a happy, empowered, kind, and giving lifestyle is our birthright.
We are a part of Nature and must work with it rather than exploiting it for human gain.
There are natural Powers that we can wield to make a difference.
Our connection with Pachamama, Mother Earth, can help raise environmental and climate awareness and solve problems.
When you ally with the Nature beings around you, your life becomes filled with joy and harmony.
Because we are all a part of Nature, we are inherently worthy.