Christmas in Qosqo

For three days before Christmas, Qosqo´s main plaza is filled with people, plants, children, voices, and life. Indigenous people from nearby villages congregate here to take part in a massive marketplace, celebration, and the re-enactment of Christ´s birth. On Christmas Eve, our group walked around the Plaza de Armas, the main plaza in town, with at least three churches facing the plaza. There were many things to shop for, especially indigenous hand-crafted arts and spiritual items. There are also so many poor people -- something that I cannot ignore no matter where I go. We were swamped at times by begging children and/or people trying to sell us everything from earrings to paintings.

Yesterday we visited Piquillaqta and we managed an amazing ceremony at Tipon, at the Temple of Water, that lasted most of the day (after visits to two other major sacred sites). Quite elaborate, it was also emotional and healing.

We also visited ruins of the older Huari culture (pre-Inka), including amazing examples of living structures several thousands of years old.

And we had good talks about spirituality, the poor, and social change. We agreed the Creator is not responsible for so many poor people -- this is tied to a world-wide system of commercialization and capitalist alculturation. While there are many poor people in places like Peru, those who are closest to their traditions, their medininal plants, their community, and spiritual paths are rich in awareness and light.

Still it´s not right that there is so much injustice, inequity, violence, and suffering in this world. We talked extensively on Christmas day about how we deal with these aspects even as we seek our own personal spiritual development.

We feel our spiritual growth has to be linked to being strong, whole, conscious, connected, and intelligent for the ongoing struggle to make this world a place of peace and abundance for everyone.

We cannot separate the two vital goals and values. We also know we cannot change the world unless we have the knowledge, means, and community to change ourselves.

The group we brought to Peru from LA is made up of former drug addicts and alcoholics, raging men, diminished and invalidated women, men who have been in gangs and shot, and one Vietnam vet, all of us products of a disaffected, consumer-oriented society. But we have been working together for a few years now with the assistance of a strong sweat lodge circle (temescal) and our wonderful bookstore/community center, Tia Chucha´s Cafe & Centro Cultural (we also have important political, social, and cultural ties with other organizations and struggles).

Additionally, we have strong roots in the indigenous peoples of these lands -- one of our group is of Yaqui-Raramuri descent; another has ties to the Huicholes of Jalisco, Mexico; another is Mexika-Raramuri; and one has Mayan roots in Chiapas/Guatemala.

Yet having lived in the rough streets of LA most of our lives, we´ve been removed from some our connections, losing our ways and tongues, and often committing some destructive things to ourselves and our families in response. Becoming politically/socially conscious helped me begin to transcend this reality. Now with around 15 years of integrating myself into the indigenous teachings in the US, Mexico, Central America, and now Peru, I´ve begun to transcend to other levels of awareness and connection.

So our work for true social justice, peace, and the end of such human-made calamities like hunger will not stop. What I´ve learned with our teachers here in Peru is that this is all part of our own particular spiritual quests. And that all this transcendence through natural medicines, chants, prayers, and ceremonies should help us become strong and whole for the struggles we must continue when we return.

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