Fishermen, farmers, and fiestas: continuity in ritual of traditional villages on the northwest coast of Peru

Schaeffer, Nancy Ellen
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This dissertation is an attempt to explain aspects of sacred ceremonial expression of the Peruvian northwest coastal farmers and fishermen in the Moche Valley. The study is informed primarily by sacerdotes andinos (healer-priests), ancianos (elders), and native fishermen and farmers. Specifically, sacerdotes andinos are the teachers of ritualistic dances and myths. Lessons learned from the sacerdotes are not only an intellectual exercise; they are “lived.” The myths of fishermen and farmers are initiated and experienced with the sounds of the sacerdote “ancestor” conch trumpet, the maraca (seed) rattle and song-chants in ceremony, but not by everyday language. The initiation ritual of the Diablada dancers takes place on top of the huaca (sacred place) of the Chimú ancestor in Chan Chan from midnight to dawn. Then, with the siete ñustas de wiracocha (essence of seven mystical plants) combined with the sounds of the ocean waves breaking on the shore and the constant rattle and chanting of the sacerdote, one travels and learns. These historical-mythological adventure-traditions are repeated frequently, remembered and passed on from one generation to the next through sound. The dances of the Diablada, the Ingas and Ñustas, and the processional journey to the Moche River tell stories about the community, the land, relationships and the culture of the people. For each village, there is a distinct structure and style of expression. Traditional farming and fishing techniques, village relations, ceremonies, rituals, dances, music, and myth continue to exist and orient the people.