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Andes to Amazon on the River Q’eros: Indigenous Voice in Grassroots Tourism, Safeguarding, and Ownership Projects of the Q’eros and Wachiperi Peoples

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter advocates that micro-scale applied ethnomusicology projects based in shared experience, co-collaboration, and equal status, executed in small groups, are as valid and often more effective than large-scale organizational projects. Two case studies show how grassroots approaches support the effectiveness of indigenous voice and representation regarding use of traditional music in tourism, safeguarding, and music ownership via CD production. The first case charts indigenous tourism and musical representation with the Quechua Q’eros of the southern Peruvian Andes; the second outlines safeguarding conflicts with Peru’s Ministry of Culture regarding UNESCO’s nomination of esuwa, healing songs, and song ownership with the near-extinct Wachiperi Amazonian group. The measurement of effectiveness is premised on the concept of reciprocity, the driving social mechanism in both the Q’eros and the Wachiperi communities. These case studies show tourism and safeguarding projects that are successful precisely because they are small scale and founded on mutually beneficial relationships.

Keywords: reciprocity, music representation, indigenous voice, grassroots, Q’eros, Wachiperi, Andes, Amazon, safeguarding, music ownership

Introduction: Reciprocity

The support for and ability of indigenous people to express their own voice regarding the use of their music in tourism, representation, safeguarding, and material production projects are often impeded by the restrictions and agendas of local government and nongovernment organizations, as well as tour companies. The efficacy of projects based around any of these activities is often directly proportionate to how much that voice is listened to, ideally in balance and equal partnership with the counterpart they are working with. The question of how to gauge efficacy in music projects and representation has been a debate in applied ethnomusicology in the past few decades (Alviso, 2003; Bradley, 1989; Davis, 1992; Grant, 2012; Hutchinson, 2003; Lomax Hawes, 1992; Long, 2003; Sheehy, 1992). In this chapter I discuss the representation of music in indigenous tourism, preservation, safeguarding, and CD production through the lens of two case studies. I use these themes to focus on hands-on indigenous action regarding self-representation and how the choices of action are related to satisfactory reciprocal relationship (or lack thereof) between the indigenous people with the applied ethnomusicologist, foreign tourists and students, and Peru’s Ministry of Culture.

The first study is the internationally known highland Quechua Q’eros people in the Cusco Region of southern Peru and their choices regarding indigenous tourism and effective sharing of their music in touristic ventures; and the second is the near-extinct Amazonian Wachiperi1 people, also in the Cusco Region, and their choice to make their (p. 399) own CD production of their now inactive songs, intentionally negating a CD production proposition from the Cusco division of the Ministry of Culture. When it comes to presenting music in the public sphere, both the Q’eros and Wachiperi assert their own guidelines in active resistance, even if on a very small scale. Indeed, my intention for sharing these two case studies is to advocate for the value and efficacy of micro-scale grassroots applied music projects, executed in small groups and even one-on-one, versus large-scale operations, events, and stagings that involve organizational participation. Applied ethnomusicology can be effectual on the smallest of scales, and in my experience that is where it has been the most fruitful.

The measurement of success of projects with both the Q’eros and the Wachiperi is gauged by the effectiveness of reciprocity, an age-old theme in anthropological and ethnomusicological studies, which was first systematically studied in the groundbreaking work of Marcel Mauss in his comparisons of Polynesian, Melanesian, and Native American exchange systems. Reciprocity also premises the social, economic, and spiritual systems in the Andes and the Amazon, as shown in the lives of the Q’eros and the Wachiperi. Mauss’s classic book, The Gift (1954, first edition in English) examines reciprocity in large-scale contexts with detailed description of the North American potlatch, the kula ring exchanges based on Malinowski’s work with the Tobriand peoples, and in the meetings, assemblies, markets, festivals, and seafaring expeditions of various Polynesian and Melanesian groups. Similarly, the Inca Empire (1436–1532) functioned on a large-scale system of reciprocity known as mit’a, whereby a tribute tax was paid to the Inca king and nobility in the form of labor and production (food, weaving, ceramics, metallurgy, mining, and the building of temples, palaces, roads, and irrigation canals, to name a few). In return, all areas of production, that is, all peoples who were incorporated into the Inca system, received periodic distribution of food and clothing from the massive state storage system of qollqas (storehouses). Instead of common markets that were the life centers of many Asian and European empires, the Incas had intricate trade networks among the coastal, Andean, and Amazon regions joined by Qhapaq Ñan (royal stone roads). An enormous variety of goods was produced all along the Andean vertical ecology,2 made possible due to the multitude of ecosystems found in the extreme range of altitudes situated in tropical latitudes. Through labor tax reciprocated by provision of goods to all, the Incas created a successful social system that propelled the largest pre-Columbian empire in the New World. This system of reciprocity was intrinsically linked to the social and personal relationships among those who made the exchanges, so that reciprocity on the local level extended to the empirical level. The first decades of the post-Spanish invasion (1532–1570) experienced a tragic shift to a newly introduced European slave feudal system that caused the breakdown, demoralization, and mass deaths of many Andean, coastal, and Amazonian groups, indicative of the devastation that a non-reciprocal system can incite (see Hemming, 1993: 334–359).

Today, as in the past, relationship is key to Andean livelihood and is what must be nurtured above all else. Ayni is the system of reciprocity that ensures good relationship among people with their fellow community members, animals, and the powerful spirits that hold sway over their quality of livelihood (see scholarship that includes discussions (p. 400) of ayni: Abercrombie, 1998; Allen, 1997, 2002, 2008; Arnold with Juan de Dios Yapita, 1998; Bastien, 1978; Bolin, 1998; Butler, 2006; Cummins, 2002; Flores Ochoa, 1977, 1988; Gow, 1976; Harris, 2000; Isbell, 1978; Mamani Mamani, 1990; Mannheim, 1986, 1991; Rozas Alvarez, 2002 [1979]; Schaedel, 1988; Silverman, 1994; Stobart, 2006; Tomoeda, 1996; Webster, 1972; Wissler, 2009a; Zuidema, 1964, 1982, 1990). In living and working with the Q’eros since 2003 I have come to see how this operative principle is essential in every relationship, and can cause offense, even harm, if not upheld.

The Quechua word ayni refers to mutual aid in nearly every aspect of community life, such as sharing food and labor, gift-giving, and political and ritual offices as part of a community’s cargo system.3 This understood web of social obligations ensures that everyone in the community is taken care of in social, political, and fundamental ways. While exchanges are not often direct, ayni is an implied and tacit obligation that ensures that “what goes around, comes around.” On the smallest scale, home visits should be accompanied with a simple gift, such as potatoes or coca,4 and neighbors help one another in farming, herding, and home building. On the community level, a festival carguyoq (sponsor) solicits food, drink, and coca from fellow community members so that his cargo (festival responsibility) goes well. If ayni is not fulfilled, one risks damaging a relationship with a neighbor or the entire community. Anthropologist Catherine Allen, in her moving ethnography The Hold Life Has, succinctly describes the vitality of ayni: “Reciprocity is like a pump at the heart of Andean life” (Allen, 2002: 73).

This system of interactive reciprocity in the Andes exists not only among humans, but among all vital energies, as Allen states:

Every category of being, at every level, participates in this cosmic circulation. Humans maintain interactive reciprocity relationships, not only with each other but also with their animals, their houses, their potato fields, the earth, and the sacred places in their landscape.

(Allen, 1997: 76)

All entities—human and non-human—have animu, an animated essence, so the maintenance of respectful relationships with all beings is essential for a good, functioning life (Wissler, 2009: 42–45). In Q’eros, and many traditional Andean communities, the most potent relationship to be upheld is with the supernatural forces, the Apu (mountain gods) and Pacha Mama (mother earth), as they hold the most power and influence on quality of life. If this crucial relationship is not maintained and renewed through numerous offerings, the spirits can inflict ill, sometimes in dramatic ways: crops fail; lightning strikes a person or an animal; a puma attacks a baby llama or alpaca; or a family member dies prematurely. In this case, “what goes around, comes around” can literally have deadly consequences. Conversely, if the reciprocal relationship is attended to, the powers can bestow good luck, healthy crops, and herd procreation. I have witnessed these beliefs and realities as daily life in the Q’eros community, with Q’eros’ songs as one of the many offerings used in order to uphold good relationships with these all-powerful spirits (see Wissler, 2009: 109–207). Similarly, the Amazonian Wachiperi have their own system of reciprocity, as described later in this chapter.

(p. 401) Mauss expounds the idea that gifts received are not inactive, which is why gift-giving can be so powerful and binding (and in some cases, potentially dangerous). An example he details is hau, which, according to the Maori, is the soul and power of objects that create ties on a soul-level because of the animation/spirit of the object (Mauss, 1990: 11–12). The Q’eros’ animal fertility rituals are pinnacle moments of circulatory ayni among all sentient beings, when there is an abundant flow of energies and conspicuous co-consumption in intentional exchange of ayni among the supernatural powers, people, animals, and a variety of ritual objects (see Allen, 2002; Stobart, 2006; Wissler, 2009).5 Sound and song have vital roles in these circulations of offerings (Wissler, 2009: 182–207). Other continuous offerings include libations of alcohol, and intricate offerings with many ingredients, to include food items and coca leaves, that are then burned for the Apu to consume via the smoke, while the ashes are consumed by Pacha Mama.

Mauss determines reciprocal gift-giving as a total social phenomenon, since it involves legal, economic, moral, religious, social, aesthetic, and spiritual dimensions. Mauss lists the benefits of reciprocity as numerable: It creates mutual ties and satisfaction on the individual, familial, community, inter- and intra-community, and institutional levels; enhances solidarity such as kinship links, alliances, and friendly relations; creates permanent commitments; is obligatory and binding; promotes honor and integrity; and is the basis of moral and material life. Reciprocity, as the intrinsic social underpinning of life for the Q’eros and the Wachiperi, is therefore the naturally preferred mode of interaction in our projects as well.

Background: Andes and Amazon, Q’eros and Wachiperi

Andes to Amazon on the River Q’erosIndigenous Voice in Grassroots Tourism, Safeguarding, and Ownership Projects of the Q’eros and Wachiperi Peoples

Map 12.1 The location of the Q’eros Nation in Peru. The Wachiperi region is due north of the Q’eros Nation, in the beginning of the Amazon section.

Map courtesy of ACCA, Asociación para la Conservación de la Cuenca Amazónica, Cusco, Perú.

The Andean Quechua Q’eros and the Amazonian Harakbut Wachiperi live on extremes of the same River Q’eros, both in the Paucartambo province in the larger region of Cusco,6 in southeast Peru (see Maps 12.1 and 12.2). The Q’eros nation consists of five communities, with the largest community of Hatun Q’eros, the site of my work, located on the river’s source at 11,000 feet above sea level. This source is fed by glacial headwaters originating at 16,000 feet, flows through the llama, alpaca, and potato zones of Hatun Q’eros, down through their cloud forest territory, plunges through impassable gorges, and eventually arrives in the rain forest foothills at the Wachiperi community located on the river’s mouth, at 1,000 feet.7 Not only are the Q’eros and Wachiperi located on the furthermost ends of the same river, but both groups represent extremes of indigenous cultural prosperity: The Q’eros are a flourishing Quechua group, having tripled their population in the past one hundred years, with their traditional and changing customs expressive of pre-Hispanic culture, such as songs, weavings, and offerings to the mountain spirits. This is a result of their ancestral exploitation of three vertical ecological zones located on the eastern watershed of the Andes, spanning from 15,000 to 6,000 feet in a vertical drop of about 25 miles. These zones provide all animal and crop resources for sustainability, so (p. 402) that their ethnic and cultural integrity is intact and the continued integrity of their cultural practices is fostered. The Q’eros are an admirable example of a people who are not tied to the cash economy within their own community, though this is rapidly changing due to urban migration and the arrival of a car road into the community (2014), which connects them to urban amenities and trappings more than ever before in their history.

Andes to Amazon on the River Q’erosIndigenous Voice in Grassroots Tourism, Safeguarding, and Ownership Projects of the Q’eros and Wachiperi Peoples

Map 12.2 The location of the Q’eros River and communities of Hatun Q’eros and Queros-Wachiperi in the Department capital of Cusco and province capital of Paucartambo. The community territories are designated in shaded areas.

Map courtesy of ACA, Amazon Conservation Association, Washington, D.C.

By contrast, the Wachiperi, of the Harakbut linguistic family, suffered great loss and relocation during forced enslavement and displacement from their original territory caused by the early twentieth-century rubber terror, particularly under the exploits of Peruvian rubber baron Carlos Fitzcarrald, who made the Madre de Dios region, original home of the Wachiperi, a major area for capturing slaves and labor under the pain of death. Later, many Wachiperi were relocated to a mid-century (1946) establishment of (p. 403) (p. 404) a North American Baptist Mission, followed in 1948 by a small pox epidemic that coincided with the opening of the road to Cusco, which severely reduced the population. Today only some one hundred or so Wachiperi remain.8 The Wachiperi songs, like the people and their language, are on the border of extinction.

Q’eros and Wachiperi music has much in common, as is true for many indigenous cultures: The songs express their environment with topics about the landscape, revered animals and birds; they are used for personal expression of grievances, complaints, and loss; both are used for healing in some form; and the songs fortify identity and social ties (Allen, 2002; Olsen, 1996; Seeger, 2004a; Stobart, 2006; Turino, 1993; Uzendoski, 2005; Wissler, 2009). The principal difference is that the Q’eros still embody and retain the original context for musical practice (carnival, animal fertility rituals, corn harvest), while the Wachiperi lost their context for musical production during relocation to the Protestant mission and prohibition of the drinking of masato, fermented yucca beer. Community singing for the Wachiperi had been traditionally organized in masateadas (communal drinking rituals) in large communal homes, and their communal singing ended with the prohibition of this ritual.

