Ruben,Theo and Echan at work as Pachakutec allies
Latin America fascinates me. It is a diverse mix of corrupt politicians like the great charlatan Alberto
Fujimori , who I saw in Tokyo give a speech in very poor Japanese, and the tremendously vital energy of its peoples. It was he who was responsible for the murders of thousands of indigenous Peruvians who supported the Shining Path guerrilla movement. Fujimori was thus the father of Peru's lost decade and ended up living the good life in Tokyo for several years as an exile before his political ego got the better of him. He became convinced like so many other politicians (who are just priests in politicians clothes as far as I can see because they preach, they convert and they pretend to have answers that they do not possess) that only he, the omnipotent Fujimori, could solve Peru's ongoing woes. The poor fool returned to South America where he has been wanted for years, to face trial for his crimes. Holing up in neighbouring Chile, one of the few South American states to have really solved the corruption problem, Fujimori wrongly believed that his lawyers would get him off the hook and that he would return triumphant to Peru. That was not the case as we all know-he now faces trial in Lima.
He is one of the last great dictators like Robert Mugabe and George Bush, and Pakistan's president Musharref who stay in force (not power) far too long for anybody's good. South America has been supported by a CIA operation for decades, by an ongoing social manipulation project called Condor which basically keeps right wing leaders in power and stamps out leftist ideologies like the shining path. South America is a phenomenal mix then of huge and ugly cities, full to the brim with peasants who want to drive a Mercedes one day, and for whom the dream of success is a new religion. Huge billboards in Lima for example show the good life with famous models driving smart cars with their white glittering teeth, their tight bums and their chic clothes -promising an impossibility since most Peruvians can barely pay the rent and most women over thirty there certainly do not have tight bums.
Here in Peru advertising is where it was in Europe in the seventies. People actually believe that such an absurdity as endless consumer evolution is possible. I have seen shoe shine boys sleeping on pavements in Cusco in their bare feet, people sleeping in sewer pipes on the way into Lima and watched native porters get enlarged hearts carrying my group's baggage in the Andes.
Latin America includes for me Costa Rica where I was a founder of a radical experiment in free capitalism called Laissez Faire City. We attempted to live outside of all government controls of our finances (just like the best years of the USA) by creating a cyber city but we were too early. Others have now partly succeeded in our dream with systems like another life. In Panama I was involved with offshore banking specialists and discovered that thousands of Canadians and Americans now retire in Panama because their money lasts longer, the weather is better and the banks give much better returns. I once brought a leading Panamanian businessman to Tokyo and personally introduced him to the vice minister of finance at the time resulting in great fame for him back in Panama. Even the President of Panama had not met such high level Japanese government ministers. When the minister (who I shall not name for reasons soon to be obvious) asked me incredulously how I had been able to pull this off at his office in the finance ministry, I joked that I was working for MI6. Neither he, nor the Panamanian were amused. I just wanted to break the tension as I was interpreting between two very powerful men. Suddenly Senor Morales hugged the minister, I got the photograph and the next day it was on the front business page of Panama's leading daily newspaper La Republique. Morales almost made a hugely serious blunder that I had to help avoid for him. At my house in Hiro, where I was living in high style for a couple of years, I threw a party for Morales. In attendance were people including the president of APA hotels, the Panamanian consular officer, the minister's personal secretary and most importantly a woman who ran a ryoriya in Akasaka where I had taken Morales. She had slept with every Japanese prime minister since the war she claimed, and had been the number five of prime minister Miki. It was her who got us the interview with the minister, since her ryoriya was where the finance ministry held its informal meetings to decide your future. I mean that respectfully as well as facetiously. These men work very hard and play very hard. Anyway of his many secretaries the finance vice minister had a fluent Spanish speaking beauty. It was her he sent to the party at my apartment. Morales fell head over heels in lust for her. A typical machismo energy he had as a typical central American rich man meant he was always chasing women. There was only one problem. The one man he definitely did not want to annoy was her lover, the aforementioned minister. She was much more than a secretary. I stopped that fatal attraction by telling him to back off. He did.
