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Rain in Andean Quichua Tradition

"When the People Cry the Mountains and Sky Cry in Response and it Rains "


Tod Swanson, Extracts from interviews in Llano Grande.

Summer 1989


During a period of drought in the summer of 1990 I interviewed various elderly Quichua people in Llano Grande, Pichincha Province Ecuador on traditional means of calling rain.  What follows are some of the responses.


My dear departed father told me that... when there were droughts so that the maize crops were threatened, our people "used to kneel at every corner [of the fields], and there they used to cry, they say they used to lift their poor hands up to heaven.  And then the angels would cry and it would rain perfectly.  They say it would rain.”  According to this same woman the angels are the dead who look down on the living.  Their eyes are the stars: "That Tia Chalanera used to say that the stars are the eyes of the dead. If they are very, very clear stars, they say that those are the eyes of young unmarried girls. Those other stars that appear sort of strange, those are [the eyes] of old people (Rosa Pulupa)."  


Crying to the mountains for rain was probably not a simple lament over dry soil but a general recalling of a whole series of losses caused by the mountain wind sickness and by the haciendas.  Crying in the fields is not just something that is done on formal occasions or in times of dire need.  Enrique Pulupa says that his grandmother would get them up every morning and make them cry.  Together they would sit in the patio braiding cabuya rope. The grandmother would then begin to sing laments to her dead husband and to her parents and all of the children would join in crying and singing for an hour or so.”

Apparently the mountains may also cry in response to the suffering on local people in the past.  One man told me that the mountains cried rain in response to the suffering of local people at the hand of patrons and epidemics that occurred several generations ago.   "And what made the Mountain Mother cry?" I asked an elderly man in Llano Grande.   "The reason the Mountain Mother cried was simply because from this land we went away to the lands of the owner of the hacienda of Papallacta.  You see the owners of this hacienda were also [the owners] of Papallacta.  Imagine, there were many people from our territory who offered up their lives, who died on other haciendas and never returned here. We had no way of knowing how to prevent yellow fever. Many people died for example on the hacienda of Truan.  On those haciendas of the Señora Carmen Angulo of Lima, the Sinali clan died. There all of the Sinali families were finished off so that they don't even exist here any more because the yellow fever caught them."

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