During the interviews for my book, Masters of the Living Energy (originally in hardback, Keepers of the Ancient Knowledge), don Juan Pauqar Espinosa said, “We are all just human beings, only our clothes are different.” How true. The Q’ero may be masters of their mystical tradition, but they also are just like you and me.
A round of pisco—bring it on!
While we rightly put them on a pedestal and honor their knowledge, there’s also every reason to view the Q’ero for what they are—human beings with the peculiarities, peccadilloes and propensities we all share.
I remember a language lesson at one of the breaks during the book interviews. The two youngest paqos, don Agustin and don Juan, were teaching me and two other women words in Quechua, and we, in turn, would teach them the same words in English. They would say a Quechua word, and we would repeat it back, sometimes several times to get the accent or emphasis correct. When we nailed it, they would point to what that word meant: nose, mouth, throat, ear, arm. Then don Agustin mischievously slipped in the Quechua words for breast, big breasts, and vagina, and we all cracked up laughing.
I had rented a lodging for the group during the interviews. We had the entire place to ourselves. In a front courtyard was a foosball table. The Q’ero had no idea what it was, but don Agustin and don Juan were intrigued. With only a little instruction, they were expertly spinning the rods—addicted! Two of the older Q’ero, the brothers Juan and Julian Pauqar Flores, were the cheering section. They were too timid to try the game themselves.
Don Mariano, like most of us, didn’t pay much heed to his elders when he was a kid. During the interviews, when we were talking about Q’ero history and the Inkari lineage, he said, with regret in his voice, “If I had known as a child that I was going to have the opportunity to talk about these things, then I would have listened better. But I was a child who listened to these things and they went in one ear and out the other! If I had known then that I was going to have this opportunity to speak with you, maybe I would have spent even a day learning these stories. I would have asked for these stories, even offering the elders a drink to tell me these stories!”
One time in Cuzco, a few of us were at Juan Nuñez del Prado’s house with some Q’ero. Lunch was served. The Q’ero were decidedly uncomfortable, furtively watching how we used the cutlery to eat. They obviously felt unsure of themselves, not having experience using forks and knives. We made light of it, keeping things playful, but it was obvious that they sometimes felt as uncomfortable in our world as we felt when in their villages, where we were unfamiliar with many of the ways and customs of their daily life.
Masters of the living energy. Yes! Playful, kind, humorous, fallible, self-effacing, doubting, regretful human beings just like you and me. Of course. . .