An Insight into the Inca: An Interview with Abraham Valencia Espinoza
There is little information about the Inca available in English. Before I embarked on my travels to Peru however, I was fortunate enough to be put in contact with a delightful and very helpful lady, Fresia Orihuela of Daily Tours in Cusco (Av. Sol 315, Tel: +51 084 277712).
Fresia was taken by the idea for my book and subsequently arranged an interview with Senor Abraham Valencia Espinoza, a retired historian who had an illustrious career as an anthropologist at Cusco University for 50 years.
Dr. Valencia originates from Quechua and specialised in the study of ancient civilisations in South America. He has conducted a mountain of research into pre-Colombian cultures together with studies of Andean mystics and Cosmo visions of Shamanic tribes. I met up with him at his home in Cusco to learn more about Andean cultures and what modern man could learn from ancient civilisations. In order to communicate we enlisted the services of a translator, a pleasant and mild-mannered gentleman, David Choque.
Dr. Valencia is wearing a white shirt and beige trousers. His friendly face is capped with greying hair that curl into tiny spirals. To ease into the interview I ask how the Inca were able to achieve such extraordinary feats of engineering and how they learned such progressive architectural skills.
“Before the Inca there were tribes who possessed this knowledge. The Tiwanakans, the Wari’ and the Pucara were the most important.”
Senor Valencia explained these civilisations became very knowledgeable about architecture and engineering. But I still wanted to know how they acquired the knowledge. The professor replied, “They were shown by Viracocha. It goes back to the myths.”
Viracocha is said to have arrived in South America from across the ocean and walked into the highlands. Dr. Valencia told me about the legend I discovered in Isla del Sol, that talks about Viracocha rising from the depths of Lake Titicaca on a bed of white foam.
“Viracocha looked totally different to the other people in the area,” Dr. Valencia said. “The people thought he was something mythical and were frightened of him. They didn’t trust him and treated him as an enemy. They threw rocks at him with slings so Viracocha started a fire.”
The interpreter David, a very knowledgeable man himself told me about an event that happened in the ancient past and is still remembered to this day. The region described in the myth is called Kanamarka which means ‘burned city.’ According to legend, the people were afraid of the fire and fled from the village. When they reflected what they had done to Viracocha they were overcome by guilt and returned to the settlement to make their peace. It was agreed they would build a temple in honour of his wisdom. The ruins of the Wiracocha Temple can still be found in the former Aymara community of Raqchi.
I was curious to know whether Senor Valencia subscribed to the orthodox teachings of historians so I ask him when he believed advanced civilisation began. He replied more than 5000 years ago.
“Thousands of years before or hundreds?” I say.
The learned man gave a wry smile and said, “The Incas were the last culture to have knowledge of the ancients. That is why they were so good at medicine, architecture and maths etc.”
“Knowledge that had been passed down for thousands of years,” I pushed. He nodded his head, but didn’t give a date. Orthodox historians tell us advanced civilisation began in Mesopotamia in modern day Iraq around the year 5500 BCE. Yet here I was with a former historian of the Andes region hinting advanced knowledge in this area of the world may well be much older. My curiosity satisfied I decided to leave it at that, but asked his opinion about the engineering feats achieved at Tiwanaku.
“In order to cut stones so precisely they had to work day and night. They used Amorite stone to shape the other stones.”
Knowing that some of the stones at Tiwanaku are granite, I quizzed Dr. Valencia about how they could have been cut with Amorite. Dr. Valencia replied that the ancients knew of volcanic stones which contained diamonds. This is how they were able to carve diorite. The answer was perfectly acceptable but for one major detail: the Tiwanakans would still have needed the right tools and know-how to cut shapes into the stone with such precision.
“People in the Raqchi area still working with them,” Dr. Valencia told me. His evasive answer suggested I wasn’t going to get an answer.
I was interested to know more about Senor Valencia’s study into Cosmo visions. “Shamans enter a Cosmo vision where they go into the Milky Way and can read the future.” They sounded very much like the description I had read in Diane Dunn’s book, ‘Cusco: The Gateway to Inner Wisdom.’
“There are three worlds, “Dr. Valencia said. “The Upper World, Our World and the Under World. When a Shaman enters a Cosmo vision he enters the Upper World.” As an after-thought, Dr. Valencia said, “but there has not been any real Shaman’s like in Inca times for years.”
David enhanced on this and told me most Shamans today are fakes. “Not even the Q’ero is 100% authentic.” That’s not to say all Shamans are pretenders, many do still practice ancient traditions, but because traditions have died out over time, it is considered Shaman’s today are not as powerful as they were in the ancient past.
Dr. Valencia tells us a story about a very powerful type of Shaman known as Alto Misayoq. It is said they are struck by lightning in order to gain special powers. Earlier that day I had seen a picture depicting such a scene in the office of a Shamanic healing centre. Dr Valencia told us that the last genuine Alto Misayoq living in Cusco died 51 years ago when he was still a boy. The man had a scar on his back in the shape of lightning. His predictions were considered to be so creditable that even the Catholic priests invited him in to the church to help people. He was so well respected that when he died the entire city turned out for his funeral.