In September 2010 I collected, digitized, and repatriated 50 years of audiovisual archives to the Q’eros, and in December of the same year I digitized and returned University of California Berkeley anthropologist Patricia J. Lyon’s 1964 and 1965 reel-to-reel recordings of 206 Wachiperi songs to the Wachiperi. This was the first time in the history of both communities that audio-visual archives had been repatriated to them (see Figure 12.1).9 In the case of the Wachiperi, the repatriation of song archives was my introduction to the community, whereas with the Q’eros I had accumulated years of research and reciprocal relations that opened doors on both communal and individual levels. It is this foundation of years of trust and collaboration with the Q’eros that has allowed for the co-creation of exchanges with tourist and student groups, with music as focal point, which are fulfilling and often very potent for both the Q’eros and the guests. I have married my role of 30 years as tour leader and cultural translator in mountain areas of Peru with 15 years as music researcher in the same mountains, to successfully incorporate the Q’eros and their music into our mutual livelihood of tourism in a way that benefits both parties on various levels, without changing or creating a new form of the performance aspect of their music.

The Quechua Q’eros and their Music in Indigenous Tourism

Andes to Amazon on the River Q’erosIndigenous Voice in Grassroots Tourism, Safeguarding, and Ownership Projects of the Q’eros and Wachiperi Peoples

Figure 12.1 Digitized archives returned to the Queros-Wachiperi community. Estela Dariquebe is the only elder still living who recorded with Patricia Lyon in 1964 and 1965.

Photo by Holly Wissler, December 11, 2010.

When indigenous music is introduced into tourist realms, it quite often undergoes the construction of a new or altered musical form (Harnish, 2005), a folklorization of the original music (Mendoza, 1998, 2000), or a staging of indigenous culture and identity negotiation for political purposes (Oakdale, 2004). Indigenous music that is commoditized (p. 405) for touristic purposes often becomes “self-conscious ‘cultural performances’ ” (Rios, 2012: 6), a self-conscious presentation of self (Senft, 1999), or, in the ecological analogy of Titon, “like chemical fertilizers, artificial stimuli that feed the plant but starve the soil… .” (Titon, 2009: 122). In my work with the Q’eros and the introduction of their music into tourism, they do not reconstruct a performance of identity, or display an objectified image of their cultural heritage, which could be very tempting for them given that they are often associated (on the national and international level) with a romantic Inca past, as a people who still harmoniously live in untouched, ancient tradition (Corr, 2003).

I argue that what supports the maintenance of authentic, unpackaged musical performance, as well as the facilitation of deep sharings of musical and life experiences between two extremes of culture (indigenous, rural Andean with modern, urban US), is the very small, grassroots level in which we work. These exchanges are not so “small” after all, when one considers the inner experience of rich benefit and growth, and, in the case of the Q’eros, personal benefit plus economic compensation. It is in the arenas of tourism and work with students on study abroad programs in Peru where I have experienced direct, immediate, and long-lasting impact in the service of applied ethnomusicology.

(p. 406) Indigenous Tourism and Ideas of Authenticity

In past decades there has been a growing interest in, implementation of, and debates about indigenous tourism, which includes activities where indigenous people are directly involved, and their culture, including musical presentation, serves as the essence of attraction (see Boniface and Robinson, 1998; Butler and Hinch, 2007; Knudsen and Waade, 2010; Ryan and Aicken, 2005; Xie, 2001). Butler and Hinch state in their introduction to their edited volume Tourism and Indigenous Peoples, “Indigenous cultures have become a powerful attraction for tourists and as such they have drawn the attention of tourism entrepreneurs, government agencies and academics” (Butler and Hinch, 2007: 2). Many of the case studies in this volume discuss whether indigenous tourism is an opportunity for the indigenous to “gain economic independence and cultural rejuvenation to whether it presents a major threat of hegemonic subjugation and cultural degradation” (ibid.). These are two extremes of the continuum, and the editors do clarify that “[a]‌ parallel range of opinions exist at operational levels of debates about the size of indigenous tourism markets, the appropriateness of various marketing practices and the business models that are most suitable for indigenous tourism operations” (ibid., my emphasis). The overall premise of all cases presented is that there is not one guiding set of principles that assures success in indigenous tourism models; rather, each case is unique to time, place, and size. I agree with this conclusion, and have myself experienced models that both work and do not work regarding tourism with the Q’eros.

Boniface and Robinson (1998) discuss how tourism can help preserve cultures and resurrect forgotten traditions, while at the same time challenging cultural norms, which can lead to situations of conflict, in which much tension, and even violence, can result. Many issues must be confronted when cultures meet, such as social and economic power relations, and even moral and legal rights. The majority of the case studies in both Butler and Hinch and Boniface and Robinson deal with fairly large-scale tourist operations. I emphasize the word size as quoted above because it is on the smallest level where I have felt and seen the most effective results, literally one-on-one, or a ratio of roughly two to one, when I introduce US guests and the Q’eros to one another (Figure 12.2). The group sizes I work with are anywhere from four to thirty total people involved. The effectiveness of these encounters is probably more immediate and impactful when compared to many other models that deal with interactions on a larger scale, such as stagings of musical presentations to a sizable audience.

Andes to Amazon on the River Q’erosIndigenous Voice in Grassroots Tourism, Safeguarding, and Ownership Projects of the Q’eros and Wachiperi Peoples

Figure 12.2 Two US tourists with three Q’eros, learning about the Q’eros pinkuyllu flutes.

Photo by Holly Wissler, July 17, 2014.

The issue of authenticity in tourism—its definition and implementation—has been a much-debated issue in the study and practice of indigenous tourism. One of the first critics of inauthentic tourist experiences was the American historian and social critic Daniel Boorstin, whose groundbreaking book The Image discussed the effect of mass media on American culture that resulted in contrivance and a valuing of the fake over the genuine. He critiqued the tourism industry as a whole, saying it once offered real experiences but came to insulate travelers from the places they were visiting and, (p. 407) instead, provided artificial products and presentations for tourists who expect to see scenes out of the movies (Boorstin, 1961). Boorstin’s seminal critique is still influential in authentic tourism debates today.

Fifty years later, Knudsen and Waade discuss “a hunger for reality and the indexical authenticity” and “a striving for the real” in regard to authenticity in indigenous tourism (Knudsen and Waade, 2010: 2). Authenticity is not observers (tourists) observing staged authenticity (the idea of tourist as observer and host culture as observed; Urry, 2002), but “the nature of authenticity is experiential” (Johnson and McIntosh, 2005: 36, my emphasis). Along these lines, Knudsen and Waade discuss that the longing for the authentic in tourism is not a “… ‘thing’ you can possess, nor a ‘state of mind,’ but something which people do and a feeling which is experienced” (Knudsen and Waade, 2010: 1). I agree that experience and experiential are key components in authentic exchange in indigenous tourism, which includes accessing deeper meanings of indigenous music by the students/tourists involved.

Knudsen and Waade use the term “performative authenticity” to marry object-related and subject-related modes of authenticity. Object-related refers to concepts that are “out there”: place, the tourists’ projections, narrations, and identity constructions about (p. 408) place, and pre-conceived ideas in general, such as the desire for a non-technological, natural environment and experience in their travels. “Indexical authenticity” refers to the inner experience of the tourist who is affected by and has intense feelings for place (object-related) (ibid.). Subject-related refers to the inner, affected, tactile, corporeal, emotional, and inter-relatedness that the tourist actually experiences (ibid.: 12–16). Performative authenticity, therefore, is the combination of preconceptions that conjure up images and sensations with the subjective inner affected experience and existential personal quests that happen in the moment. In simpler terms, the projected combined with the experienced.

Sustainability scientist Ning Wang writes in his article “Rethinking Authenticity in Tourism Experience,” “Existential authenticity refers to a potential existential state of Being that is to be achieved by tourist activities. Correspondingly, authentic experiences in tourism are to achieve this activated existential state of Being within the liminal process of tourism” (Wang, 1999: 352). Wang discusses authenticity in terms of intrapersonal (the sensations of authenticity the person feels) and interpersonal (the authentic bonding among peoples). I believe the concepts intra- and interpersonal, sensations and bondings, are key in the success of interactive, exchange tourism and indigenous musical sharings. In our exchanges, the tourists and students have direct and intimate contact with the Q’eros and their musical offerings. The tourists’ experience is more than observing, but a taking part in, a participation of—when emotions, thoughts, sensations, and even spirit become involved. I believe we achieve authentic sensations and mutual bonding in our exchanges, which are connected to both pre-conceived ideas of place and identity, combined with actual, corporeal, and emotional experience, which I expand on below.

Interpretations and meanings of “authenticity” have been critically examined in contemporary ethnomusicology, and many ethnomusicologists have discussed authenticity in regard to the incorporation of indigenous music in touristic ventures and festivals (see Stokes, 1994). Jeff Titon quotes the definition of folk cultural traditions from the Smithsonian’s Center of Folklife Programs and Cultural Studies Guidelines for Research, which is meant to guide fieldworkers’ decisions on what is and is not authentic:

… community-based forms of knowledge, skill and expression learned through informal relationships and exhibiting intergenerational continuity. Typical genres include oral tradition, social custom, material culture and its supportive knowledge, and the folk arts. Forms of folk culture are traditional to the extent that they maintain standards or values, which have continuity with, and are informed by, past practice. They are living traditions to the extent that they are practiced, and are socially integrated within community life and speak to its cognitive, normative, affective, and aesthetic concerns (Office of Folklife Programs 1988).

(Titon 1999: 123–124)

Based on this definition, the Q’eros’ music-making I organize for tour groups is solidly rooted in “intergenerational continuity” and a “living tradition.” While they are not playing in the ritual context (i.e., drinking the ceremonial chicha—corn beer—involved (p. 409) in multiple offerings for the mountain spirits or carnival merry-making), the execution of their music is not modified or staged. The renderings are more subdued than during their inebriated ritual contexts and more akin to the way they sing around their family hearths or while herding their llamas and alpacas out in the Andean heights: a simple playing and singing of their songs in an intimate, private setting, as they did for me during my fieldwork, so that they share the community’s affective and aesthetic concerns. To use Thomas Turino’s definition, this is participatory music that does not become staged or presentational. Rather, it is a simple rendition of participatory music (Turino, 2008).

In contrast to simple renderings of music in intimate settings, many of my Q’eros friends have expressed feelings of p’enqay, or shame, and a sense of being used and manipulated as they are put on stage by the Ministry of Culture, which solicits them to perform their songs and the traditional sounding of announcement on conch shells (pututu) for specific ceremonies based around achievements of the Ministry. Both the Q’eros and the Wachiperi are regularly called upon to travel long distances from their communities and perform for special Ministry of Culture events, thereby symbolizing the Ministry’s investment in heralding and safeguarding the traditions of both peoples. While the Q’eros’ musical performances for the MC are similar to the ones they do for my tour groups—a simple rendition of songs—the experience is dramatically different. One is an uncomfortable staged obligation for a political entity, with little understanding or significance of the music imparted, and centered around an event that often has nothing to do with the people performing, versus an intimate, often mutually meaningful experiential exchange between US tourists/students and the Q’eros, which is directly focused on the Q’eros, who they are, and the layers of musical meaning. In my experience, it is the latter musical representation that engenders a sense of “authentic.”

Indigenous Tourism and the Q’eros Identity

I first heard of the Q’eros upon moving to Peru in 1982 as the exotic last stronghold of “pure” indigenous Andean people surviving today. It was this romantic reputation that led me 20 years later to choose the Q’eros’ ritual music as my dissertation research topic. The fame and attraction of the Q’eros to foreigners evolved from mid-twentieth century onward due to many factors that link them to an ancient, and even Inca, past.10 One version of the Q’eros’ origin myth of Inkarí, the mythical Inca who founded the Inca Empire, tells how the Q’eros were privileged with the power of wisdom, while the Incas received the political power. The first academic expedition into Q’eros headed by Cusco University (Universidad Nacional San Antonio de Abad, Cusco) in 1955 highlighted the connection to an Inca past with sensational editorials in the Lima newspaper, La Prensa, such as: “Living museum from the Inca era being studied by Peruvian scientists,” and “Q’ero is an admirable testimony of a pre-Incan city in Peru” (journalist Demetrio Tupac Yupanqui, August 21 and 22, 1955, respectively). These editorials brought national attention to the Q’eros. Fifty years later, their legal establishment of the Nación Q’eros (Q’eros Nation, consisting of five Q’eros communities, approximately 3,000 population) (p. 410) is indicative of the Q’eros’ self-identified identity/ethnicity, and their wish to preserve and promote themselves as a unified group. In 2006, Peru’s then National Institute of Culture—today the Ministry of Culture—declared the Q’eros people “Cultural Patrimony,” the first case of its kind in Peru in which a people were so named.11 Because of this renown, streams of foreign and local filmmakers and researchers have been drawn to Q’eros’ romanticized identity over the past 50 years.

As mentioned, the Q’eros’ continued practice of their community traditions has much to do with their location in three diverse ecological zones on the eastern watershed of the Andes, all in relative close proximity, which has fostered self-sustainability, and less need for trade and outside movement than more dependent Andean groups. The Q’eros are likely one of the few remaining ethnic groups of the diverse mosaic of cultural groups in existence in southern Peru at the time of the Spanish invasion, versus ethnic Incas (see Mannheim, 1998: 383–384; Rowe, 1963: 185; Webster, 1972: 7–9). In sum, the Q’eros, with their intact cultural and ethnic identity, have many platforms and an eager audience from which to assert this identity, which they articulately connect to an ancient Inca past, as their origin myth tells them; they are proud of their identity, and articulate and utilize it to their benefit. This makes tourism highly attractive for and to the Q’eros.

Today the Q’eros are particularly sought out by a specific niche of foreigners (US and European) who seek spiritual guidance, and have come to look to the Q’eros as the teachers and holders of Andean Native American spiritual tradition. They are known as spiritual leaders, because every head of family—usually the men, and sometimes the women—is a ritual specialist, having inherited the knowledge of how to make precise offerings for the mountain deities (Apu) and Mother Earth (Pacha Mama), whereas other Andean communities have only one or a few ritual specialists. This corresponds to their version of the origin myth, Inkarí, in which the Q’eros inherited vast spiritual knowledge. Many Q’eros are invited abroad to teach their knowledge, and visitors to Peru hold learning sessions with them in and around the Cusco region, while the hardier will travel to Q’eros.12 This type of “mystical/esoteric/New Age tourism,” as it is called in the tourist trade, comes with a lot of hot critique; many argue that because of the forces of commerce and capitalism, the Q’eros have sold out or exploited their ritual expertize to spiritually empty Westerners who look outside their own home for fulfillment, or, conversely that the Q’eros representatives, such as tour companies, have created an exaggerated mystic around the Q’eros that the Q’eros comply with and cultivate in order to simply earn the much-needed income to support their families. Certainly, the Q’eros are a spiritual people, and the issue of spiritual tourism is complex and multi-faceted.

