I’m going to provide some background before launching into my update for anyone reading of this undertaking for the first time. Kenosis Spirit Keepers, the nonprofit I founded in 2007, began to fundraise back in early April to provide emergency COVID-19 relief for the Hatun Q’ero village of Ccochamocco, where my close relationships have developed since the mid-90s. I love these people. The village is quite isolated at 14,500’ high in the Peruvian Andes, and Indigenous lands in the Cusco Region had been closed by the Peruvian government.
Who thought the pandemic would last for so long and intensify? The timeline kept slipping again and again as to when quarantines would end in the Cusco Region and Indigenous lands would reopen. We’d been ready since June to make the food delivery. But it was not to be. All I could think of was how their food supplies must be dwindling away.
Some have been cavalier about the Q’eros’ predicament saying they’ve survived for a thousand-plus years that way. Sorry. I can’t accept the image that kept playing in my mind of my godson, his and other families, children and elders being hungry, only having potatoes to eat and then those diminishing. That’s exactly what happened. By October when lands finally opened and it became possible to travel into the high mountain villages, potatoes had been their sole dietary choice for quite a while. I’m thankful they at least had that.
See the full report of our effort for Ccochamocco, plus the Hopi villages of Moenkopi and Shungopavi in northern Arizona. Scroll down to the portion on Q’eros after Hopi.
Now on to happy news…
First, I want to express great gratitude for all the donors over these months. Because of you, we had $7000 to pay for food and expenses to get the goods up to the waiting villagers. This kind of money goes a very long way in Peru, as you’ll discover in a moment.
Second, I really want to recognize my Q’ero liaison Santos Machacca Apaza. A lot of times, those people who quietly operate in the background but who do all the legwork to get things done—make things actually happen—are taken for granted. I don’t. As soon as lands reopened, Santos made the long trip from Cusco to Ccochamocco to consult with the community on what they needed, then went to a number of merchants in Cusco to secure supplies and got the best price. Very time consuming, along with hiring a large truck, helpers and everything else, including keeping me apprised. Clearly, if he wasn’t so willing and trustworthy, we couldn’t have gotten this done.
It was a 3-day operation from first load to delivery into the hands of the families—not counting all the prep beforehand. Santos documented it all with photos and videos. Here are some.
This first video is the only one with English. The rest are in the Q’ero dialect with a few words of Spanish sprinkled in periodically. Santos narrates, expressing the gratitude of our Q’ero friends, telling us 54 families will be fed now for months as a result of what they’ve received, visible in this wide circle before each family and more to the far side of the video pan. He thanks all donors and, if you listen closely, at the last pass through the circle you can hear some of them calling out in thanks to Pachamama (Mother Earth) and Apu Wamanlipa, the sacred mountain that watches over Ccochamocco.
This next video is a little wonky but I wanted to share it. This is Juan Machacca Paucar, the current president of Ccochamocco, a responsibility that rotates every year or so. He wants to show us all the food each family received: rice, flour, sugar, cooking oil, quinoa, tuna, soups, pasta, lentils, oatmeal, condensed milk, salt, soap and a few other things I can’t identify.
Just as when we come together for despacho ceremony, Q’ero friends place importance on standing, speaking sincere words of welcome and letting us know how they hold us in their hearts. First, you see Modesto Machacca Apaza, father to Miguel Angel, my godson. Next is Carmina Zamata Machacca, Miguel Angel’s maternal grandmother, who you can glimpse hovering behind the stacked food. (So big now at 14!)
Finally, you see some Q’ero friends holding a banner. When Santos asked me to send a photo file of the Kenosis Spirit Keepers business card, I had no idea he had this purpose in mind. Plus, it appears he located an old image of me, probably lifted from Facebook. Frankly, I was a bit embarrassed when I saw this. I tend to operate beneath the radar. But I know how much receiving these goods means to them, and this is their way of making a visual representation of their appreciation.
If anything, I wish we’d been able to show a gallery of donors who made all of this possible, for both Q’ero and Hopi. It would be crammed full front and back. Kenosis Spirit Keepers is merely the vehicle through which love flows from like-hearted people who assist us in fulfilling our mission to help sustain these Indigenous peoples who hold intent to keep their traditions alive.