Planted in the ground like giant stone mushrooms are dozens of giant stone penises. They raise a few eyebrows. Known to the Inca as Falo’s they represent reproduction. Dozens protrude proudly from the dry soil and dozens more are buried helmet first into the ground.
The Temple of Fertility in Chuquito is a short drive from Puno in the Titicaca Basin in the south of Peru. The buried helmets represent reproduction whilst dozens more stand upright like giant mushrooms represent fertility.
The temple was built between 1300-1500 BCE, and was used by the Inca to pray for children and for the sun to continue shining to keep Pachamama (mother earth) fertile.
These two important aspects of life were always at the forethought of Inca thinking and they worshipped them obsessively in traditional ceremonies and rituals. Gold specks found in broken ceramics indicate the site was very important to the Incas.
Ceremonies involved offering gifts such as roses and coca leaves to the Gods. The offering was placed in a crevice carved into the stone at the bottom of the Falo. Women would sit on the stone above the rose at the front of the monument whilst the man sat behind her with his legs straddled around the Falo. Together they would pray for children.
Whilst my guide, Juan Jose explains the ritual (using me and an attractive Bolivian girl as dummies) local women and children join us to listen. It struck me that the locals, adult nor child of modern day Peru knew the true meaning of the ruins on the doorstep of their homes.
Perhaps the reason for that lies in the adjacent building, a quaint colonial church a short walk from the ruins. Planted in the foregrounds outside the church is a stone monument carved into the catholic cross. It marks the spot where indigenous peoples were flogged and hanged for refusing Catholicism.
Despite this region being an Aymara stronghold today, it is evident the Spanish made a strong impression in the region. Stones from the demolished temple of Fertility were used to build the local colonial church and the people here are more aware of the Christian faith than their own historic traditions. As we left I couldn’t help feeling they had been wronged.
The travesty of Chuquito
Chuquito was used as an important central administrative site and military base by the Spanish. After the conquistadores had defeated the Inca they pillaged the land of gold and silver mined by the Indians. It was bought here before being shipped to Europe.
The treatment of the Indigenous peoples across South America was atrocious. Many were raped and murdered, used as slaves and tortured. The survivors were forced to turn their backs on centuries old traditions and religious practices.
The choice was simple – accept Christianity or die. Indians had to present written evidence they had converted to Catholicism. Failure to do so meant they would not be allowed every day necessities like corn and salt.
Many of the Spanish conquistadores were impoverished men, peasants, artisans or the lower ranks of nobility. They saw South America as an opportunity to acquire wealth and used the Indians as slaves to mine the land. At one point the Spanish banned the Inca from chewing coca leaves, but when the production levels dropped gave it back to them. One Spanish chronicler wrote that the conquistadores Peru would not have been built had it not been for coca leaves.
The conquistadores mal-treatment of indigenous peoples is not the only occasion western forces have abused South American natives. A little over a hundred years ago, 30,000 Amazon Indians were enslaved, raped and tortured by British tyrants.
The Peruvian Amazon Company, a British-registered rubber magnet, exploited South American Indians in what became a rubber boom in the Europe and American markets. Under the guise of traders, agents of PAC rounded up dozens of Amazonian tribe´s people and abused them with constant flogging. It was often the case that the end result was murder. In just 12 horrific years many tribes were wiped out.
Between them the British and the Spanish destroyed entire civilisation in the Americas and it´s only because the indigenous people´s went underground that their traditions just about survive today.
In my time exploring Bolivia and Peru, together with what I know about the history of South America, I can´t help but feel that the reason for European superpowers to subjugate people here was more to do than land and financial gain, but to peel their knowledge of esoteric wisdom and nullify the human capacity to understand the truth of life.