La Cumbre, Bolivia, Aug 1 (EFE).- The icy wind, quite common on the Bolivian altiplano, or high plains, does not prevent the dozens of people who travel the 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) from La Paz to La Cumbre (The Summit), to ask the “achachilas” – the wise protectors – for prosperity and health at the beginning of Pachamama month.
People, especially families and workers, got up at dawn on Tuesday or spent the night at the Summit, a windswept mountain pass at 4,700 meters (15,400 feet) above sea level, to welcome the first day of August, the so-called Month of Mother Earth in Bolivia.
August is the month chosen for making the offerings because that’s when the Andean world’s first agricultural season ends and, according to the local indigenous communities, at this time of the year Mother Earth “opens her mouth” to provide food.
Families bring “tables” to feed the land and the wise achachilas to ask for prosperity, love, work and family, but also especially to thank the protectors for good health.
“We have the custom, every year, of making offerings since this represents a payment to Pachamama for various reasons, not only for wealth, but for everything. We come to ask for work, health and well-being,” Rene Aduviri, who has been making offerings for more than 25 years with his family, said.
In the Aymara belief system, achachilas are spirits that live underground in the mountains, appearing in the guise of old men and who send rain, hail or frost.
The “tables” previously prepared by “amautas” or indigenous sages include sweets, items representing whatever requests are being made and which are mixed with colored wool, coca leaves and dried llama fetuses, some decorated with gold and silver leaf.
“The sweetness of the Pachamama’s table represents the sweetness that we want to have in our lives,” Aduviri emphasized.
He added various fruits, such as green apples, to the “tables” that had been prepared to ensure that Pachamama would hear his thanks and also his requests.
The offerings are placed on top of an incense burner or smoke stove so that they will be consumed by fire, as part of certain rituals such as “ch’allar,” sprinkling alcohol on the “table” along with beer, and sometimes prayers are spoken in the Aymara language or the people raise their hands asking for the prayer to be “received” and “granted.”
“For our people, this time (of year) means that Pachamama opens her mouth and we have to provide things like offerings and tables, and we come to give thanks,” the general director of Traditional Medicine, Viviana Camacho, told EFE while making an offering to Mother Earth with her team.
She said that you have to act “with respect” during the ceremonies, so before making their offering they cleaned the location, and she added that they hope that this year Mother Earth will provide them with “strength” over the coming 12 months.
Several of the people typically wait until the offering is completely consumed to see if the “table” has been well received by Pachamama, something that can be detected by the color of the ashes: If the ashes are white, then Mother Earth is thought to have received the offering with joy.
“I only hope that there’s a good (harvest) of food this year and that the land provides us with water,” Aduviri said.
Families and groups of friends sit around the “tables” until the offering is consumed, sipping alcoholic beverages and listening to music.
Just like at La Cumbre, these ceremonies are conducted at a number of places around Bolivia, especially in the city of La Paz, with even the country’s top authorities participating, while businesses, restaurants and some households will make their own offerings all during the month.
Bolivian Vice President David Choquehuanca, who has appeared at different international venues as a defender of the environment and living properly, recalled on his social network accounts that “August, the month of Pachamama, (is) a time of gratitude and reunion with our Mother Earth.”
“It’s a month to reflect on the responsibility we have to care for our Mother Earth. Jallalla our #Pachamama!” he added, using a well-known word in Bolivia that made its first formal appearance in a dictionary of the Aymara language in 1612 and means “It’s good.”