Wednesday, May 25, 2016

When Two Sets of Religious Beliefs Collide (or Coincide)

A few days ago we visited the old city of Pisac, also known as La Valle Sagrada. As we hiked through the old city we conversed with Javier, our tour guide who had been born and raised in the colonial part of Pisac. When he took us to a resting spot to discuss the history of the old city, he explained to us that due to his Andean heritage, he practiced both Quechua and Catholic religions. At first I found that to be a contradiction, but he explained to us how he reconciled the two:

While the Catholic religion focuses on living righteously by a firm set of values, and in turn repenting for the times when those values are neglected, the Quechua religion focuses on nature and giving thanks to the earth for its blessings of food and other resources. Therefore, instead of being split between two religions, he finds himself able to be even more spiritual and give thanks to an array of higher beings. As we continued walking, I commented on the number of elderly and older people I saw walking through the ruins of the old city. When I asked Javier about this, he easily related it back to a Quechua idea of personal spirit. He explained that he had seen people upwards of 80 years old climb Machu Picchu without any problems, while people my own age gave up a third of the way into the trek. The difference was the age of their spirit, which he said could be kept young by feeding your soul with things such as exercise, healthy foods, and natural remedies. While this idea was indeed Quechua, it fell in line with Catholic and Christian guidelines such as not doing drugs, drinking in excess, or being gluttonous. Although at first I was skeptical that one could follow two religions and not feel that one dominated the other, Javier was a great example of who two sets of spiritual beliefs were more similar than they seemed and could actually complement each other.

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