Gathering of seeds from the ancestral pathways of maize in the Qero Nation, Peru

October 2018

The town of Ocongate at 4200 meters altitude, with rain and wind, receives the Qero families that descend from 5200 meters where they live. They come to the first gathering of the ancestral pathways of maize of the Qero Nation, a great meeting with diverse communities coming from several Qero territories to celebrate together around corn.

Since the first day the “mamitas” and also the men cooked communally to receive more than 300 guests. The menu included llama meat, soups and many different dishes of corn, which they sow in a territory down in the jungle, an initiative supported by Alianza Milpa and which this year allows them to extend the planting space from 1 to 5 hectares.

Very early, the guests begin to arrive, presenting themselves as a group, always accompanied by the sound of the flute and the drum, presenting their respects to Mother Earth and the homeowner.

Once they are all in a circle, they begin to share the traditional dances of their own territories, all around the theme of growing maize. The sound of songs could also be heard rising with the wind to the fields—prayers thanking the good planting and upcoming harvest, recognizing that this ancient act is a fundamental pillar of the people and their sovereignty.

Later each community presents its best weavers, experts in the art of shearing, cleaning and dyeing wool with vegetables and roots, who sit on the ground and prepare to start weaving. Then a jury determines which community and representative is most skilled at this art.

Later is the turn of gastronomy: different ancestral foods are arranged in a large table waiting to be named and recognized as the representative dish of this year’s maize gathering. There are so many varieties, colors and flavors that the winner’s choice becomes a real challenge. The women who have been cooking are in most cases accompanied with children on their backs or between their skirts who with large eyes look attentively and nervously at each person who tastes the food they have prepared.

Then comes the awaited moment for lunch where the men serve out of large pots the food amidst smiles and jokes that are made to each other throughout the process, in a space of healthy joy and coexistence.

At the end of the day recognition is made to those who participate and the winners are chosen, who are given prize calls and sheep, which are received with great joy and emotion, where the common language of so many people with different origins is evidently the smile, that gives way to the copying rain that each group retires running and grateful to take shelter and then return for hours on the way to the high mountains where they continue their lives, protecting their knowledge and traditions recognized as cultural heritage of humanity: Loa Nation Qeros.

At the end of the day, the winners are chosen and recognition is given to those who participated. The winners receive llamas and sheep, which are accepted with great joy and emotion. The common language among so many people of different origins is the smile. An intense rain arrives to close the day, causing each group to retreat running to shelter and then return for hours walking on the pathway to the high mountains where they continue with their day-to-day lives, protecting their ancestral knowledge and traditions recognized as cultural heritage of humanity: The Qero Nation.