Drought in Andean Quichua Tradition

"The Rain Stops When the Mountains Rest: Drought in Andean Quichua Tradition"

 

Tod Swanson, Interview of traditional healer Jose Manuel Samueza

San Miguel de Común, Pichincha, Ecuador.   Summer 1990

 

"There are no clouds [on the mountains] when the dry season is here." Compadre Jose told me, because "[The mountain] is very withdrawn.  Just like [us] they go away, they rest too.  Yes of course they rest."  People talk about nothing but rain. They look anxiously up at the mountain tops for clouds.   Mostly they remember droughts and famine years from the past.  "About ten years ago or maybe more, all of a sudden we lost the maize three years [in a row].  In one blow we lost the seed [corn], every time we kept losing the corn. Weed and it dried up, weed and it dried up.  It looks like it is going to happen like that to us again, the same way."  Life is threatened.  Dearly loved little kids and older people are likely to die.  Fear taxes their ingenuity. It taxes their wits. Day after day of thinking about rain wears them out.  "We used to say, Mountain Mother [Cotopaxi] still does not cry water, she still does not rain."  "no [rain] at all. Just pure sand...  Without maize there is hunger."

 

 

That is why there are no clouds [on the mountains] when the dry season is here.  When [the clouds] come on top of the mountains then there is [water] for rain.  Right now there is still no rain, you see?  When it rains up [on the Cerro de Guamani, the Papallacta pass] then the rains will soon come to us. [In ancient times when there was a drought, what did the medicine people do so that the rains would come?]  No.  There was nothing to do that way for the very reason that the mountain is already angry.  When the clouds are on top of the mountain then the rain storm will come for the corn and for every thing else. (When there is a drought is the mountain happy or angry?)  It is very sad, you see [that is why] those clouds go to the mountain.  [The mountain] is very withdrawn.  Just like [us] they go away, they rest too.  Yes of course they rest. When the clouds come from distant parts, when it rains in the east by Papallacta and Baeza, then it will come over here and the rain storm will reach us.  

But right now there is none, now there is almost no [rain] at all. Now [it is just] pure sand. I don't no. About ten years ago or maybe more, all of a sudden we lost the maize three years [in a row].  In one blow we lost the seed [corn], every time we kept losing the corn. Weed and it dried up, weed and it dried up.  It looks like it is going to happen like that to us again, the same way.  Without maize there is hunger.  Buying [food] we ate soup.  (What are the mountains doing in the months of hunger?  Aren't they working?)  No because God is punishing.

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