After having talked about it for awhile, I finally hauled myself up the mountains to visit the Q'ero, a remote and traditional nation that live in stone huts at 17,000 feet high. Until the 1950's, the Q'ero were pretty much left alone, except for the criollo hacenderos, or land-owners, who somehow managed to find them, give them Spanish names, cut their hair, and of course, put them to work in less than favorable conditions. The story that I had heard until my visit was that the Q'ero were the "Last of the Incas", untouched by "modern" civilization, but it's not clear to me just how remote they were if the hacenderos managed to get to them.
Recently, the Q'ero have been made famous by books by Alberto Villoldo and other writers, who have described their healing techniques and connected them to Europeans and North Americans. This has had some effect on the communities, with community members competing with each other for the tourist dollar and unqualified people offering "despachos", or ceremonies, to tourists. But despite this, the Q'ero people that I met still have a remarkable depth and openness, very refreshing in the commercialized hustle that Cusco has become. The very thin mountain air was also refreshing, even though three of the four of us who went to the communities from Cusco managed to get sick with some kind of stomach thing.
The trip was two days by car and horse to the first village, and then another day to the second.
While I was suffering from the stomach stuff, a local pampa misoyoq, or curandero , did a despacho for me, but I was too out of it to really see what was going on. The next day I began to feel better. A few days later, two other pampa misoyoq did one despacho each for three of us.
Very powerful work. That night I "dreamed" that the energy of the apu had entered and cleansed me. It was four o'clock in the morning, we're all lying in our sleeping bags in the stone hut of one of the curanderos. The apu told me in the dream to raise my hands to receive the energy, which I did. Afterwards, I had this almost irresistible urge to laugh out loud. This is what it feels like to be healed, I thought: emptiness, happiness, laughter.
Since my return I have managed to hold onto a new feeling of balance and clarity, even amidst the tug and pull of Cusco. Añay, Bernadino. Añay, Modesto, Añay, Lorenzo. Añay los apus.