Pachamama is powerful! a woman from Cusco is heard to say. She tries to explain the typical Andean ritual of the Pago a la Tierra to visitors who are curious to observe. Her phrase summarizes the importance attributed by locals to this ancestral ceremony, which is carried out in an extended way in the different areas of Cusco in the month of August. Some gather in houses; others prefer mystical outdoor spaces like Sacsayhuaman. However, everyone shares the devotion to Mother Earth, the Pachamama.
The Pago a la Tierra is a tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation to the present day since the time of the Incas. They had a very close relationship with the elements of nature with which they lived: the rain, the mountains (which they called Apus), the sun, and, of course, the earth. The latter was considered to be a feminine element, since agricultural food production was related to fertility. To give thanks for the harvest each year, the Andean people made an offering based on their solid system of reciprocity: the land provided them with food and protection and they offered to her the best of their goods.
As we have mentioned, this practice has survived to this day and we can be part of it. We just need to have a grateful spirit and understand the importance of the elements of nature in the Andean worldview. An Andean shaman presides over the ritual for which he uses, as an offering, coca leaves (mediators between the world of nature and the human), different seeds of cereals, chicha (fermented corn beverage), sweets, and huairuros (red and black seeds that are used for protection). Each person who participates in the payment will receive, from the shaman, a “kintu” (a grouping of three coca leaves) and a small package with the rest of the elements. This will help each of the members to dedicate, along with their thanks and requests, their offering to Mother Earth. Finally, when everyone has placed his or her homage, the shaman asks for the blessing of the sacred mountains, the Apus, and a closing ritual is performed.