I was also an old hand in the Yucatan where I had often spent many sunny days traveling from one pyramid to another in search of Mayan ghosts who might teach me something about our times from their cosmic philosophy. I had been in villages where Zapatista rebels and local peasants had been massacred by government troops in Chiapas state. Just about anywhere you go in Central or South america there will you find such a dichotomy-very passionate people living full on, tough lives and periodically the victims of massive injustices caused by right wing governments all trained and supported by the CIA. Even Wikipedia recognizes this, so it is not just a conspiracy theory.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Operation Condor (Spanish: Operación Cóndor, Portuguese: Operação Condor) was a campaign of political repressions involving assassination and intelligence operations officially implemented in 1975 by the right-wing dictatorships of the Southern Cone of South America. The program aimed to eradicate left-wing influence and ideas and to control active or potential opposition movements against the usually conservative governments. Due to its clandestine nature, the precise number of deaths directly attributable to Operation Condor will likely never be known, but it is reported to have caused thousands of victims, possibly even more. Condor's key members were the right-wing military governments in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil, with Ecuador and Peru joining later in more peripheral roles. These nations were ruled by dictators such as Jorge Rafael Videla, Augusto Pinochet, Ernesto Geisel, Hugo Banzer, and Alfredo Stroessner. The operation was jointly conducted by the intelligence and security services of these nations during the mid-1970s with support provided by the United States of America.
I recommend John Malkovitch's excellent first directorial movie The Dancer Upstairs to familiarize yourself with that world.
The expedition to Peru in 2008 to film the sacred festival at Qoylluriti was preceded by seven trips which began with that shaman, anthropologist and gifted teacher Alberto Villoldo in 1995. That seemed to set the pattern for who I was going to be dealing with over the next dozen years as I took group after group of Japanese participants to experience with me the sheer magic, literally that, of this ancient culture. How ancient? We cannot know, but I have my suspicions that if the monuments at Sacsayhuaman in Cusco which are impossibly huge megaliths, or at the temple of the sun in neighbouring Bolivia at Tiahuanaco are anything to go by I am inclined to believe Incan myths more than archaeologists who claim it is all quite recent. The Bolivian monument is an important Pre-Columbian archaeological site in western Bolivia. Tiahuanaco, also spelled Tiwanaku according to Wikipedia :
is recognized by Andean scholars as one of the most important precursors to the Inca Empire, flourishing as the ritual and administrative capital of a major state power for approximately five hundred years. The ruins of the ancient city state are near the south-eastern shore of Lake Titicaca, about 72 km (44 miles) west of La Paz, Bolivia. Some have hypothesized that Tiwanaku's modern name is related to the Aymara term taypiqala, meaning "stone in the center", alluding to the belief that it lay at the center of the world.However, the name by which Tiwanaku was known to its inhabitants has been lost, as the people of Tiwanaku had no written language.
It is clear to any acute observer in Peru that two entirely different civilizations are expressed almost everywhere. The Inca and its related cultures are definitely not that old but inside Inca sites like at Ollantaytambo you can seee very primitive stonework next to truly amazing megaliths that weigh hundreds of tons, cut to exact specifications by who knows what kind of technology. The Inca themeselves failed to replace one of those giagantic stones that had fallen from its place at Sacsayhuaman despite using hundreds of slaves with ropes. Many were killed as the stone rolled free of their grasp. It is not my intention to disparage the work of archaeologists but like Graham Hancock I have seen far too many sophisticated monuments around the world that simply beg the question, Who really did this and how? My participants were therefore always given the local, government trained guide explanation and my research too so they could make up their own mind. The problem is simple. If the Egyptians did not build the pyramids, if it was proven one day that a previously unknown race of people built them all over the world based on similar principles and sciences then the monument ceases to belong to Egypt and becomes ours. Peruvian monuments belong no more to the Peruvian state as my body belongs to my parents.
Their myths have been passed down to the Incas and the Spanish who in turn took that part of South America. They worshipped many gods, and one of the most important gods was Viracocha, the god of action, shaper of many worlds, and destroyer of many worlds. He created people, with two servants, on a great piece of rock. Then he drew sections on the rock and sent his servants to name the tribes in those areas. In Tiwanaku he created the people out of rock and brought life to them through the earth. The Tiwanaku believed that Viracocha created giants to move the massive stones that comprise much of their archeology, but then grew unhappy with the giants and created a flood to destroy them.
