The Quechua speaking Q’ero people of Peru, descendants of the mighty Incas, live on some of the most rugged and isolated land in the Andes. They fled to this remote cloud shrouded region to escape the Spanish invasion of the 1530s and, by doing so, retained their freedom. It is this isolation which also helped to preserve their cultural traditions. Many Q’ero today live much as their ancient ancestors did prior to the Spanish invasion.
However, some Spanish influence is evident. The word despacho, Spanish for dispatch is seen in the name of an important Q’ero sacrament. In the despacho ceremony thanks is given to all of panchamama, mother earth. All energies are brought into balance including relationships with the natural world, our communities and other personal relationships, and with ourselves. Despacho ceremonies are performed for transitions, marriages, births, deaths, healings, and agricultural cycles.
Universal energy is understood to be a benign force that only becomes harmful when out of balance. Balance can be reestablished through ceremony. In the Q’ero worldview, humans are one with nature, not looking in from outside but an integral part of this complex and beautiful living whole. Life itself is one continuous grand ceremony that has other ceremonies nested within it.
There are three types of despacho ceremonies, the ayni as described below, the kuti despacho ceremony, for dispelling evil intent, and the aya despacho ceremony for honoring the dead.
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