The Gift of Saphichay
Dear Positive News Readers,
I’d like to share with you some wonderful indigenous rights and cultural survival work that’s being done down in the Andes and surrounding areas of Peru. Preserving and revitalizing traditional ceremonies; healing practices; rights of passage; healthy, sustainable, agricultural practices and native languages are all part of a movement focused on reconnecting with indigenous identity.
Saphichay’s approach is a unique one in that it seeks to reconcile the differences between native and mestizo (mixed indigenous and European blood) communities rather than to reject either the old or the new. Too often, communities abandon traditional practices as backwards or outdated, relegate them to the past and deny them a place in modernity, in spite of the fact that modern Western science seems only recently to have become aware of many of the complex systems that were well established in indigenous methodologies.
Too often, any use of modern practices by indigenous peoples is claimed to invalidate the “authenticity” of their indigenous identity. As a result, mestizo communities that maintain their existence in age-old homelands are cut off from their identities and their rightful inheritance of rich histories that connect them to their ancestral legacy. Saphichay aims to connect these communities to their histories and create space for indigenous culture in the modern world.
Just last year Saphichay worked with urban youth from the outskirts of Lima in a storytelling project. The idea was for these largely indigenous, middle-school students to collect stories from their grandparents, uncles, aunts, parents and neighbors. The students selected a few stories from this beautifully diverse collection, which they turned into short theatrical pieces. The youth then received an invitation to perform their theatre in Machu Picchu at an international peace gathering.
These kids were not going to let anything get in their way. From Cusco, due to financial constraints, we had to walk 21 miles to Aguas Calientes, the town where Machu Picchu is located. The next day we went to the opening, where the youth for the first time saw what our traditional ceremonies looked like, and got to participate.Seeing their faces and body language at the experience of anchoring into who they were and where they came from made the whole journey well worth it.
This was an amazing opportunity, and, for many, the only chance they would get to visit one of their own ancestral sites, come face-to-face with their cultural roots and meet other indigenous community members who still practice their traditions. Cultural projects like this help not only to preserve our stories and practices but also to strengthen familial and community-based inter generational relationships, which are often lost in urban settings.
One youth participant, Marco C. from Ventanilla, Lima, wrote, “Thanks to Saphichay for giving us this opportunity to reconnect to our traditions which helps me feel proud of my roots.” Since then, we have had youth more eager then ever to learn about their traditions and honor their ancestry rather than exchange it for something new and shiny from the television.
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