Peru appears to me as a profoundly shamanized culture. Even the president has been known to consult with shamans like my old friend Theo. Theo paredes is an archaeologist, anthropologist and practising shaman. A cultured background in both North and South hemispheres has taken him to the highest levels of the Peruvian state as 'advisor'. He currently holds healing seminars and expeditions to meet aboriginal elders and shamans in Peru, Chile and North america. He has a wonderful healing/teaching centre just South of Cusco called the Poqen Kanchay Foundation.My small group of Japanese were its first clients back in the nineties.
Ruben Orellana lives in Cusco and has taught archaeology at its fine university. A one time resident archaeologist at Machu Pichu he is currently teaching shamanism theory and practise around the world as well as leading expeditions in Peru to sacred sites. He too stands in the above photo at a thermal spring a few hours outside Cusco. We drank the milk of magnesium-like waters in large quantities forcing us all to 'purge' for hours in the adjoining toilets. We left, clean as whistles to continue our washuma ceremony at the temple of Viracocha. His songs, accompanied by his rythmic rattle, are a great help in the healing work he does with plants. He often works with Theo Paredes. He found a hitherto unknown road into Machu Pichu while in a visionary state during ayahuasca ceremony. He became an eagle and flew over the fabled ruins where he was the chief archaeologist. From high above he noticed a track that was later confirmed as an ancient road subsequently putting him on the cover of Time. He is a rascal. He is a highly gifted healer too and like Theo has created his own healing centre in the sacred valley. I hosted him and ethnobotanist Terence McKenna for a seminar on shamanism on the island of Kauai and he brought a Condor feather for me as a gift. In return I gave him an eagle wing I had received from a Canadian native Indian. Strangely enough there is a prophecy which states that the eagle will once again fly with the condor meaning the native traditions of North and South America will once again be in a co-creative relationship with each other.
Then there is the Peruvian shaman Don Ignacio who is an ayahuasquero healer who held ceremony with my groups in the jungle of Madre de Dios, East Peru. A beautiful guy who keeps you from splattering all over the multidimensional fan in deep ayahuasca trance, with his lilting icaros (sacred ayahuasca songs) he lives in a village the Spaniards called Infierno=Hell. That is what they brought is it not? Don Ignacio has been a healer for half a century and is now the mayor of hell village. He presided over 20 ceremonies with me and my Japanese participants where we all entered the strange and terrifyingly beautiful world of the magical plants, the world of the visionary soul, the vine of the dead. Some people I took were healed of diseases, some fell asleep, some had life changing experiences and some preferred to drink beer instead of ayahuasca. To each man his own. Personally some of the most beautiful and terrifying moments of my life have been in that jungle. One night I decided to walk in the jungle alone and switch off the flashlight. It was most memorable indeed. I also fondly remember doing ceremonies that included my wife , my daughter and my son. My daughter will never forget the sublime and precious experience she had of literally meeting the Egyptian goddess Isis (goddess of art amongst other titles) who sang celestial songs through Maasa for hours. The sounds were so unearthly, so ecstatically beautiful that all who were there begged for her never to stop singing. The result was that my then 17 year old daughter decided to and did become a singer songwriter. But that song, that ethereal voice, has never returned like that. It was a miracle. I have dozens of stories like that but will not bore the reader with any more. Suffice to say that at the end of that ceremony I crawled over to her and she got on my back to ride on me. She saw me as a jaguar....
Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui (or Pachacutec; Quechua Pachakutiq, whose name means "He who remakes the world" was the ninth Sapa Inca (1438-1471/1472) of the Kingdom of Cuzco, which he transformed into an empire, Tawantinsuyu. He began the era of conquest that, within three generations, expanded the Inca dominion from the valley of Cuzco to nearly the whole of civilized South America. He was the fourth of the Hanan dynasty, and his wife's name is given as Mama Anawarkhi or Coya Anahurque. Their son was Tupac Inca Yupanqui. Their other son was Prince Yupanqui, who married Coya Chimpu Cello, the parents of Prince Inca Tupac Yupanki, who married Mama Cello, the parents of Princess Beatriz Tupac Yupanqui, wife of Conquistador Pedro Alvarez de Holguín, son of Pedro Alvarez de Golfín and wife Constanza de Aldana, and had female issue (ancestors of José Gervasio Artigas and Gabriel Antonio Pereira and three times ancestors of Princess Máxima of the Netherlands).