In spite of the Q’eros’ renown and attractiveness to outside visitors, they do not have any community-based tourism (CBT) in place, where the community could potentially manage their own touristic operations to the control and benefit of the community;13 rather, separate tour companies and individuals employ Q’eros who are looking for work in tourism as they become more connected to/dependent on the cash economy. In the past decade there has been significant Q’eros migration to Cusco, which comes with new economic trappings: building homes, paying for their children’s education, and buying food from the market that they used to grow in their community. Tourism is now a main form (p. 411) of income for many in-community and migrant Q’eros, and they are savvy in securing their own work contacts to make offerings for tourists and sell their handmade textiles.

This system of individual enterprise fosters capitalistic competition and often jealousies among community members, yet many Q’eros have stated that they prefer to be their own individual agents in securing tourist activities versus any kind of CBT where equality would be enforced. Francisco Quispe from Q’eros stated bluntly that they do not want to create CBT that would instill and obligate an equal sharing of tourist earnings. “Many don’t want to share, because they think that if they do a rotation system then there would be ‘less for me.’ We prefer to work with people we already know; with contacts we already have and continue to make” (personal communication, July 19, 2013). This contrasts with the Taquile island CBT model, where, in the 1970s, the Taquileños created an innovative, community-controlled tourism system, with home stays and cultural activities, to combat mass tourism to their island that was run by outsiders. The Q’eros region is vast, not a single island, and the Q’eros individually, not collectively, discreetly invite tourists to their homes in the mountains, or meet tour groups in Cusco. This is completely in character with their savvy negotiation of “Inca identity” that they use in political, social, and tourist arenas; it is also in line with their decades of astute control regarding which outsiders can and cannot film, research, and witness rituals in their community.14 They have taken control of tourism in their region and are not interested in any CBT that may not serve their own individual desires and needs, which is fascinating considering that they still live by traditional communal rules in regard to intracommunity social matters.

Case Study: Q’eros-Tourist Exchanges with Music as Focal Point

Knudsen and Waade discuss authenticity in indigenous tourism as “the desire for insight into the intimate back-stage life of others,” and this insight is what we achieve in our small, face-to-face meetings with the Q’eros (Knudsen and Waade, 2010: 10). Even though I am regularly solicited to take groups and individuals into Q’eros because of my research profile, I only travel to Q’eros with select, close friends because in this way I feel we can share quality exchanges inside the intimate space of the Q’eros’ homes. In other words, I take friends to meet friends. I have only led one tour group into Q’eros, and I sensed varied agendas and interest in the clients’ meeting the Q’eros, so that any meaningful exchange was compromised, and the trip felt unsatisfactory. This experience, coupled with the high-altitude rigors and inclement weather involved in arriving to the community that took a toll on the original intent of cultural exchange, led me to conclude that I will not take tourists into Q’eros again. What works for us (the Q’eros, visitors, and me) are the close meetings between select Q’eros and small tour and student groups in Cusco, specifically using music as focal point and a window into Q’eros’ life and perspective.

The Q’eros call me chakawarmi (bridge-woman) because of my ability to conjoin my compatriots with the Q’eros in meaningful colloquy. I work with about 10 Q’eros families whom I rotate for the exchanges. The group I have chosen are the ones who committed (p. 412) to my work years ago when I began my initial music research in Q’eros, so we have a long working history together. In this way I continue ayni, reciprocal social obligation, in exchange for all the favors and time they gave in helping me understand their music. In some cases, the Q’eros’ earnings with groups are through selling their textiles, but mostly we are hired to meet with small tour and student groups, so that the Q’eros make a much-welcomed wage.15

The tourist demographic we meet with are generally high-powered, well-educated professionals from the United States who have just two weeks or so vacation a year. Many check into their workplace regularly via Smartphones, often adding stress to their once-in-a-lifetime visit to Peru. Knudsen and Waade (2010) expand on ideas from Gilmore and Pine (2007), stating that “the craving for authenticity is a reaction to a strong technologically mediatised, commercialised and socially constructed reality. One could think of this ‘craving’ as a ‘longing’ for the immediate, non-commercialised, brute natural world, characterized by the real authentic” (Knudsen and Waade, 2010: 1). Most of the visitors we meet with come away with a sense of having experienced the “real authentic,” even if in one session and on a small scale.

Certainly the meeting location has a powerful, underlying influence: the capital of the Inca Empire, with the final goal of the mystical citadel of Machu Picchu. The clients/students are already under the spell of having finally arrived in the majestic Andes, a place that has been their dream for years. They are in the midst of the “indexical authenticity” and “emotional geography” of the tourist’s inner experience, affected by and having intense, often projected, feelings for place (Knudsen and Waade, 2010: 5–16). This emotional investment in place and history is conducive to their openness for and interest in a meeting with the Q’eros.

Upon meeting the Q’eros, the guests first see the physical representation of authentic: The men in pre-Hispanic unku tunics under their hand-woven ponchos, with the knee-length calzuna pants; the women in brightly-colored finely-woven lliklla shawls with typical Q’eros designs and bayeta (woven cloth of sheep and alpaca fiber) skirts. All wear the simple ojota sandals, and often their feet are mud-caked from recent work in their homes, fields, and travel by foot over a mountain pass to arrive at the road and take the bus to Cusco. Soon after, social features of the authentic begin to be expressed: warm hugs from the Q’eros to the guests, most of whom are unaccustomed to such affection upon first meeting. Barriers begin to break down. The tourists soften, smile, and even laugh at this unexpected warmth and physicality. Next come greetings in their native Quechua, a language they have not heard in person, and most likely have not heard of before their journey to Peru. These are not formal speeches, as are sometimes performed on stage for Ministry of Culture functions just before musical performance, but direct, personal greetings in this ancient language of the Andes.

Andes to Amazon on the River Q’erosIndigenous Voice in Grassroots Tourism, Safeguarding, and Ownership Projects of the Q’eros and Wachiperi Peoples

Figure 12.3 A Q’eros couple sharing music with US tourists from inside an Inca niche.

Photo by Vicki Groninga, October 13, 2013.

We sit in chairs in a small circle, versus two lines facing one another (“us” and “them”), or the Q’eros on a stage and the guests as audience, as in Ministry of Culture presentations. Often we hike together, sharing magnificent Inca archaeology and Andean scenery (Figure 12.3). I ensure that the sessions are dialogue; that is, I invite (p. 413) the Q’eros to ask questions of the clients, and vice versa. There are many questions that I could easily answer in regard to the Q’eros’ lifestyle, and interpretation and meaning of their music, but I defer to the Q’eros so that they reply first in their own words, and I then add what I have discovered and learned through years of research, in terms that are more easily understandable to Western thinking. Therefore, my translation is both literal from Quechua to English, with the addition of cultural translation.

Next, I facilitate the sharing of a music the guests have neither heard nor imagined before: men simultaneously play pinkuyllu—four-holed end-notched vertical bamboo flutes—“out of tune” and dissonant, while the women sing with full force from the gut, intentionally expelling all air at the ends of phrases Andes to Amazon on the River Q’erosIndigenous Voice in Grassroots Tourism, Safeguarding, and Ownership Projects of the Q’eros and Wachiperi Peoples. Each pinkuyllu is tuned to itself, but not to another, so that if there are two or three pinkuyllu the sound is inevitably bitonal or tritonal. I let the Q’eros choose which pukllay taki, or carnival song, they wish to sing, about the sacred and medicinal plants, flowers, and birds in their environment. It is taboo to sing the animal fertility songs out of ritual context, but it is precisely the tritonic pukllay taki sung by a woman combined with the tritonic pinkuyllu complementary melody that is normally sung out of carnival context throughout daily activities such as herding and weaving. I see it over and over again: the spellbound look of awe on (p. 414) the visitors’ faces, taking in this extraordinary experience of indigenous Andeans vigorously singing and playing, and just for them.

In our ensuing post-listening dialogue I explain how the basic life tenet of ayni—reciprocity—is manifested in Q’eros music. I begin with the significance of the song topic and basic elements of music such as tuning, and the complementarity of the men’s playing and the women’s singing.16 I help the guests understand what is usually a new musical aesthetic for them: that starting and stopping together is not a musical criterion; in fact, in Q’eros it is just the opposite. The space must be continually filled with sound so that the offering of songs, particularly in animal fertility ritual, is plentiful and nonstop.17 If the group shows keen interest, then I particularly expand on one of the most exciting musical discoveries in my years of singing in ritual with Q’eros women: Their self-identified vocal technique, aysariykuy, which is the notable prolongation and expulsion of air at the end of alternate refrains. I share my passion about the idea that the Q’eros’ worldview is encompassed in a single vocal technique that is a ritual blowing of the person’s samay, or animated essence, which is sent out in offering to the Apu, mountain deities, in propitiation for the return of ayni.18 This ritual blowing of the song, just like the ritual blowing (phukuy) of coca leaves, is, in the Q’eros’ words, chayanankupaq—“so that the song arrives,” and uyarichinankukama—“until they [the Apu] are made to hear.” The people hope to be reciprocated with the health of their crops, herds, and overall livelihood. I elucidate how they taught me that if they don’t sing and play with aysariykuy, then the Apu won’t hear the song, thereby not receiving the song offering, which places ayni in jeopardy. If the song is not received and ayni is not reciprocated, bad occurrences take place—and in extreme cases, death. The people take direct responsibility for unreciprocated ayni, stating that perhaps they did not sing properly, give enough offering bundles, libations of alcohol and coca leaves, in order to ensure complete reciprocity.19

Andes to Amazon on the River Q’erosIndigenous Voice in Grassroots Tourism, Safeguarding, and Ownership Projects of the Q’eros and Wachiperi Peoples

Figure 12.4 A young US high school student from a National Geographic student group tour in Peru learns a Q’eros song.

Photo by Holly Wissler, July 18, 2014.

With university and high school student groups that are part of an in-depth study abroad program, I distribute song text and we sing along with the Q’eros, so they can experience the sensation of aysariykuy (see Figures 12.4 and 12.5). Many of these student groups have a Quechua component, so I am able to delve deeper and breakdown the meaning of the term aysariykuy. Quechua is a language in which multiple infixes and suffixes are added to basic verb roots to enhance the meaning. The root of aysariykuy is aysay: “to pull,” “to drag,” “to haul,” or “to throw.” Added to aysay are three suffixes: the first, ri [ru],20 indicates an action with speed and urgency; the second, yu, implies an action performed with intensity; and finally, ku, which indicates an action executed with much enthusiasm, affection, and in quantity. For ease in pronunciation, ri-yu-ku becomes riyku, so the final word is aysariykuy. Thus, the essence of the full translation is something akin to “The song is pulled or thrown with urgency, intensity, and affectionate enthusiasm” and “with much quantity of breath.” More than just simply infusing the song with samay, or life essence, that samay must be moved and “thrown” in a particular way, with “urgency, intensity, and affectionate enthusiasm.” The vocal technique is then packed with intention that the guests learn about through singing and are privileged (p. 415) to share with the Q’eros. Explanations, demonstrations, and participation through music are singular, major connectors for the guests to gain a profound glimpse into the deep meaning of Q’eros life. Sometimes the Q’eros break out in endearing laughter at the tentative attempts at aysariykuy in the guests’ singing, and the humanness of these moments is fun and unifying.

Andes to Amazon on the River Q’erosIndigenous Voice in Grassroots Tourism, Safeguarding, and Ownership Projects of the Q’eros and Wachiperi Peoples

Figure 12.5 A Q’eros man gives a “high five” to a US student from a National Geographic student group tour who has sung a Q’eros song with him.

Photo by Holly Wissler, July 18, 2014.

The final portion of our sharing moves into spontaneous dialogue when I facilitate a conversation, and mutual questions and answers between Quechua and English. Occasionally we will share about the Q’eros’ singing their loss and grief in improvised song text in the animal fertility songs and rituals. Since those rituals are about life, they are also about death and remembrance of time when ayni was not reciprocated (see Wissler, 2009: 182–207). This topic only comes up when our conversation leads into it in some fashion, when all those involved are sharing about difficulties and loss in life. All sessions end with the Q’eros selling textiles that the women present have woven themselves, so that the money goes directly to that woman and her family and not through a broker.21 Everything about the experience is intimate and direct. I believe this is as close a view and understanding of Q’eros music that one can possibly get within the structured framework of a two-hour session, outside of Q’eros. (p. 416)

Mutually Beneficial Exchange

Both the Q’eros and visitors have articulated numerous benefits from these sessions. Below is a sampling of quotations from some Q’eros and guests who have participated in these exchanges, which illuminate the resultant gains and expansive learning on both sides. I am referred to as comadre in the interviews with the Q’eros.22

Francisco Quispe Flores from Q’eros stated, “Noqa thak kashani”—‘I am in peace’ [with this work]. I feel a solidarity and cariño (affection) because this work is more personal,” and Santos Machacca Apasa noted, “When we share about our lives and customs, I feel hatun sonqoyoq (with a big heart).” Santos’s mother, Beatríz Apasa Flores, described the fun and happiness she feels:

Nishu kusisqa kashani (I am very happy). We talk, we laugh, we sing. It is fun to hear them sing our songs. They try to do aysariykuy, but it is very funny and we laugh. They are immersing themselves. This makes us happy, gives us satisfaction that others want to know our songs. And they can take the songs in their hearts to their family in the US.

(all, personal communication, July 19, 2013)

(p. 417) Equal sentiments of the emotional affects of intimate sharing have been expressed by the foreign guests. Gayle Goschie, a client from Oregon who trekked with me on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in 2010 remembered:

It was so exceptional to be sitting side by side, exchanging a little of ourselves with Holly’s interpreting, hearing the feelings of the Q’eros through song. Such a personal experience that transported me back to ancient, ancient times. I will always remember sitting next to Juana, listening to her sing, and admiring the beauty of her and her loosely woven black skirt with its texture of burlap. The big wide diverse world was a little smaller at that moment.

