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23 January, 2017

The gods of the earth and the free prior and informed consent

If for the Indigenous Peoples and Christians the mountains are sacred places, why criticize their defense?

Foto: Gualberto Valderrama

For indigenous peoples, mountains and hills are the extension of the Pachamama (Mother Earth) to the sky, hence they are places of special spiritual importance because they are the place of dialogue with earth, sky, water and fire, the fundamental elements of nature.

Within the indigenous spirituality, hills and mountains are a place of offering and pilgrimage and in few occasions, humanity’s center and place of origin, pacarina (sacred place) and protector, also known as guardian hill. This category within the Lima geography is held by San Cristóbal hill and the Morro Solar among the best known, but they are not the only ones.

The placing of Catholic symbols on “pagan” places is a tradition within Catholicism and has been present ever since the Christian religion was institutionalized as a state church with the Roman empire, following a strategy that has used all cultures throughout the world and in all ages to validate their hegemony and power over other religions, but with a fundamental difference: Catholicism was directed to destroy all vestiges of other religions.

Hence, in our case, the presence of crosses in different hills and promontories throughout our territory to “silence” the apus (gods) who lived there and who “talk” with the locals. In the case of the most important Apus, this dialogue was held with the population of different regions and localities of the Coast, Andes and Amazon. The one who comes to mediate is the cross or the Christian image and its earthly representative: the church, the priest and the catholic cult, as evidenced by the celebration of the feast of crosses and multiple pilgrimages to mountain sanctuaries, like Qoyllur Ri’ti in Cusco or the lord of Muruhuay in Junin.

Since ancient times, the mountains have had special religious and mystical significance for us peoples. For the Catholic religion and monotheism expressed in an omnipresent God and Creator, the sacred mountains were the symbol of paganism and a threatened to their faith due to a practice that was deeply rooted in indigenous peoples spirituality and territory, that remains today in the shamanic rituals, and as a practice among sacred wise men who call for them to ask for help and wisdom.

The power invoked does not reside in the mountain, hill or promontory as a physical object. This is the place of living or home of the spirit and the force that animates and manifests in it. From our worldview it has life, there is a spirit within that gives them live, and this has always been controversial for western culture, whose carriers forget that their own believes and prayers also keep this logic, much like the anointed hosts and wine.

It is not about continuing a controversy on which believe, worship or religion is true or not, but about the respect for our spiritual self that animates those beliefs. The endangerment of sacred sites in search for their natural resources, without discussing first the importance and significance of these places for the local population, only continues to reproduce centuries of silence of an important part of our humanity: spirituality. Developing the process of free prior and informed consent is not an obstruction to development, nor a mere bureaucratic process to comply with State agreements, but the expression of a society that has learned to listen and respect its diversity.