June 20, 2014

1107 PERU (Cusco) - A Quechua mother with her children on the Sacred Valley of the Incas

As it is known, the territory of present Peru was the heart of the Inca Empire, the largest empire in pre-Columbian America. It had a short life of only about 100 years, but at peak it included a population estimated between 4 and 37 million people, from 100 different cultures and speaking at least 20 languages. Since 1438 the official language of the empire was Quechua. After the Spanish Conquest, the local population decreased to around 600,000 in 1620, and Spaniards and Africans arrived in large numbers. Gradual European immigration followed independence, and many Chinese arrived in the 1850s, replacing slave workers. As result, today Peru is a multiethnic country, but despite all these, 46% of the population is Amerindian. The two major indigenous ethnic groups are the Quechuas (belonging to various cultural subgroups), followed by the Aymaras. A large proportion of the indigenous population who live in the Andean highlands still speak Quechua or Aymara, and have vibrant cultural traditions, some of which were part of the Inca Empire.

Quechuas (also Runakuna, Kichwas, and Ingas) is actually a collective term for several indigenous ethnic groups in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Argentina, who speak a Quechua language. Despite their ethnic diversity and linguistic distinctions, the various Quechua ethnic groups have numerous cultural characteristics in common. They also share many of these with the Aymara, or other indigenous peoples of the central Andes. Traditionally, Quechua identity is locally oriented and inseparably linked in each case with the established economic system. It is based on agriculture in the lower altitude regions, and on pastoral farming in the higher regions of the Puna. Unfortunatelly, Up to the present time Quechuas continue to be victims of political conflicts and ethnic discrimination and persecution.

The traditional dress worn by Quechua women today is a mixture of styles from Pre-Spanish days and Spanish Colonial peasant dress. An individual set of traditional Peruvian dress is known collectively as a Bordado. The mother and the girl in the postcard wears Polleras, a colourful skirt made from handwoven wool cloth called bayeta. The Quechua women may wear 3 or 4 skirts in a graduated layer effect, and on special occasions even up to 15. Often the trim of each skirt is lined with a colourful Puyto, usually also handmade. In some areas Polleras are referred to as Melkkhay (Quechua). Both females wears wool jackets called Juyuna, with front panels decorated with white buttons. They are elaborately adorned and commonly turned inside out for everyday use. Under the Juyuna they wear a tight-fitting synthetic sweater usually in brilliant shades of yellow, pink and green. 

The girl has a Lliclla, a small rectangular handwoven shoulder cloth fastened at the front using a tupu, a decorated pin (nowadays is used often a large safety pin). The mother has a K'eperina, a larger rectangular carrying cloth worn over the back and knotted in front (children and goods are securely held inside). The hats (Monteras) vary tremendously throughout the communities in the Andes. Often it is possible to identify the village from which a women comes from just by the type of hat she wears. Hats are secured with delicately woven sanq'apa straps adorned with white beads. The boy has a Ch'ullu, a knitted hat with ear flaps. The first Ch'ullu that a child receives is traditionally knitted by his father. All three wears Ajotas / Hojotas, sandals made from recycled truck tyres.

The picture was taken on the Sacred Valley of the Incas, formed by the Urubamba River (the sacred river), close to Cusco, probably near the small indian village Chinchero, situated at 3762m altitude, and considered to be the mythical birthplace of the rainbow. The village mainly comprises mud brick (adobe) houses, and locals still go about their business in traditional dress. The most striking remnant of the Inca times is the massive stone wall in the main plaza which has ten trapezoidal niches. The construction of the wall and many other ruins and agricultural terraces (which are still in use) are attributed to Inca Tupac Yupanqui who possibly used Chinchero as a kind of country resort.

About the stamp
The stamp is part of the series Caminos del Inca (Inca Roads), issued on August 6, 2009:
• Puente Inca de Qeswachaka (6 PEN) - it's on the postcard
• Camino Inca Wanacaure (6 PEN)
• Sector Escalerayoc, Lima (6 PEN)
• Quebrada Huarautambo, Pasco (7.5 PEN)

Peru - Wikipedia
Quechua people - Wikipedia
Traditional Quechua Clothing - My Peru, a Guide to the Culture and Traditions of the Andean Communities of Peru
Chinchero (Cusco), Peru - Independent Travel Guide to Peru
Traditional Andean Clothes - Squidoo

Sender: Yuri
sent from Callao (callao / Peru), on 18.04.2014 
photo: Henry Abanto

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