His given name was Cusi Yupanqui and he was not supposed to succeed his father Inca Viracocha who had appointed his brother Urco as crown prince. However in the midst of an invasion of Cuzco by the Chankas, the Incas' traditional tribal archenemies, Pachacuti had a real opportunity to demonstrate his talent. While his father and brother fled the scene Pachacuti rallied the army and prepared for a desperate defense of his homeland. In the resulting battle the Chankas were defeated so severely that legend tells even the stones rose up to fight on Pachacuti's side. Thus "The Earth Shaker" won the support of his people and the recognition of his father as crown prince and joint ruler.
To remake the world? That is our job now, not the rulers and the kings of Earth but we, the Earth Pilgrims.
After I had decided to do the pilgrimage to Qoylluriti in 2007 Winter I was sure that it would be a documentary first. However to my astonishment I saw two documentaries on it within two consecutive days. The first was on a Japanese TV channel, and it focussed on the lives of one family who were sending their man to the festival to represent their village. He and his wife and two children eked a meagre living from the tending of llamas and the cultivating of potatoes. The money required to get him in costume and with a flute player to make the journey from his isolated farm was significant, and so half of the documentary very clearly showed how important such a pilgrimage is for each community and also how difficult it is to make it happen. I think it is difficult for everybody whether they have money or not since every pilgrimage brings every pilgrim through a process that inevitably involves some suffering. In a world of perfect relativity he lived a much simpler life externally, was very poor and had to work really hard physically to keep body and soul together. But he had an ancient tradition behind him, a community of support, and a simple faith that left his life relatively calm. I was without such a community of support, lived a far more complex life, had access to much more money than he and though not so much involved in menial labour my brain muscles were just as tired as his arms. I find it very offensive when experts tell us that we do not understand indigenous people or that we are spoiling them with our gifts, our presence and our money. Years ago the Qoylluriti had not allowed foreigners but it was inevitable. What I am getting at is the facile distinction some people make between us and them. As if we did not all have hearts that can ache, muscles that can hurt and pride that can be worked for. I was no less of a pilgrim than he because I went through the process. Though our worlds may be totally different there is no objective way you can say mine is better or easier than his. We are men. We have souls. We suffer and we die. The form of our suffering may be different but the feeling of it is the same. Ouch.
The other documentary was a National geographic special on sacred geography by Wade Davis. This was after I had contacted him to be part of the Earth Pilgrims movie. There he was on camera interviewing Nilda Callañaupa, a well known weaver from the village of Chinchero who I had met in 1997. She had taken the simple art of weaving in the traditional Andean style to the world, and she had been invited to later lecture at prestigious American universities. In 1996, she helped establish the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco (CTTC), whose mission is to preserve and promote the indigenous Andean weaving traditions. Now director of CTTC, Callañaupa has organized collectives in nine towns, which support about 400 weavers, and helps to market their works for a fair price. CTTC has also established a permanent exhibit and gallery to represent the weavers in Cuzco. Callanaupa was born in Chinchero, Peru in 1960 and received her Master’s degree in Tourism from the Universidad Nacional de San Antonio Del Cusco in 1997. She speaks her native Quechua along with Spanish and English. She has taught numerous Andean weaving workshops, given lectures and participated in many conferences in the United States since 1970. The Interweave Press book Weaving in the Peruvian Andes: Dreaming Patterns, Weaving Memories explains how the textiles of Perú reflect the heritage of the Inca and represent the geography and history of their mountain birthplaces.
She had basically told Wade on camera that asking questions like where do Christian beliefs and Andean shamanism begin and end, with a quip that for them the Peruvians, "There is no division.." So there I was re-thinking doing a 'first' documentary. For a while I considered other options but there something about that mountain, about that pilgrimage that just would not go away. Getting there was full of problems though. Just like the simple peasant traveling from his shack to Qoylluriti, I would also discover that all things being equal I would go through just as much as he would, including (as he did) an injury to the most important part of a pilgrim's body, the foot, organizational problems -he would have to attend village meetings to debate the wisdom of raising money to send him as their representative, I would have to ask private investors to back me with money to pay for an expedition, and also there was the difficulty of getting the right people to help. In his case he would have to find a good flautist to accompany him. In my case I needed a local co-ordinator for tents, horses, sleeping bags and ground transportation. It might be argued that my problems were luxury problems and his were much more basic and real. Nonsense, I would reply, for all things are indeed equal and the experience of the individual is pretty much the same since it all revolves around those feelings. Pilgrimage is a great leveler of social distinctions. That is why it is so important.