(personal communication, May 21, 2013)

Paralleling Gayle’s sentiment, Bonnie and Krishna Arora from San Diego, California relayed:

We first met the Q’eros while on a day hiking trip in the Sacred Valley [of the Incas]. They performed a prayer offering and, since it was our 34th wedding anniversary, they blessed our marriage. That day they touched us with the genuine love and kindness they showed, and we felt an instant connection. Meeting the Q’eros definitely impacted and changed our lives in many ways and we share that message and the story often with our friends.

(personal communication, August 20, 2013)

Because of that first impactful meeting, Bonnie and Krishna returned to travel with me twice to Q’eros, donating family foundation funds to help build a much-needed bridge to connect the potato and corn zones, and becoming godparents to a Q’eros boy.

The Q’eros and visitors use many adjectives to describe a shared sense of opening, connection, and well-being that is attained during these exchanges: peace, cariño, with open-heart, satisfaction, exceptional, personal, and genuine expressions of love and kindness. “The big wide diverse world a little smaller” described by Gayle Goschie is the solidarity and personalized affection that Francisco Quispe addressed. Beatríz touches on the exchange aspect, that the Q’eros feel pride and satisfaction to share their music with the foreign guests, which they can take away to their country and family.

The exchanges facilitate a reciprocal learning and accessibility to one another’s lives, which is directly related to the size and intimacy of our interactions, as Francisco articulates: “It is good to work in small groups and rotate the Q’eros who work. Sometimes I work, then another couple works. It is not good to invite a lot of Q’eros, because our sharing is not as good, not as close, and we don’t sell as many weavings.” Santos relays, “I learn about their lives too. We are always remembering them afterwards. They leave good memories.” Santos continued to describe how large group size is an impediment:

Last year A “Four Winds” trip23 had 300 tourists in one group, with about eleven or twelve buses and one to two Q’eros per bus. This for me is commercial. Jealousies are created. The Q’eros do not have a voice; we cannot talk that much. We are representatives, but without a voice. It is the same thing with our performances for the Ministry of Culture. It is the small groups that are more valuable, where we do have a voice.

(personal communication, July 19, 2013)

(p. 418) Equally, the tourists and students commented on the value of intimacy. Sarah Mayer, an undergraduate student in Iowa State University’s Peru Program, 2013, and Staci MacCorkle, client on the Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu in July 2010, report:

The opportunity to have a genuine two-way discussion with the Q’eros was exceptionally unique. It is often really difficult to understand a culture, religion, or way of life so different from our own, but having the connection through Holly that could bridge the gap in understanding gave me a better appreciation of the Q’eros culture that is alive, vibrant, and meaningful, not stuff of strange folklore or mythology. (Sarah Mayer, personal communication, July 5, 2013)

Having the opportunity to speak essentially one-on-one with community members was tremendously special and unique. So often, “village visit” activities arranged for international tourists are staged and motivated by particular issues and/or messages. This was very different. Speaking candidly with the Q’eros about their hopes, fears, and day-to-day concerns was both enlightening and, yet, normal. It was normal in the sense that our hopes, fears, and concerns are not that different; I could have been speaking with any of my American peers about the same topics. It was enlightening for the very same reason—no matter where we are in the world and where we call home, people are people; we have the same basic concerns about our quality of life and the resources available to enjoy a quality life.

(Staci MacCorkle, personal communication, June 2, 2013)

The small size of our groups and direct conversations make it so there is no audience; every person involved has a voice, a place to ask questions and share thoughts. There is no agenda, no particular message, other than mutual learning and respect. Francisco stated that in large groups sharing was not as close, and Santos in particular described the frustration of the Q’eros not having a voice in large stagings by tour operators and the Ministry of Culture. He keenly differentiated between representative and voice: that the Q’eros are often representatives, but without a voice. Small groups allow the Q’eros to have a voice, providing an opportunity to share who they are without jealousies that arise when large groups of Q’eros work together. In the exchange held among the Q’eros in the tour group with Staci MacCorkle, we all realized, after about an hour of discussion, that in fact we were expressing the very same preoccupations about our personal lives: family welfare, money, health, and education. In this moment of discovery, we all fell silent and felt a strong sense of connectedness and solidarity. I would go so far as to say we experienced anthropologist Victor Turner’s seminal definition of liminality and communitas: many felt a sense of awe, being in the moment, a bonding, and even love, that unites people of vastly different backgrounds and social realms (Turner, 1969, 1974).

Due to the small group size, a university student experienced the genuineness of the people who are not the “stuff of strange folklore or myth.” The director of the Iowa State University program, Nancy Guthrie, called this “foundational reality,” in her description: (p. 419)

I think that our encounter with you and the Q’eros as individuals was a pivotal moment for some of my students in terms of having a window into this culture and people. Before that time together, they were somewhat ethnocentric in their language about Peru. Meeting the Q’eros and hearing about their music, weavings, animals, and way of life provided a foundational reality. This was not something they were reading about in a book.

(personal communication, July 2, 2013)

Mutual respect, so necessary in this global and violent age, is garnered through this foundational reality. Different lifestyles and cultures can reveal the sameness in humanity through real exchange, as expressed by Staci MacCorkle, and also by Robin Davis, violinist and pharmacist from Boise, Idaho, after she spent many days with Agustin Machacca Flores in Q’eros in 2007:

Agustín was a proud man with a self-effacing sense of humor. He was an affectionate husband and devoted father of four. He was determined to preserve the skills and customs of the Q’eros by promoting literacy in his family, and working closely with scholars such as Holly. As my admiration for him grew, I realized we shared a matched intelligence; mine applied in the technical realm of Western medicine, and his in the tenuous and demanding mountain existence of the Q’eros.

(personal communication, July 11, 2013)

Robin came to find respectful equality in such differently manifested realities. Agustín was also able to articulate this shared equality through the process of debunking pre-conceptions and stereotypes that often results from direct encounters. The Q’eros are simply natural, just being who they are, and with dignity and professionalism they guide in the truthful sharing about the meaning of their music, as explained by Agustín:

Before the tourists arrive they see photos of the campesinos (Andean people who live in the mountains). They feel pena (pity) for how we live, how we used to live. But when they meet us they learn about and appreciate how we can live in communities so far away. And we too are concerned about how they live. There is a camaraderie—a confidence that we build together. It is in this confidence that we come to understand one another. It is not that the Q’eros are more tristes (sad, poor) and the tourists less so. In the end we are in the same situation. We want to play our music for other tourists, but nobody understands the music. No one can explain it. La comadre entendichishan (makes it to be understood). Chayachinakama (until [the understanding] is made to arrive).

When we sing and play for the tourists we feel like it is our profession. We are very proud. Our way of playing for them has sinchi hatun valiq (extreme value), because we share our customs and our music ñawi ñawipura (eye to eye), not via Internet or recording. Our music is very old, from our ancestors’ time, and the comadre is the chakawarmi (bridge woman). The contact is very human, and we end knowing one another, hugging one another.

(p. 420) We have taught la comadre the truth about our music. We included her in everything. And now she shares this truth with others. Everything is good because it is done in the basis of knowledge and truth. All of our hard work together is now bearing fruits. She doesn’t invent some romantic story about us, like many do. We are in a school together, we are dispersing our knowledge little by little. Q’ala rimarakushanchis, q’alamanta (We converse clearly, transparently).

(personal communication, July 19, 2013)

I believe it is of paramount importance to allow foreign guests to experience the Q’eros as they are, thus shattering any preconceptions, such as poor Andeans or romanticized Incas frozen in time, which can be seeds for breakthroughs about other cultural stereotypes. It is in face-to-face learning about one another when preconceptions can fall away. Part of the educational process of seeing the Q’eros, and other indigenous peoples as they are, is through simple and honest renderings and explanation of their music. Agustin takes rightful ownership in lovingly stating that it was the Q’eros who taught me about their music, so that we can pass it on to others through shared learning “in a school together.” He is proud for having taught me, and respectfully acknowledges that I am the one that is necessary for “making it be understood,” a direct agent, no middleman—from them to me to the foreign guests. It is this genuine presentation of their music that speaks to the hearts of the foreign guests.

Many experience a shift in perception about Q’eros music, and come to learn about the spiritual significance of their music through direct exchange, as Bonnie Arora states:

Their music was quite different to us. At first it sounded very simple and repetitive, as it seemed to have a span of only a few notes. Then as we learned more of their deep spiritual connection with nature and we began to recognize the whiff of air as they sung as a way to share their song, their happiness and sadness with nature, and the spirits that reside in the mountains and earth. The impact was overwhelmingly beautiful.

(personal communication, August 20, 2013)

Two undergraduate students in the ISU Peru program report on their perception of Q’eros music:

Our session was like nothing I had ever experienced before. Before traveling to Peru, I had taken a class about indigenous music in the Andes. However, the interaction we had with the Q’eros taught me things a book never could. I was able to see firsthand how excited they were to share an immense part of their culture. To them, music is their life. Without it, the Apus and Pacha Mama will not hear their prayers. I was in awe with their great reverence for their gods and how they utilized music to show this reverence. (Kelsey Trejo, personal communication, July 2, 2013)

There are a few moments in my life that I look back on and feel as though it changed my life or perception of the world. For me, I feel that this encounter with the (p. 421) Q’eros will be one of them. Listening to their music and seeing their true passion for their indigenous language and culture not only opened my eyes to a different way of life, but it made me more curious and proud of my culture.

(Kelly Gifford, personal communication, July 2, 2013)

Even a class session conducted virtually by Internet with Q’eros in Cusco and a Brandeis University (Boston) World Music class was able to transmit the deep meaning of the music, as Brandeis student Emily Altkorn describes:

What struck me most about our Skype class was intimate connection between Q’eros music and the daily lives of the Q’eros themselves. The Skype session showed me that the Q’eros aren’t just “going through the motions”—the songs really do evoke the strong emotions that they are meant to and are an integral part of Q’eros life. Often when I’m in synagogue I find my mind wandering, as I wonder what I’ll be doing later that day or when the service will be over. It was clear, though, that Inocencia did not feel this way about her ritual song. In some ways I think I envy her connections to her rituals and music, since I’ve never been able to feel a connection to my religion or my music (as they are separate to me) in such a pure, honest way.

(personal communication, April 22, 2014)

And Judy Eissenberg, professor of the Brandeis World Music class and professional violinist, experienced the meaning of Q’eros music, as she heard it in Q’eros, as a natural part of life’s narrative.

It took a while before someone decided to sing, and when it happened, it was part of the flow of the evening. Earlier that day, I had seen the birds, the llamas, and flowers that were in the songs. I laughed at the earthy teasing of the women in one of the songs… I was part of the world that these songs described. So the music was not so much an object at that moment, it was part of the evening, part of the narrative of life being lived.

(personal communication, August 21, 2013)

It is direct, interpersonal exchange that makes possible deep learning about the meaning of a vital music that goes beyond book learning. I believe when the exchanges spark analysis about one’s own culture, as in the case of students Kelly Gifford and Emily Altkorn, that the sessions then have the possibility to reverberate through a person’s continuing growth, encouraging self-reflection of one’s own person and culture, which ultimately extends to respect for other cultures as a whole. Q’eros music in these settings is not a performed, staged object, but a lived narrative that goes far beyond the boundaries of a classroom and touches souls.

It is evident that the sharing of Q’eros music and life with foreign visitors has a profound impact for all involved. The Q’eros take pride in sharing their traditions (weavings, music, discussions of lifestyle), which are re-enforced and valued by them in (p. 422) the process of performance and transmission, while guests experience a new sound that promotes insightful, visceral, even life-changing learning about another people. For the guests, through the experience of listening and participatory singing, the music becomes insight into a people who live a vastly different lifestyle, yet this difference becomes accessible through perceiving their music as lived experience and “not stuff of strange folklore…” or any sort of staged and removed performance. The Q’eros have the opportunity to break through “poor Andean” and “romantic Inca” stereotypes, and be real people, on an equal sharing-basis. The Q’eros are their own “interpretive authorities” and active agents in how they present and explain their music, with my assistance as translator (Titon, 1999: 9). All of the above testimonies show that the mutual sharing of affect, sentiment, connection, dignity, and respect, as well as perception changes and deep learnings about Q’eros music, are only possible because of the eye-to-eye (ñawi ñawipura), firsthand, intimate, and direct conversations.

Chris Ryan, in his discussion of indigenous tourism, states, “Successful indigenous tourism products require awareness and exercise of a guardianship and/or teaching role” (Ryan, 2005: 9). Agustín discussed the learning/teaching element thoroughly: the guests learn about the Q’eros and their music, and the Q’eros continue to value their traditions through the mirror of our sessions. The guests begin to assimilate rich aspects of an Andean people and music they have never heard of before, fully enhancing their journey to Peru that otherwise would likely be just visits to archaeological sites without exposure to the people of the high Andes these sites are historically associated with. The Q’eros and myself monitor guardianship in the intimacy of the sessions: they are in charge of how they perform and what we say about it. There is no one else involved.

The Q’eros acknowledge the much-needed economic gain either through sale of their textiles or receiving a wage for their participation. Many times guests will reflect on differences in economic status in the global arena, and, acknowledging their economic advantage, will sometimes work with me afterward to see how they can satisfactorily donate some of their abundant resources toward a project that will benefit the Q’eros. These donations are unexpected bonuses that are born exclusively from the exchanges and are not a part of the original motivation or any agenda. From some of the resultant donations we were able to build the much-needed footbridge (2007), and have seed money for building a primary school in one of the Q’eros valleys that had no school (2010). Boniface and Robinson (1998) discuss how social and economic power relations must often be confronted, even if unspoken, when cultures meet. These issues are often less conflictive when dealt with at the personal level, when the guests have met and talked directly with the people to whom their donation will benefit, and can keep in touch about the projects via Internet with me as liaison. Donating toward a needed community project is sometimes one way the US visitors deal with “white guilt” and economic difference in a way that is both personally satisfying to them and benefits the Q’eros.

