Living in Harmony in the Andes

As I’ve explored Peru, I have had the pleasure of meeting and befriending locals who continue to uphold the religious and social beliefs of the indigenous peoples that have served as a backbone for the society in Peru and other neighboring regions since the foundation of the first civilizations in the Andes.

I have come to understand and appreciate that the indigenous culture is highly connected to nature. The Pachamama, or spirit of the earth, is revered to this day, and I have had the ability to witness and participate in various ceremonies that give thanks to the higher power that has permitted us to experience the beauty of the earth. These small ceremonies are personal demonstrations of respect for the areas that we visit. It is customary to take a quiet moment to reflect and appreciate the wonders before us, then leave three coca leaves (which represent the three worlds in which the Inca believed) under a tower of rocks at the summit of the journey. 

The native culture in the Andes is not only centered on harmony with nature, but also harmony among their fellow human beings. When I visited the Islands of Amantani and Taquile, located in Lake Titicaca, I experienced a society that holds firmly to the indigenous way of life. There I witnessed an undeniable harmony among the inhabitants on the island that was characterized by hospitality, trust and kindness that is shown to all without prejudice. 

The indigenous culture of the Andes has upheld this respectful and peaceful way of life for centuries based on three guiding principles. Ama sua. Ama llulla. Ama quella. These laws in Quechua translate to: “Do not lie. Do not steal. Do not be lazy”. With these simple laws, they have upheld a society that is honest and trustworthy, respectful of others, and is always willing to come together as a community.

The overarching philosophy of the Andes region is reciprocity. This is shown towards nature in their deep respect for the earth and their gratitude for all that it provides, and it manifests itself within their communities in their willingness to help their neighbor with the certainty that the same will be done for them should they ever be in need.  

The philosophy of the Andes is simple, but exceptionally effective. The harmonious, collective, and hard-working society that still survives to this day is living proof of a way of life that has garnered the respect of those who visit and has left a lasting impression on me.

Leah Hoffman is a student at Millersville University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying with ISA in Cusco, Peru.

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