Posted in Peru
As our van crept up the dirt road to the Quechua Village of Misminay, we began to hear the sounds of drums and singing. The moment we stopped, I excitedly exited the van only to be rather mesmerized by the sights and sounds around me. There were four women and four men lining the entrance to the village, each of them were clapping and singing. All eight were proudly adorned in beautifully vibrant, yet traditional, Peruvian dress. At the moment the music ended, each of the men stepped forward and tied on our wrists a handmade bracelet. My mind couldn’t help but think “Wow! This is all just for us?!”
They gestured for us to accompany them further up the road and, as we did, they resumed their music. We slowly made our way to a common area where they had set up benches for us to rest on.
Once we were all settled, they one by one stepped forward and introduced themselves and welcomed us to their village. As I listened to them, my eyes couldn’t help but to wander and attempt to take in every small detail. Their faces were weathered by both the sun and altitude and yet each of their eyes sparkled with gentility. The air seemed more clear and the sky more piercingly blue. As I drank in the beauty all around, I found a lump quickly forming in my throat.
This group of four Peruvian couples were absolutely beaming with pride as their matriarch, Flora, stepped forward and began explaining to us the arduous process of weaving textiles. Starting as young as six years old, the women of Misminay learn everything from cleaning and dying the wool to hand-spinning and readying it for weaving. To standby and watch this art form come to life in front of my eyes was truly breathtaking.
Next, as Flora’s husband Luis stepped forward to explain their routine offerings to Pachamama (Mother Earth), I eagerly volunteered to provide a blessing on behalf of our group. As I made my way towards him, more than 4,000 miles away from home, holding coca leaves sealed together by alpaca fat, I felt as though I was having an out-of-body experience. I was partaking in a tradition that was thousands of years old; a tradition that is part of the very backbone of the Peruvian belief system. I next sprinkled drops of Luis’ chicha (an Andean beer made from Jora corn) onto the ground around me as a final offering to Pachamama. When I was finished, he asked if we would allow them to bury our coca leaves as a way of concluding the offering.
We were next guided to a dining room, which was beautifully decorated with brightly colored textiles and fresh eucalyptus leaves. As we took a seat, the locals lined the wall behind us as our guide explained that their cook had prepared a light snack for us using herbs and vegetables from their green house [10 feet away]. As we sipped on muna (black mint tea), we were served local white cheese, boiled potatoes and the most stunningly green cilantro and peanut dipping sauce. Our guide, Fernando, was kind enough to provide the ingredients to the sauce (but that’s a recipe for another blog)!
Having filled my stomach with potatoes and my heart with an infinite appreciation for these kind souls, I shook each of their hands goodbye, gathered my newly-purchased Andean textiles and sadly boarded the van for our next stop. I left a big piece of my heart in Misminay, which simply means I will need to go back soon.
People ask what my favorite part of Peru was and I tell them that that’s simple: THE PEOPLE. I won’t remember the early wake-up calls or the long flights. But I will forever remember Misminay! And of course Flora, the lovely woman who warmly allowed me into her home and her centuries old way-of-life, or her husband Luis who shared with us his home-brewed Chicha [de Jora]. The people of Peru are humble yet very proud of their heritage. Open your heart to the people who live, share and preserve Peru’s culture and the experiences and memories are limitless. Go see your world!