(p. 423) Reciprocity in Indigenous Tourism with the Q’eros

Three of the principal attributes of successful exchange in our indigenous tourism activities that include music are size, experience, and reciprocity, which are interrelated and feed on one another. In regard to size, Ingram (2005), and Johnson and McIntosh (2005) touch on the lack of establishing one-on-one relationships as an impediment that leads to distortion when visiting the host groups Maori in New Zealand and aboriginal Australian. In the seminal Fourth 1986 International Colloquium “Traditional Music and Tourism” held in Kingston, Jamaica, Prime Minister Seaga of Jamaica declared: “[the] problem of presenting folk material in an authentic yet appropriate manner is the major barrier between traditional music and tourism” (Kaeppler and Lewin, 1986: 211). Prime Minister Seaga was referring to the inclusion of music in the large tourism industry in the Caribbean. What we do is nearly the opposite: there is nothing large-scale or national, or even regional, that our exchanges entail. What we achieve is orchestrated in an “appropriate manner,” without “distortion,” precisely because of the small numbers of people involved with direct dialogue. Distortion and unwieldiness is more likely to happen when presentation and exchange is on a larger scale and the intermediaries are not so intimately involved with the culture-bearers and their music.

Small-scale interaction allows Knudsen and Waade’s “performative authenticity” to come to life, when projections about place and emotional state are successfully intertwined with in-the-moment tactile, emotional, corporeal, and interrelated experience (Knudsen and Waade, 2010: 12–16). They add, “Through the notion of performative authenticity we wish to point to the transitional and transformative processes inherent in the action of authentication…” (ibid.: 1). The transformative processes are actively co-created in sessions of deep learning exchange between the Q’eros and foreign guests. It is in these intense moments of co-creation that two aspects of performative authenticity emerge: relating empathetically to the other and/or connecting affectively to the world (ibid.: 2). Empathy and connecting affectively arise (such as similar preoccupations, as we experienced in one session) when travelers are not insulated and products are not artificial (Boorstin: 1961). Guests are not part of a distant audience; they are right there, up close and personal, in the midst of all experience, discussion, and musical presentation.

The most powerful exchanges are based in the experiential (i.e., not book learning or observation, but interaction). To reiterate Knudsen and Waade’s idea of “Authentic” in tourism is neither a “… ‘thing’ you can possess, nor a ‘state of mind’, but something which people do and a feeling which is experienced” (Knudsen and Waade, 2010: 1, my emphasis). The director of the Iowa State University program echoed this idea when she stated that the “foundational reality” of the Q’eros’ actions are “things that must be experienced to be understood,” and cannot be read in a book. Through experience, the guests sing and discover aysariykuy; they gain an embodied perception of a basic life concept that is a driving force of a people whose life is expressed differently on the outside, yet (p. 424) cultural impasse is markedly lessened as we explore and experience more about one another. The experience of both listening to and active embodied participation of music are rich beginnings of understanding what makes another people tick. Ideally, the experience engenders emotional bonding that is a promotion of empathy and understanding between two very different cultures at a singular point in time, when the experience “transcend[s]‌ the tourist frame to become real” (Titon, 1999: 8).

Tourists and students often express that in their short visit they feel as if they have met the “real” people of Peru. My understanding of this statement is that they are referring to the salt-of-the-earth indigenous Andeans, the original backbone of the pre-invasion populace, versus the urbanized service people (guides, hotel receptionists, drivers, etc.) with whom they spend the majority of their tour, and who are more similar in lifestyle. The success of our exchanges has much to do with equal reciprocity, that is, the ideal situation of ayni that has premised Andean relationship since pre-Hispanic times, and is the norm of operation with the Q’eros today.24 The vast scale of exchange throughout the Andean, coastal, and Amazonian regions of the Inca Empire was premised on the effect that a particular good or service had on local relationship, that is, the empire’s success was founded on local, small-scale reciprocity that nourished the web of imperial expansion. Through small-scale reciprocal sharing, we respond and collaborate spontaneously in song and discussion, preconceptions are debunked, and we gain a more real sense of one another, thus affecting relationship that can then expand into a larger web, as expressed in the above testimonies.

What is often brought forth are our genuine selves in awe of what we are experiencing. Both the guests and the Q’eros are served by experiences that are heart-opening and/or that change perceptions, providing quality insight into the other, and a sparking of new awarenesses that can continue into daily life. Guests make donations, treat the next person differently, learn about the life-and-death aspect of a vocal technique; the Q’eros learn about the real lives of foreigners, who otherwise would be just tourists walking on the busy street. In this way, the indigenous music of the Q’eros is co-experienced, not falsified or performed artificially—it is merely, and deeply, shared.

While ratios of Q’eros and guests in groups of 5, 10, or even 30 are small scale, often there is a vastness that opens up in the intimacy of exchange that is not small scale at all. The meeting of a few people and changes of perception that are stirred up often extends to how we interact with others as a result of what has happened to us in the exchange. In other words, in the intimacy of a focus, worlds open up. There is a temporary dissolving of separateness, and what results is gratitude and satisfaction.

I contend that these meetings are more effective human exchanges that result in a deeper, longer-lasting transmission of musical information and knowledge to the visitor than other styles of indigenous tourism where indigenous music is part of a staged program, folklorized or distanced from its original meaning. In the space we co-create together, the Q’eros have their own voice to share their music and lives, and equally, so do the tourists and students since all talking is dialogue and participation. This is an example of an active indigenous voice that we have nurtured together, and a meaningful way we have found to bring Q’eros knowledge and music to foreign visitors to Peru.

(p. 425) Adverse situations can occur when that voice is not nurtured and when reciprocity is not experienced as equal. This was the case with the Wachiperi community, who chose to revive some of their near-extinct songs upon emotional listening to archives of their deceased relatives, and who took issue with Cusco’s Ministry of Culture, negating a CD publication proposition and instead took charge of their own production. A nearly opposite case, the Wachiperi voice strongly emerged under these very different, conflictive, and emotional circumstances. The story is as follows.

The Wachiperi: Song Revival and UNESCO

Half of today’s 7,000 spoken languages are on the brink of extinction, and over 600 of these have less than 100 speakers (Davis, 2009: 3–5). Wachiperi is one of these apocalyptically endangered languages. The Peruvian Amazon, like all of South America’s Amazonia, has suffered tremendous decimation and active disappearance of land and peoples since the European invasion and the introduction of new diseases and devastation caused by the early twentieth-century rubber exploitation, when caucheros enslaved and relocated the people of the Harakbut linguistic group from their homeland region on the lower Madre de Dios River to the river’s headwaters, which led to infighting among the Harakbut subgroups (Gray, 1996: 14).

In the twentieth century, forces such as mining, logging, evangelism, and cattle farming continue to contribute to the depletion of Amazonian culture and natural resources. Anthony Seeger states, “It’s not as though these [musical cultures] are just disappearing, they’re ‘being disappeared’; there’s an active process in the disappearance of many traditions around the world” (quote from Schippers, 2010: 152). This has been the case with the Wachiperi of the Madre de Dios River Basin, located just north of the Q’eros Nation territory.

Today, there are approximately 50–60 Wachiperi who know their indigenous language, a sub-group of the Harakbut linguistic family.25 This linguistic family includes the seven subgroups of languages and people: Arakmbut, Sapiteri, Kisamberi, Pukirieri, Asaraeri, Toyeri, and Wachiperi, many of which are extinct or drastically reduced in numbers.26 When a language dies, naturally so do the songs that express the soul of the people—in this case the Wachiperi’s expression of their healing knowledge and interdependence on the rivers, plants, animals, and birds in their jungle environment. Similar to other indigenous Amazonians, the Wachiperi used to live primarily from fishing, hunting and gathering, and small agricultural production of products such as corn and coca leaves. Since the early 1970s, gold mining has been a source of income for many Harakbut from gold deposits in the Madre de Dios river basin (see Gray, 1983, 1997a, 1997b). Today, many are now part of the urbanized world and hold typical jobs such (p. 426) as shop owners, work with various Amazonian products, such as lumber and coca, or migrate for work in larger cities of Puerto Maldonado and Cusco.

The Harakbut social and spiritual regulating mechanism, like that of the Q’eros, is based in reciprocity (see Alvarez, 2012; Gray, 1996, 1997a, 1997b; Moore, 1975; Tello, 2013). Among the Harakbut the principle of reciprocity is most visible in the relationship between people and nature. Nature constantly gives to the people (food, medicinal plants and products for subsistence, and today gold). The giving of nature to people can sometimes be activated by shamans who are guided by dream revelations. In return, the people must treat the diverse elements of nature with respect, otherwise they risk susceptibility to spiritual sanctions from natural sources.

Among the Harakbut, the patrilineal clan is the primary source of solidarity and reciprocity, and the classic articulation of reciprocal relationship between the men and nature is the hunt. The hunter dreams of his prey, and then upon waking departs to hunt it. If successful, the hunter must generously share his catch with extended family members, who expect to receive some portion of the meat, thereby reinforcing clan bonds Tello, 2013. In modern times, generosity has extended to the profits made from mining gold, which is used to buy food products (such as canned goods that are a luxury) and beer, which are shared with extensive family and community.

Key aspects of reciprocity in social contexts and relationships between Harakbut people and nature are generosity and respect. Some of the sanctions that ensue due to breeches in reciprocity and respect of people with nature are ostracism, and physical and spiritual damage, and even death from natural forces. Mutual respect between animals and humans is imperative. A Harakbut myth relates of an animal rebellion as a warning to people who do not treat animals with the due respect of a solemn hunt, particularly younger men who hunt with frivolity and sport and are then punished by the animals’ spirits. For example, a person’s soul can be trapped by the Amazonian growth and taken over by the physical and/or character aspects of an animal as a result of the more severe transgressions of reciprocity and lack of respect (Gray, 1997a). So the lowland Harakbut, like the highland Q’eros, take responsibility for their part in their relationship with and the consequences of their reciprocal relationships with the natural and spiritual powers.

Unlike the highland Q’eros who have inhabited their territory for centuries, the Harakbut Wachiperi are new to their settlement on the Queros River. The Wachiperi historically did not have permanent settlements; rather, like many Amazonian inhabitants in sync with the rhythms of natural abundance, they lived off the plant, animal, and fishing resources of one river area, and then relocated every half year or so to let the area replenish while they exploited the resources from another. In this cyclic migration they were walkers of interfluvial territory as hunters, gatherers, fisherman, and later, farmers.

The Wachiperi lived in large, communal longhouses distributed among the many rivers of the Madre de Dios river basin, but were relocated in the 1950s and 1960s to tributaries farther upstream on and near a North American Baptist Mission. In the mid-1960s the majority of the Wachiperi consolidated into two native communities, La Comunidad Nativa de Queros (often just called Queros-Wachiperi) and Santa Rosa de Huacaria, which gained official legal community status in 1990 and 1985, respectively.27 In 2008, (p. 427) the Amazon Conservation Association (ACA), a nongovernmental organization (NGO) based in Washington, D.C., along with their sister NGO in Cusco, Asociación para la Conservación de la Cuenca Amazónica (ACCA, Amazon Basin Conservation Association) addressed the historical displacement of the Wachiperi family groups from the Queros-Wachiperi community and brokered an agreement between the people and Peru’s National Institute of Natural Resources (INRENA) to create the world’s first land concession to be managed by an indigenous group located near their community. The Haramba Queros Wachiperi Conservation Concession protects 17,238 acres of highly diverse rainforest, a public land resource that is entrusted to the Wachiperi for a 40-year renewable concession in exchange for their active investment in conservation and sustainable development projects. The concession secures the Wachiperi water supply, sustains their access to forest products, and ideally helps the community maintain their cultural traditions.

ACA and ACCA were aware of my research with the Q’eros, and in 2010 they invited me to visit Queros-Wachiperi to share my work and see if there could be the possibility of cultural work with them as part of the land concession projects. Excited by the possibility of collaborating with people in Amazonia, in December 2010 I digitized and returned 15 reel-to-reels containing 206 Wachiperi songs that University of California Berkeley anthropologist Patricia J. Lyon had recorded with this community in 1964 and 1965. Lyon had recorded with the direct family elders of today’s Queros-Wachiperi community, though even when she recorded they were no longer performing their songs due to their severe population loss and mission prohibition of masateadas, the communal gatherings for drinking, singing, and dancing; rather, the singers sang from memory, so that the songs were already in declension 10 or so years prior to Lyon’s work with them.

The Wachiperi experienced profound, emotional reactions upon the unexpected hearing of their deceased relatives singing their indigenous songs—songs that many of the younger generation had not ever heard—which galvanized the community into discussion about the revival and preservation of a selection of these songs before the onset of total loss.28 I received some basic funding support from ACA and ACCA to travel to the community and conduct workshops focused on song and cultural preservation, which mainly consisted of long days listening to Lyon’s recordings, discussions about their meaning, and reminiscing about the past. The only three remaining elders alive from the Queros-Wachiperi community, Manuel Yonaje, Carmen Jerewa, and Estela Dariquebe, recounted how they used to walk long distances from their disperse river homes for community gatherings in one host home, drink masato, and express their connection to spirits, plants, and animals through days-long drinking and singing (Figure 12.6). These masateadas were times of joyful reconnection with other Wachiperi whom they had not seen for some time, “back when we were many people,” Manuel recalled.

Andes to Amazon on the River Q’erosIndigenous Voice in Grassroots Tourism, Safeguarding, and Ownership Projects of the Q’eros and Wachiperi Peoples

Figure 12.6 Estela Dariquebe, Carmen Jerewa, Manuel Yonaje: the three elders of the Queros-Wachiperi community who remember the traditional songs.

Photo by Holly Wissler, May 12, 2012.

Manuel described the gatherings: before the drinking of masato started, one by one the men would sing embachiha, solo unaccompanied songs that invoked birds, animals, and natural elements such as the moon and stars, with layers of meaning about migrating birds, which are metaphors for the people meeting and departing in welcome and (p. 428) farewell, and also code about the white people’s invasion. Later in the night when the masato began to flow, they sang embachinoha, which they also refer to as cantos de borracho, or improvised drunken songs. This was the permissible time and space to vent personal aggressions, when both men and women expressed individual grievances through song, some quite directly about and toward other community members, often sparking verbal and physical fights (Lyon, 1967: 73–74).