“What important artefacts tell us most about the past,” I asked.
Dr. Valencia told me to look for artefacts with stars on them. I had already found many ceramics depicting stars and had come across a lot of evidence that supported the fact ancient cultures had an in-depth knowledge of astronomy.
“And the magnetic stone, the Hatun Taqe Viracocha,” Dr Valencia said. “This is very important.
Translated from Quechua the name means ‘The Great God Viracocha,’ and represents the upper world of the Inca. In 1613, Pacuakutiq Yanki Salgamaywi, a native chronicler, painted an oval shaped image in a painting to represent Viracocha and the stone has become synonymous with the mythical creator God ever since.
I wanted to know how the Quechua scholar felt about how the traditions of his indigenous culture were dying out. He looked pensive for several moments and a solemn glaze reflected in his dark eyes.
“Traditions are dying out because myths are disappearing. Nobody talks about Viracocha anymore,” he said. “One particular myth tells the story of a war between the Chankas and the Incas. After weeks of vigorous fighting the blood in the streets reached all the way up to the ankles. Viracocha helped the Incas defeat the Chankas. Afterwards he left South America – the way he had arrived; by boat.”
It was an interesting myth, but the chronology didn’t fit. If Viracocha had first appeared during the time Tiwanaku was built – said to be 500AD – how could he helped the Inca defeat the Chankas in 1438?
“Modern culture is destroying indigenous traditions,” Dr. Valencia continues. “Native children want to create some level of class and try to live in white society, but they struggle. They can’t move forward and they can’t go back. They’re just stuck in the middle.” In Peru, these people are known as Choclo’s.
“Do you think the influence from Europe hindered the progress of South America as a culture and a continent?”
“The arrival of the Spaniards had a totally negative effect on South America. They destroyed the culture, traditions and beliefs,” Dr. Valencia said. As I had already heard in Puno, the Spaniards executed anyone who refused to adopt Christianity as their religion. That was especially the case for Inca rebel leader Amaru Tupac who was executed in the main square at Cusco.
To end the interview I asked the burning question, the main reason I was here.
“What can the modern age learn from ancient cultures?”
“There is a lot to learn from tradition. Respect the Gods is the first. Give to Pachamama and the Universe gives back to you. The Incas were much more economical than us because their systems were more efficient.”
Senor Valencia indicates ‘one moment,’ then stands and announces he wants to show me something. He left the room and returned smiling like a child. With him he carried a box wrapped in a patch blanket with four coloured squares. He told us: “In the past people with powers to predict the future were known as Alto Misayoq. A person struck by lightning was deemed to receive special powers. Out of the lightning come two stones. The stones are the High Priests amulets and have magnetic power. Through these stones the Alto Misayoq speaks with the Gods.”
Dr. Valencia proceeded to show us a demonstration using a blanket originally associated with the Alto Misayoq, known as a Tiklla (pronounced Tikia). He laid the blanket on the table and told me each coloured square represented four regions. White represented Chinchay Suyo. In that square you put the oil of a Llama. In the grey square you give corn. This is the region of Anti Suyo. In the brown square, Konti Suyo, you leave the foetus of a Llama. And in the black square, Kalla Suyo, there you put a starfish.
The centre of the cloth represents Cusco and there you place a shell filled with water. Then you leave a set of three coca leaves around the shell. Dr. Valencia pulls out a box filled with obscure paraphernalia. This is when things started to get complicated. He began taking things out of the box and placing them inside a cotton tea towel.
“This is a symbol of fertility,” he said taking a toy snake from the box. Then he pulls out an elongated gold Puma, a male figurine sporting an erection and the kidney stone of a Llama.
Traditionally the Power of Pachamama is performed on the 1st of January and 1st August, but in today’s world it is performed all the time. Though this is an example of how traditional wisdom is being ignored by practicing Shamans for commercial gain, the festival is still respected on the original dates and is a major event in Peru.
I recalled a conversation I had had earlier that day with a little Peruvian man called Angel, the manager of Ethnikas. He told me that the most important part of their service involved leaving a gift for Pachamama (Mother Earth). The ceremony teaches participants the importance of giving to Pachamama in order to receive from the Universe. The ceremony is part of the Ethnika experience when you book a session of ayahuasca. From what Senor Valencia had told me they certainly sounded more genuine than some of the other agencies I had spoken with.
Dr. Valencia proceeded with the demonstration and explained that the gifts to Pachamama are folded in paper and either burnt or buried in the ground. The ceremony is often referred to as a despacho and is supposed to create the life energy to make your wishes and desires come true.
When it was time to leave, Dr. Valencia took my hand firmly in the two of his and shook it warmly. “Thank you,” he said in English. “Thank you.” His gratitude was sincere and I got the impression it wasn’t for the $100 I’d had charged me for an hour of his time, but for exposing the history and traditions of indigenous Andes peoples to the West. He wasn’t the first to express his thanks and he wouldn’t be the last. Peruvians have an untold story to tell and they want the world to hear.
You can learn more about the Shaman of South America in my book available to buy now on Amazon.