I recorded a number of embachiha with old Manuel. One of the songs we were able to revive with a group of about eight Wachiperi was Kapiro, about the great egret that returns annually, and is therefore a song of return and welcome. [Andes to Amazon on the River Q’erosIndigenous Voice in Grassroots Tourism, Safeguarding, and Ownership Projects of the Q’eros and Wachiperi Peoples and Andes to Amazon on the River Q’erosIndigenous Voice in Grassroots Tourism, Safeguarding, and Ownership Projects of the Q’eros and Wachiperi Peoples. “Kapiro” recorded in 2010 and 1965 respectively] Our project had forward momentum in the first year after my return of the archives, when we shared many touching moments of listening and singing a few temporarily revived songs, such as “Kapiro.” A core of about six community members, all of whom spoke Wachiperi, proved to be the most committed to learning some songs. However, the initial idea of reviving many different topical songs proved to be difficult and slow, partly because of division and friction between the urban Wachiperi who had migrated years ago to the more modern community of Pilcopata on the road, and the families who still lived in the community inside the forest. In our third year together we eventually, and mutually, let go of the idea of long-term song revival, simply because Wachiperi music is not sustainable. Jeff Titon defines sustainability of music as “a music culture’s capacity to maintain and develop its music now and in the foreseeable future” (Chapter 5 of this volume). Wachiperi musical culture lacks the resilience “to recover and maintain its integrity, identity, and continuity when subjected to forces of disturbance and change,” which, in this case, are critically reduced numbers of Wachiperi and native speakers and loss of original singing context (ibid.).

(p. 429) We did, however, manage to add to the community archive by recording and thoroughly discussing seven esüwa, or Wachiperi healing songs, a genre that Lyon did not record during her time with the community 50 years prior. Esüwa are not sung during the masateadas; rather, these healing songs are passed down through generations of healers (wamanokkaeri) and performed privately in intimate one-on-one (healer/patient) contexts, usually at nighttime when the forest spirits are more active.29 A wamanokkaeri visits the ill person invokes the appropriate plant or animal spirits to assist in the healing, and uses a combination of singing esüwa (with no instrumental accompaniment) blowing, spitting, and application of plant salves to begin the healing process. Because of the personal nature of esüwa, the Wachiperi feel strongly that this genre is not to be exposed in the public arena; so our recordings were solely intended to add to the community archive, and the elders profoundly enjoyed remembering these songs and sharing them with me.

In March and May of 2011, I recorded seven esüwa with Carmen Jerewa and Estela Dariquebe, the only two remaining elders of the Queros-Wachiperi community who had once been practicing healers. Carmen still occasionally performs healings with esüwa, yet in general the actual practice is in rapid decline. Estela is now blind and simply too frail and with fluctuating lucidity to practice healing. We recorded the seven esüwa songs they could draw from memory, and documented information about each one as part of our mutual learning process in our sessions together. In addition to Carmen and Estela, there are some four or five members of the Santa Rosa de Huacaria community who remember these songs and practice healing with them. In particular I remember hearing about Alejandro Dumas from Huacaria, who lived to be nearly 100 and had the regional reputation of being a master healer. He died in early 2010, just before I started my work with the Wachiperi, and his daughter, Lidia, lamented not having taken the initiative to learn esüwa healing practice from him, and now it is too late. It is for these reasons—less than 10 elders who know and practice esüwa healing with its transmission in severe decline—that UNESCO nominated the esüwa to the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding on November 25, 2011.

Esüwa Healing Songs

The esüwa I recorded and discussed with Estela Dariquebe and Carmen Jerewa were the following:

  1. 1. Bapokate esüwa. Recorded with Carmen Jerewa, March 19, 2011.

    For calming hurricanes and strong winds in order to prevent serious damage.

  2. 2. Ekuchirite esüwa. Recorded with Carmen Jerewa, March 19, 2011.

    For healing debilitating headaches and migraines.

  3. 3. Wamiekate esüwa. Recorded with Carmen Jerewa, March 21, 2011.

    For healing diarrhea. This song describes many different kinds of dogs and their varied colorful markings, symbolic of the way an ill person’s diarrhea may look.

  4. (p. 430) 4. Ekpuguyte esüwa. Recorded with Carmen Jerewa, March 21, 2011.

    For curing pulled ligaments. Ekpuguy has the repetitive invocation in a mantra or chant style of many types of particularly strong plants and animals. They relayed to me that “just like the plants are humans, like a human, and we believe in the plants, it is because of this we invoke the strong plants with urgency so that the ligament will be strong.”

  5. 5. Mbpehekaieesüwa. Recorded with Estela Dariquebe, March 21, 2011.

    To call back a person’s animo or spirit, when he or she is near death. The healer sings, “why do you want to leave when we are doing well here? Don’t go, come back, come back.” The song tells of the clear trail that one walks on when we are dying, but the healer places plants as obstacles in the path so that the person’s spirit will return.

  6. 6. Emepükete esüwa. Recorded with Carmen Jerewa, March 21, 2011.

    For healing susto, a phenomenon experienced in both the Andes and the Amazon when one has experienced a great fright, causing a person’s spirit to leave the body, thus making it vulnerable for malignant spirits to enter. The healer sings, “Where have you gone, why did you leave, why did you go so far, come here, come here, your spirit is scared, in every place I am calling your spirit to return.”

  7. 7. Etakte esüwa. Recorded with Carmen Jerewa, May 13, 2011.

    For the prevention or cure of a fishbone getting stuck in your throat. The song names many birds that have the proper phlegm to swallow fish easily, such as the hakuypina —snakebird (Anhinga anhinga).

    In addition, Peru’s Ministry of Culture created a list of the following esüwa in 2013: Bihichindign (snakebite cure); Totochindign (to cure when one’s spirit is trapped by evil forces); Wewëchindign (to cure high fever); Ekmimichindai (to cure hemorrhages); Washisopachindign (to cure cramps); Nokirëngte emanokkae (to free the patient from the negative energy of a deceased person that keeps the patient trapped between life and death); Ekhen (to lessen a river’s flooding, thereby creating a riverbank so that one can cross unharmed to the other side); Ugate emanka (to tame the enemy. The enemy’s bad energy is absorbed, converted to good and used so that both sides live peacefully; so that a person’s love will be reciprocated; and also a technique to tame birds before the hunt); Ewäsösuwa (to remove or alienate a person); Hindakkoichindign (to cure cut wounds) (Cantos Wachiperi CD liner notes, 2013).

Andes to Amazon on the River Q’erosIndigenous Voice in Grassroots Tourism, Safeguarding, and Ownership Projects of the Q’eros and Wachiperi Peoples

Figure 12.7 Carmen Jerewa, the only active healer and esüwa singer in the community of Queros-Wachiperi.

Photo by Holly Wissler, February 19, 2012.

Every esüwa is a chant-like repetition that invokes animal, plant, and forest spirits, and describes manifestations of the illness usually through metaphor. Often vocables are added to ends of words, for example a nonsensical suffix is added to plant names in Ekpuguyte esüwa, for rhythmic ease of rapid-fire repetition. The Wachiperi openly discussed their beliefs about the Oteri, or powerful benevolent forest spirits, who are called upon to help in the healing. These spirits are rarely seen because they reside in particularly dense and untouched areas of the forest, which they articulated as an important reason for forest conservation on their land concession. I asked Carmen to perform a healing on me for susto, to help with a particularly anxiety-producing situation I was (p. 431) dealing with at the time (see Figure 12.7). After singing the song, Carmen spit and blew the song on various parts of my body. The idea of “blowing the song” for healing and to connect a person with spiritual powers is similar to aysariykuy in Q’eros songs: the expelled breath that sends the song out to the Apu for connection in offering.30

It is because of my preliminary research of the esüwa, and the trust I had garnered with one of the two Wachiperi communities, that I wanted to participate in, and felt I should be a part of, the Cusco Ministry of Culture’s team that was responsible to UNESCO for the safeguarding31 of the Wachiperi esüwa.32 At that point in time, I was the only person actively working on the research of the newly nominated esüwa. I presented my work to the Cusco director of the Ministry of Culture, David Ugarte, who officially (via written document) invited me to be a part of the team; however, ensuing differences in work ethic with the Ministry of Culture proved to be obstacles in my working with them.

Issues with the Safeguarding of Esüwa and Song Ownership

I have observed many struggles and conflicts of interest between the Wachiperi and the Cusco division of the Ministry of Culture (MC-DDCC, Dirección Desconcentrada de Cultura, Cusco, which I refer to as MC hereafter) since UNESCO’s naming of the esüwa as Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH). A principal issue is that the Wachiperi emphatically state that any recordings of the esüwa are not to be used or distributed publicly, due to the fact that this is sacred knowledge and transmission is only through the act of healing. The safeguarding measures proposed by the MC on the application to UNESCO conflict with this taboo, such as Article 1d of section 3b, entitled “Safeguarding (p. 432) measures proposed”: “Promotion and dissemination of the Eshuva songs: Production of a CD-ROM with a selection of Eshuva songs selected and performed by the Huachipaire”33 and “Production of a documentary in DVD-ROM format depicting the main features of the Eshuva.”

When I discussed this issue with Regis Andrade, long-term anthropologist employed by the MC, former member of the MC’s ethnodevelopment plan with the highland Q’eros and member of the MC’s esüwa safeguarding team in 2013, he explained that the intended use of any of the MC’s recordings of esüwa will be in the Intercultural Bilingual Education (EIB) curricula in both communities. The ideal model in the EIB system is that teaching goes beyond instruction in two languages (for example, Quechua/Spanish in Q’eros, and Wachiperi/Spanish in Queros-Wachiperi and Santa Rosa de Huacaria), to include the indigenous community’s traditional knowledge in the school curricula alongside the national curricula, via committed family members who collaborate regularly with the teachers and students. In this way the MC is proposing a completely new form of transmission of the esüwa: that the traditional intergenerational transmission of the genre, which is nearly nonexistent, be replaced by collaborative, inter-institutional and familial cooperation in the public education system. Andrade justifies that this use of the esüwa recordings is not public since it will not go beyond the schools of the Wachiperi communities (personal communication, September 17, 2013). However, there is no plan as of yet for the implementation of esüwa in the EIB curricula of the communities, and only initial discussions have begun with the communities about this idea. The larger issue here, though, is the lack of knowledge about, in Anthony Seeger’s terms, “local ideas of appropriate control over transmission of knowledge” (Seeger, 2012: 28). This is the case with the MC who, according to personal accounts from some Wachiperi, lack communication with the communities as to what would be appropriate regarding the safeguarding measures of the transmission of esüwa. Meanwhile, the main safeguarding activity between the MC and the communities has been the collaborative editing of the Harakbut dictionary (first of its kind, publication 2015), which the MC envisions as a tool for language preservation.

I believe both the MC and the Wachiperi are still in a time of adjustment to the UNESCO nomination, including any sort of mutual understanding as to what this exactly means, and with no long-term safeguarding plan yet in place—four years after nomination. Many Wachiperi have articulated their dissatisfaction, expressing that any efforts at safeguarding made thus far are superficial. For example, the MC has built a Casa de la Memoria—Memory House—in both Queros-Wachiperi and Huacaria. This is simply a large building (based on the former Wachiperi communal longhouse model) that provides the Wachiperi with a physical space to “perform the Eshuva and a place for the local elderly to transmit to the youth other expressions of their intangible cultural heritage” (safeguarding objective 1b). Yet on the day of the official inauguration of the Casa de la Memoria in Santa Rosa de Huacaria, August 30, 2013, the President of the community, Marisabel Dumas, specifically asked the Cusco director of the MC, David Ugarte, about a plan and funding for use. Ugarte curtly replied that the MC does not have a budget for any projects, and that this should come from UGEL (Unidades de (p. 433) Gestión Educativa Local), the local education office that serves the Wachiperi communities. So at this point the shell of the building exists, with no proposed plans or budget for use, other than a suggestion to use the space to “remember Wachiperi traditions.” If there is little intergenerational transmission of esüwa in the privacy of family homes, it seems absurd to think that the people will walk over to the large building to do it.

Alberto Manqueriapa, an outspoken Wachiperi leader and healer from Santa Rosa de Huacaria, was offended by the colorful pamphlets the MC printed in early 2012 that announce the declaration of esüwa as ICH by UNESCO. He highlighted one incorrect statement that informs that the esüwa are sung during the drinking of masato, and are therefore associated with inebriation. Alberto, with others, posed for the pamphlet photos in their cushma, or newly adopted “traditional” dress made of tree bark, yet he says he feels like a payaso (clown) when he does this. Wachiperi traditionally wore no clothes, and it is only in recent times that they have adopted the cushma as “traditional” dress. He explained that it seems ironic to don the cushma as public Wachiperi identity when it was never their original dress and the reality is that in daily life the Wachiperi use Western dress. Alberto, like my Q’eros friends, expressed acute aggravation at feeling used by the MC when he is called on to represent the Wachiperi at MC celebratory events in Cusco. He angrily added that he feels like the token Wachiperi on stage in his cushma, while his wife is at home working hard to get food for their children and the people of his community need education. He stated unequivocally that he has little faith in the safeguarding plan of the MC (personal communication, September 10, 2013). The ex-President of the Queros-Wachiperi community, Walter Quertehuari, expressed that the MC seems like pura pinta (pure makeup), and he asked, “To what benefit is it to the community that we work on these songs with them?” (personal communication, February 19, 2012). These statements indicate that some Wachiperi, in particular the community leaders, feel as if the process of donning Wachiperi identity and safeguarding traditions and songs are exercises they do for the MC, versus any sort of collaborative commitment.

Renato Cáceres, former director of the Ethnodevelopment Department of the Direction, Production, and Diffusion of Culture in the MC, who also became active in initial esüwa safeguarding efforts before choosing to leave the MC, stated that the MC does not know what true safeguarding is. He acknowledged the complexity of effective safeguarding, adding, “neither do I.” He pointed out that the MC holds no training seminars or studies of other successful safeguarding models in the world in order to learn about effective safeguarding measures, neither during the application process nor after nomination. He reiterated that the esüwa should not be recorded or used lightly, and so that even the proposed superficial safeguarding plan could not be implemented since so much is based on recording.

Professional archaeologists in the field in Peru express similar inadequacies in regards to the MC’s safeguarding and management of the area’s spectacular Inca archaeological sites. Global case studies of successful management of a culture’s major archaeological inheritances are also not consulted; rather, a common complaint is that the MC works in a very local, willy-nilly way, roping off sections of archaeological sites for no apparent (p. 434) reason, and reconstructing Inca walls in ways that have proved controversial, such as the use of cement instead of local materials.

In the case of the esüwa, it seems that what is essentially missing is focus on safeguarding plans about preservation and sustenance of the practice per se, versus the recording and archiving of esüwa songs that are one aspect of the holistic healing process. The tradition bearers do not have a sense of empowerment, or even collaboration, with the government entity that applied for this international recognition on their behalf. In my discussions with some of the Wachiperi, they complain that they were not included in the design of the safeguarding action plans from the beginning, which is one of the nomination shortcomings noted by past Secretary General of ICTM (International Council for Traditional Music) Anthony Seeger in his informative article on the evaluation process of ICH nominations to UNESCO (Seeger, 2009: 122). The fact that no funding has yet been sought from UNESCO for safeguarding relieves the MC and the Wachiperi of any sort of obligation to UNESCO (ibid.: 116), so that ineffectual safeguarding, confusions, and even conflicts between the MC and the Wachiperi are simply the current status. MC anthropologist Andrade commented that without the UNESCO nomination, the Wachiperi would simply continue to be neglected by the Peruvian government, as they have been for decades. He reiterated that at least now, with the nomination, they are gaining much public attention and hopefully effective inter-institutional safeguarding plans in the future (personal communication, September 17, 2013). The question that arises, then, is about the value of such attention if it comes rife with conflict and misunderstandings.

Taking Action into Their Own Hands: Wachiperi CD Production

In late October 2011 the MC offered me a contract, from newly disbursed Ministry funds, to produce a CD of Wachiperi songs with the Wachiperi—a project that suddenly became more poignant after the UNESCO naming a month later. They wanted the CD production to include many of Lyon’s archival recordings, as well as my recent ones of embachiha (songs of animals, birds, and natural elements), and also some of the newly nominated esüwa. At that point in time, the seven esüwa that I had recorded with the community were only intended for the community archive. The MC made it clear that these funds would roll over at year-end (i.e., in three months), so I felt institutional pressure to complete the CD production with the Wachiperi as soon as possible. At first I was enticed by the idea of funding for a collaborative CD production with the Wachiperi, something we had talked about during our sessions in the Queros-Wachiperi community but had not yet moved forward on, but I needed to consult with the community first.

I had already planned my annual November sojourn to the United States and the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM) conference, so only on December 4 was I able to present the idea of an MC-sponsored CD production to the Queros-Wachiperi community. This meant we had a short month to complete a CD production if they decided (p. 435) that was what we wanted to do. I was surprised to discover that they did not yet know of the UNESCO naming that had happened over a week prior, which I had candidly mentioned. In reaction, Walter Quertehuari, the President of the community at the time, complained about the lack of consultation on the part of the MC with the community about the application process in the first place. While they did express interest in having a product they could use to promote their Wachiperi identity, particularly when tourists came to their community (which is minimal due to lack of infrastructure and a solid community-based tourism plan), they were also clear that they did not want to work on the production under the auspices of the MC. Quertehuari was direct in his exasperation at the fact that I had done the footwork regarding the return of archives and holding workshops with the community throughout the year, and that we should not allow the MC to suddenly take credit for a production that borrowed both from the community archives (Patricia Lyon’s recordings and my new ones) and our work sessions together, which had been partially funded by other entities: the nongovernmental organizations ACA and ACCA. The community agreed in consensus, so that in this moment I witnessed the Wachiperi taking ownership of their work and archives. Fully understanding and accepting their position, upon return to Cusco I broke the news, to the consternation of the MC, and did not enter into contractual agreement with them. Personally I was relieved, as I was beginning to experience the common operating procedure of the MC’s bureaucracy, which is a system of delayed, mid-year disbursement of funds for projects that are expected to be completed in insufficient time before year-end. This enforced urgency, combined with a lack of project longevity and vision due to regular turnover in directive staff that is based on the changing political calendar, make the MC projects based in personal agendas, in Cácere’s words, versus long-term, collaborative, and visionary projects.

In reaction, the community suggested that we do our own CD production, a proposal that was undoubtedly born from strong feelings of ownership of Patricia Lyon’s archives, which I was moved to see them guard so unambiguously. As Seeger states, “Ideas about rights over music are often closely intertwined with important concepts of person, ideas about the origin and significance of sound, and also about relations of power” (Seeger, 2012: 32). The small community of Queros-Wachiperi was fiercely guarding the significant sound recordings of their direct family members, thereby negating a government power that regularly attempts to implement cultural support in ways that lack communication (no conversation about nomination plans and announcement, plans for safeguarding), and that often seem useless (building of the Casa de la Memoria as a space to revive cultural tradition), violable (a contract to record esüwa for possible public use), and degrading (demeaning staged performances for MC agenda).

With the idea now sparked, we began conversations of how to do a CD production, with no or limited funding. We saw the opportunity of linking the CD production to the first ever Jungle Ultra Marathon, an international event to be held the Kosñipata district in May 2012, the district location of the Queros-Wachiperi and Santa Rosa de Huacaria communities. This six-day mega race with professional runners from around the world, covered by international press, was to be staged to raise international awareness about (p. 436) the multiple conservation efforts in the region. I proposed that we produce the CD in time to be sold at this event to raise awareness about Wachiperi culture, and the community was enthusiastic about the idea. I used all the remaining funds I had received from ACA for my work with the Wachiperi for this production, which was in line with the meeting in late 2011 when group consensus negated funding from the MC. This, then, became a project by and for the community.

We mutually decided on the round number of 20 songs for the CD, 17 from Patricia Lyon’s archives and three that I had recorded in 2010 and 2011 with Manuel Yonaje. All of the 10 singers whom Lyon recorded were to be represented, and song topics were to be varied. The small group of community members involved in song selection cherished the time listening to all 10 singers (Manuel Yonaje and Estela Dariquebe were the only two of the 10 still living), and selecting the songs that represented a variety of Amazonian birds and mammals, such as the mealy parrot, great egret, macaw, howler monkey, jaguar, and spectacled bear. The community decided we should list the singers’ Wachiperi names along with the names they adopted for, and are known by, in the urban world. For example, Estela’s name in Wachiperi is Yorine, and Manuel’s is Meyopa. Embachinoha, or cantos de borracho, were also selected. It was clear that no esüwa were to be included, as the MC had wanted, for the obvious reasons outlined above.

The production was inexpensive and completely homemade. We touched up some of the sound from Lyon’s recordings when possible, and I completed the master in my home office and ordered two hundred copies to be burned at a CD/DVD production store in a crowded local mall in Cusco. I selected three photographs of the living elders, Manuel, Carmen, and Estela, and collected photos of two deceased singers from family members, and designed a few cover options in a graphic design shop in Cusco. Inside the cover we included a small synopsis of the original singing context and song genres, which was co-written by two educated Wachiperi (the President of the community, Walter Quertehuari, and a university graduate living in Cusco, Joel Jawanchi, son of one of the original singers) and myself. In this summary they were able to include what they felt accurately represented the community, and I was able to add information about Patricia Lyon, an imperative since most of the songs on the CD were from her archives. In the end we were up against the deadline of the start of the marathon, and I was not fully satisfied with the information (mostly the writing style), but the content was satisfactorily inclusive and representative. Due to this last-minute rush, our final communications and decision-making about the CD summary notes were all by cell phone and Internet to the Wachiperi who lived in Pilcopata on the road, since there is no electricity, Internet, or phone service in the community itself (see Figures 12.8 and 12.9).

Andes to Amazon on the River Q’erosIndigenous Voice in Grassroots Tourism, Safeguarding, and Ownership Projects of the Q’eros and Wachiperi Peoples

Figure 12.8 Front Cover, Wachiperi CD: Cantos Wachiperi: Familia linguística Harakbut, Grupo étnico Wachiperi.

Photo of the Queros (Q’eros) River in the background.

This final flurried and constant communication about the last details of the CD production with the Wachiperi in the Peruvian Amazon is a far cry from the days when Anthony Seeger made a collaborative music CD with the Suyá of Brazil (1976), when a single communication often took weeks or months. I was able to send mp3 files via the Internet for final approval, while Seeger would mail a cassette tape that would take weeks to arrive and often be unplayable due to broken cassette players or lack of (p. 437) batteries (Seeger, 2008: 276). What remains the same, though, is that “the process, as much as the product” was important for both parties (ibid.: 275). This collaborative process is addressed by Luke Lassiter opens his groundbreaking book The Chicago Guide to Collaborative Ethnography with a section from the El Dorado Task Force Papers of the American Anthropological Association:

The El Dorado Task force insists that the anthropology of indigenous peoples and related communities must move toward “collaborative” models, in which anthropological research is not merely combined with advocacy, but inherently advocative in that research is, from the outset, aimed at material, symbolic, and political benefits for the research population, as its members have helped to define these.

(Lassiter, 2005: ix)

Andes to Amazon on the River Q’erosIndigenous Voice in Grassroots Tourism, Safeguarding, and Ownership Projects of the Q’eros and Wachiperi Peoples

Figure 12.9 Back cover, Wachiperi CD. CD song contents.

(p. 438) Today it seems that collaborative, advocative research aimed toward the benefit of and defined by the research population is much more possible as the world becomes “smaller,” with quick communication and easier road travel. It was the Wachiperi themselves who took the reigns and insisted we not work with the MC (political stance); rather, create a product that would stand for who they are now (independent choice, material and symbolic benefit) and what their history is, with symbolic representation including the wealth of Patricia Lyon’s materials, and equal representation of their past community members.

Over the next months we sold the CDs at the typical low, affordable CD price (10 soles for locals, about $4, and 20 soles to tourists if they were willing). We sold directly, via various avenues: to marathon spectators; at a hotel reception in Pilcopata; a popular café in Cusco; and to many friends via word of mouth. Every Wachiperi family received their own copies. The sales were slow, but after a year and a half I returned the proceeds to the community, and they agreed by consensus that all profits were to go toward the purchase (p. 439) of medicines for the three elders.34 In this way the production was by the Wachiperi, for the Wachiperi, a record of their past and present, done in their way, with their choices and voice, with resultant proceeds that went to the only three elders who remember this invaluable, nearly extinct, song tradition.

The MC’s interest in using selections from Lyon’s archives in a CD production initiated questions of ownership and nervousness at possible co-option on the part of the MC. We took this opportunity to investigate at INDECOPI (Instituto Nacional de Defensa de la Competencia y de la Protección de la Propiedad Intelectual—the national institute that protects intellectual property), only to discover that the Wachiperi would need to show legal proof of song inheritance in order to register ownership of the community’s (anonymous) songs—that is, that the song authors had imparted these songs on legal documents to the current community members. They have the right to interpret the songs in the same way their deceased family members did, but “interpreters do not have rights to ownership,” as the INDECOPI employee explained to us. As Seeger points out, copyright laws originated in (white, urban upper-class) Europe, were “intimately linked to the figure of the author,” and “little thought was given to creating legislation for unwritten and unpublished traditions,” that were performed by illiterate, oral cultures (Seeger, 2005: 78). It seems this colonial practice is still in existence in Peru, and this community’s songs and collective knowledge cannot be legally protected. The Wachiperi perception is that the original author of their songs was the gallinazo, or turkey vulture, who created the songs when the bird was still human. But again, as Seeger indicates in reference the ownership rights of the Suyá songs of Mato Grosso, Brazil, “How does one define a jaguar as individual author?” (Seeger, 2004: 76).

Seeger also points out that, apart from sound, “Music is also a web of rights and obligations that both establish relationships among people and organizations and are also an expression of those relationships” (Seeger, 2004b: 70). In this case, the expression of relationship by the Wachiperi was to say a direct “no” to the powerful Ministry of Culture, and assertively do a CD production in their way, reclaiming the possession of their traditional intellectual property.

In 2013 the MC did produce a CD entitled Cantos Wachiperi. Renato Cáceres was sent to record the three song categories for this CD, embachiha, embachinoha, and esüwa, with elders in Santa Rosa de Huacaria and Queros-Wachiperi communities. This was one of his final assignments with the MC before resigning due to differences in work ethic. He stated that he felt “false, hypocritical, and deceitful” during recording, since he had no pre-established relationship with the singers or the Wachiperi as a whole, and he was beginning to understand that the esüwa should not be recorded in this superficial manner (personal communication, July 15, 2013). In this CD production, the MC no longer raised the possibility of implementing songs from Patricia Lyon’s archival recordings, and in the end did not add the esüwa to the CD due to the insistence of the Wachiperi, and instead housed these esüwa recordings in the MC archives for the time being.

A recent conversation with a member of the MC esüwa safeguarding committee, who preferred to remain anonymous, shed light on the latest status of safeguarding measures. He stated that the original plan leading up to UNESCO nomination was to record and (p. 440) diffuse as many esüwa as the MC could, but since the Wachiperi are not in agreement, it is up to them to decide what the safeguarding plan should be. This simplistic explanation and delegation of responsibility to the Wachiperi has currently put a standstill to any safeguarding efforts (personal communication, February 9, 2015). Teresa Campos, area coordinator for indigenous community rights at the MC, and overseer of the esüwa safeguarding team in Cusco, succinctly said that safeguarding efforts are currently congelado—frozen (personal communication, February 11, 2015). So it seems that what is in store for the future between the MC and the Wachiperi is a total re-assessment of effective safeguarding measures and implementation—or not. Ideal applied ethnomusicology in this scenario would be collaboration and mutual work ethic from all involved parties (MC, ethnomusicologists, anthropologists, community members), yet, when this is not possible, it is ultimately up to the people themselves to take their own stance, which the Wachiperi have and do.


The important components of efficacy and measures of success in specific music projects with the Q’eros (indigenous tourism) and the Wachiperi (CD production) are the combination of small-scale shared experience, co-collaboration, and equal status of everyone involved. The established base of reciprocity that upheld the ancient Inca empire, and Andean and Amazonian communities historically and currently, is also imperative and operative on the smallest of levels for respectful human interaction and exchange. In our projects, many aspects of a mutually beneficial relationship are present and operative. It makes sense that reciprocity is the preferred interaction in projects when it is the foundation of life among the Q’eros and the Wachiperi.

In the case of the highland Q’eros, their active voice in indigenous tourism has been an organic process that we have been developing and fine-tuning for about ten years now. We have learned, together, about what kinds of interactions work in such a way so that everyone is satisfied. The Q’eros authentically and directly express who they are, so that self-representation is in their hands. They have a sense of serenity—thak!—about this representation, knowing their voice is heard. More than heard, it is often deeply received in the vibrant space of co-creation, when the foreign guests see their wholeness, versus an Andean stereotype. We never know what will happen or come up in these spaces, which makes the interaction a symbiotic, spontaneous process, versus a more controlled, practiced, and staged event. This is because each individual involved—tourist and Q’eros—is allowed to express him- or herself freely in complementary dialogue. The quality of reciprocal giving and receiving (ideal ayni) is more possible in small groups, where active participation is on an individual level that results in people sharing freely and unmasked, engendering expansion and learning on both fronts. The outcome is often heart-opening and connecting, versus sharing from the ego with a pitying (“poor Andean”) or exalting (“wealthy foreigner”/“ancient Inca stuck in time”) perspective, which is hierarchical and separating. I would go so far as to say that there are grains of emotional healing involved (p. 441) in such interactions. The profound glimpses we experience into the life of the “other” in unhurried, still moments creates a sense of solidarity that can be soothing—a salve to the soul. In this context the Q’eros’ music is shared, heard, and received, so that for a brief moment a foreign guest whose life is completely different can gain a sense of understanding and connection into a world he or she has never experienced, or imagined.

In contrast, many Q’eros and Wachiperi discuss feelings of being used by the Ministry of Culture when they perform their music on stage in celebratory functions of achievements by the MC. One example is the May 20, 2013 celebration in Cusco, which announced UNESCO’s nomination of the Qhapaq Ñan, Royal Inca Highway, as a World Heritage Site, marking the first time in history a multinational application has been sent to and nominated by UNESCO (Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru). The MC called on many Q’eros and Wachiperi to be representative “original people” from the Inca Imperial Period when the usage of this road system was at its peak, requiring them to sing and dance (dance in the case of the Wachiperi) on a large stage in typical dress. The Q’eros and the Wachiperi with whom I discussed this event expressed that the experience was uncomfortable and felt degrading. In this case it is not equal sharing; there is a clear hierarchy involved when the orders come from above, and the indigenous are the payasos (clowns), as a Wachiperi leader said. What is glossed as a celebration of their indigeneity is actually experienced as demeaning. Political power relations win out, and the Q’eros and Wachiperi must find other means to wholly express themselves.

In the case of the Wachiperi, the means they took was an active stand when they felt encroachment of political power in response to the MC’s suggestion of a CD production about their music, using the community’s archives. They said a clear “no,” and took it one step further: they came up with a satisfying solution of their own production that enhanced self-esteem and made it so they could represent Wachiperi identity in their way. We mutually agreed and worked together to realize the production, so that I had an equal relationship with the Wachiperi in our work together. The entire production involved about ten people at the most, which is very grassroots, except when you consider that that is about 10 percent of the entire Wachiperi population. Profits were only 800 soles (about $320), which covered over a year’s supply of medicines for the three community elders. It is precisely at this level that such a precarious group must step forth in self-defense. The mutual service I provided was the return of archives, assistance in song selection and CD liner notes, and the know-how of a homemade CD production. Their benefit was an independent production, and mine was collaboration in it, being witness to their courage and ambition in satisfactory representation, and the necessary and willing surrender on my part to do it their way. At this moment, our work together flowed in effective co-collaboration and was service in the sense of equal and reciprocal empowerment. We enjoyed the flow of spontaneous collaboration versus the hierarchical making of a CD in which one entity (the MC) would have final production choice that likely would have been fraught with enhanced feelings of resistance and resentment on the part of the Wachiperi that were already present.

Significantly, what transpired from our intensive song workshops together, and my discussions with Daniel Sheehy, director of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and (p. 442) Cultural Heritage, about the possibility of a CD production entitled “Music of the River Q’eros,” to include both Q’eros and Wachiperi songs, was an invitation to participate in the 2015 Smithsonian Folklife Festival that focuses on Peru. In the festival, six representative Wachiperi will have the opportunity to express their culture and traditions in their own terms. Also significant is that they are the only indigenous group to represent all of Peru’s Amazonia in the festival.

Andes to Amazon on the River Q’erosIndigenous Voice in Grassroots Tourism, Safeguarding, and Ownership Projects of the Q’eros and Wachiperi Peoples

Figure 12.10 Manuel Yonaje listens to Patricia J. Lyon Wachiperi archive recordings.

Photo by Holly Wissler, February 19, 2012.

Though we eventually let go of our original idea of reviving songs, as explained above, the most meaningful times were those of group listening, learning, and discussion in a small group with three generations of Wachiperi, which is not something that resulted in a product or presentation, but were simply moments of deeply shared experience at a singular point in time. Just that alone, I contend, is valuable. Many, like Nely Ninantay, Manuel’s granddaughter, articulated that our listening and discussions were extremely valuable in raising awareness about Wachiperi heritage. Nely stated that she was not even aware of the existence of these songs and their prevalence and place in the Wachiperi past, and she felt proud to receive this heritage.35 If one single Wachiperi person, like Nely, receives benefit from our small-scale work, then it has been worth it.

Manuel Yonaje died on January 27, 2014. With him passed a substantial quality of lived Wachiperi knowledge since he was one of three Wachiperi elders, and the only elder man, of the Queros-Wachiperi community. During our time together from 2010 (p. 443) through 2013, I was able to see how vibrant and grateful he was when listening to Lyon’s song recordings, when singing in his recordings with me and discussing the old days “when we were many people” (see Figure 12.10). I would sit for hours in the hot sun or under the dark sky and listen to him reminisce about the old days of Wachiperi history, music, and life. I remember one magical moment when we were sitting in the grass and I saw a small yellow bird up high on a branch, and asked, “Is there a song for that bird?”—to which he burst into singing that bird’s song. I am reminded of a powerful quote by anthropologist, ethnobotanist, and conservationist Wade Davis: “Is the wisdom of an elder any less important simply because he or she communicates to an audience of one?” (Davis, 2009: 5). In Manuel’s bringing forth his wisdom, I witnessed individuals’ perspective and awareness of their own Wachiperi tradition and heritage change, mainly his granddaughter, Nely, and daughter-in-law Odette.36 These one-to-one relationships were profoundly and mutually beneficial, touching the depths of reciprocity at a most basic level: One elder died with the satisfaction that his people’s music was relived and shared with the younger generation of his family, not to be forgotten. I, as “applied ethnomusicologist”—but mainly friend—was privileged to be a part of this process and can now share Manuel’s wisdom and life with his community, and in broader contexts, such as the Cusco community, Peru, academia, and the 2015 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. In my work with both the Q’eros and the Wachiperi, we searched together through experience to discover and shape equal, reciprocal, and deeply beneficial relationships, and it is this mutual service that we experience with one another that sustains our projects and my relationship with these extraordinary people—that is, people as individuals, versus a group in staged presentation.


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                                                                                                                                                                                                    (1.) In many publications they are acknowledged as the Huachipaeri group, but recent collaborative work between the Wachiperi and the Ministry of Culture on the first Harakbut dictionary (2015) that has established the Harakbut alphabet has changed the spelling to Wachiperi. Equally, the spelling of Harakmbut has changed to Harakbut.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (2.) Ethnohistorian John Murra provided groundbreaking research on the usage, exploitation, and sustainability of Andean, Amazonian, and coastal ecosystems, which he termed “vertical ecology” (see Murra 1972, 1980).

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (3.) The cargo system was introduced by Spain mainly for service in Catholic religious offices, such as sponsoring a patron saint festival and liturgical rituals, as well as administrative offices.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (4.) Coca leaves are used practically, socially, and ritually in Andean life. See Allen (2002) for a full discussion of the use of coca in Andean communities.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (5.) As in Q’eros rituals of extreme reciprocal exchange, Marcel Mauss writes about the excessive co-consumption of the North American Indian potlatch rituals (Mauss, 1954).

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (6.) Peru is divided into 25 large regions (formerly called departments).

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (7.) While historically Andean and Amazonian groups have been linked through essential trade networks that complemented the sustenance and ritual necessities of both regions, I have not found any clear historical or ethnographic evidence that confirms that the Q’eros and Wachiperi have historical connections. I have found suggestions of possible ancestral connection of the Q’eros to Amazonian territory beyond their current cloud forest region, which is subject to further investigation, and beyond the scope of this article.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (8.) The exact number of Wachiperi population is difficult to ascertain since many Wachiperi today are mixed with Amazonia Matsiguenka and highland Quechua groups, and there has been no government census of the Wachiperi. In 2008 the Wachiperi calculated that 57 remained in their population for a diagnostic report prepared by the Asociación de la Conservación de la Cuena Amazónica (Amazon River Basin Conservation Association, ACCA), a nongovernmental organization based in Cusco that works in various conservation projects with the Wachiperi. In a recent workshop (January 2015) with the Wachiperi to prepare for their participation in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival they estimated about 120 total Wachiperi, therefore numbers are subjective and fluctuate.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (9.) The repatriation of audiovisual archives to the Q’eros is the topic of a future article, “ ‘Where Dead People Walk’: Repatriation of Fifty Years of Audio-Visual Archives to Q’eros, Peru (working title)” in an edited volume on archival repatriation, editors Frank Gunderson and Bret Woods.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (10.) For a detailed discussion of Q’eros’ identity, see Wissler dissertation (2009a: 35–41): “Identity: La Nación Q’eros; Q’eros and/or Inca?”

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (11.) The naming of a “people,” versus a tangible or intangible cultural heritage, has received much criticism locally and nationally.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (12.) If one “googles” “Q’eros,” there are numerous websites that offer spiritual tourism activities with the Q’eros.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (13.) See Boniface and Robinson (1998) for impact of influences on host communities in the tourism industry, and Berno (2007) for the indigenous voice in designing tourism in a case study the South Pacific.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (14.) See Cohen (1986) and Wissler (2009b) for candid accounts of the challenges of filming in Q’eros.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (15.) The exchanges are with a varied demographic, through the following organizations: US-based travel companies Wilderness Travel and National Geographic/Lindblad Expeditions, and US study abroad programs, such as The Center for World Music, SIT World Learning, Iowa State University, and UC Davis. The high-end Peruvian travel company COLTUR Peru ( has recognized the value of these exchanges and employs us on a regular basis to meet with a wide spectrum of clientel (spiritual tourists, economists, university alumni, to name a few). In addition, we do video conferences from Cusco with Brandeis University Spanish and music classes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (16.) See Wissler (2009: 84–108) about the Andean concept of yanantin (male/female complementary duality) and its manifestation in Q’eros ritual music and the relationship between the women’s singing and the men’s pinkuyllu in a transcription design that shows this relationship.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (17.) See Wissler (2009), Stobart (2006), and Allen (2002) for the importance of continuous, nonstop music-making in Andean ritual.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (18.) This is also called sami. See Allen (2002) for an in-depth discussion of sami.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (19.) Steven, Feld’s classic work, Sound and Sentiment (1982), addresses reciprocity in the music of the Kaluli in Papua New Guinea.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (20.) The suffix ri is really ru, but in this case the u changes to i for ease of pronunciation, based on the subsequent suffixes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (21.) Ingram (2005: 33) discusses a survey of tourists’ interactions with Australian aboriginal culture, where they doubt the authenticity of objects being sold.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (22.) Comadre, or co-mother, is a social tie and obligation obtained during chukcha rutuy, a pre-Hispanic ritual when the hair of a young child is cut for the first time, a rite of passage from infancy into humanhood. I become madrina, godmother, to the child, and co-mother with the parents.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (23.) The Four Winds Society specializes in “spiritual expeditions” and regularly works with the Q’eros in Peru.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (24.) I stress ideal ayni, since ayni is not always reciprocated, which I contend is one of the main reasons the Q’eros express their grief through improvised singing in animal fertility rituals that are all about offerings intended for ideal reciprocal ayni. The sung grief is a remembrance of times when ayni was not reciprocated (see Wissler, 2009, Chapter 8).

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (25.) This number includes silent speakers, that is, people of the younger generation who understand Wachiperi but do not speak it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (26.) Arakmbut has the most number of speakers (approximately 200).

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (27.) La Comunidad Nativa de Queros (Queros-Wachiperi community) has a fluctuating population of about 20 people all of Wachiperi origin, and Santa Rosa de Huacaria has a population of about 150, composed of Wachiperi, Matsiguenka (Amazon group of Arawak origin), and Quechua from the highlands.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (28.) View a five-minute YouTube of this archive return and ensuing discussions at There is a brief section of esüwa in this video clip, which the Wachiperi approved since it is momentary, versus exposing the entire song and practice.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (29.) There are also two types of protection songs: esütateika, when the healer sings for the protection of an individual against possible harm, danger, disease, and ewasütuteika, for the protection of a group, such as family, families, or the entire community. These protection songs, like the esüwa, are performed privately.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (30.) Many scholars who have worked in the Andes and Amazon areas of South America have shown how people are agents in the intentional and causal movement of breath, blowing, and spitting, sometimes through song, for interaction with the spiritual, invisible, and intangible forces around them (Allen, 2002; Guss, 1989; Olsen, 1996; Uzendoski, 2005).

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (31.) See Chapter 5 by Jeff Titon in this volume, “Sustainability, Resilience, and Adaptive Management for Applied Ethnomusicology,” for a thorough discussion of safeguarding.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (32.) It is specifically the Cusco division of the Ministry of Culture, not the central office in the capital city of Lima, that is responsible for the safeguarding of esüwa since the Wachiperi reside in the Cusco Region.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (33.) Esüwa (versus Eshuva) is the more recent spelling asserted by the Wachiperi, which correspond to the newly established Harakbut alphabet and pronunciation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (34.) Similarly, when I completed my DVD documentary Kusisqa Waqashayku (2007), about the annual cycle of the Q’eros’ musical rituals (when I also employed much collaborative input about representation), I returned my documentary production, along with $4,500 in DVD sales and donations, to the Q’eros community. They chose to use the proceeds for the building of their new town council building, completed in 2010.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (35.) Nely Ninantay is the first Wachiperi student at Cusco University (Universidad de Cusco San Antonio de Abad) to write about her people in an academic thesis. She completed her degree in tourism in 2014 with her thesis on the topic of eco-tourism in her home community of Queros-Wachiperi.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (36.) I believe that Odette Ramos Dumas, in her mid-twenties, is a notable culture-bearer of the Wachiperi. She is the granddaughter of the renowned shaman Alejandro Dumas, mentioned earlier in this chapter, and inherited much wisdom from him. She is fluent in Wachiperi, and was passionate about our work together and would sit at length by Manuel’s side listening to and learning about the songs.