The Q'eros, Peru

The Q'eros

Centre for Ancestral Culture; Ceremonial Terrace
Update March 2023: Ceremonial Terrace

Calling in The Apus!

Calling in The Apus! With the help of Willka Yachay, and funds from the Serving Our Spirits Fund of EarthAction, and the  Jimmy Nelson Foundation, the Q’eros community finished building a terrace for a core practice of their worldview – the despacho – last year. Because of conditions in Peru, we had to wait a bit for images of the inaugural ceremony, but we are so happy with the result!

The multi-level design, by inspired pro bono architect Carlos Rey, represents the three worlds of the Andean philosophy, and more. Thirty masons built the terrace in ten days!

The Jimmy Nelson Foundation wants to thank all of our collaborators, all of our supporters who are the proud owners of a JNF book or art, and the Apus through beautiful ceremonies from this powerful spot!!!

Photos by Charlotte Chastain for Willka Yachay

Despacho Ceremony

With the arrival of the terrace, there’s now a dedicated place within the community for a ceremony widely known by its Spanish name, despacho, which refers to the burning of offerings to send messages to the mountain spirits, or Apus. Known as hawarikuy in Quechua, the ceremony is performed to mark important moments in life such as marriages and births, but also to ensure a good harvest. Coca leaves are placed together with various foodstuffs and small stones or pieces of paper and folded into a small package that is placed into a fire. In some cases, the paqo, the healer, makes the offering to strengthen the connection with Mother Earth, Pachamama, and the Apus.

Photos by Charlotte Chastain for Willka Yachay
Centre for Ancestral Culture
The Q’eros | Reciprocity | Jimmy Nelson Foundation | Centre for Ancestral Culture

The Wisdom Keepers of the Andes

High up between the endless peaks of the Andes mountains, the indigenous Q’eros people of Peru live an authentic spiritual and earth-centric life. After centuries of isolation, a road from the city has reached the remote mountain villages of this last Inkan community. The road has some clear advantages including easier access to emergency health care, critical supplies and commercial opportunities, and some big disadvantages like access for mining companies and the loss of community members to the city. When people leave, the beautiful ancient culture and wisdom can be left behind and forgotten.

The Preservation of Q’eros Culture

The Q’eros are creating and building a museum and center for the preservation of Q’eros culture – in Q’eros. The community curates, archives and exhibits photographs, videos, books, oral histories, musical recordings and instruments, textiles, artifacts and more unique to their community. And you can help as well!

Let's learn how we can preserve Q'eros culture in times of globalization
The Project

Local Partner NGO

The reciprocity projects support local communities in their quest to preserve and pass on their heritage and knowledge to future generations. The projects always originate from the community itself.

To ensure a successful outcome, all reciprocity projects are done in close collaboration with the community and the local NGO partner. We always work with NGO’s with resonating missions and visions which we encounter on our photography journeys.

For our reciprocity project with the Q’eros we work together with our local partner Willka Yachay 

The Story
Hannah Rae Porst, Willka Yachay | Peru | Q'eros

A simple road

A few years ago, a rocky dirt road gave the Q’eros villages access to the city for the first time. The road provides opportunities for commerce and education for the Q’eros, but some people are moving to the city, leaving their culture and ancient wisdom behind.

The Q’eros people are known as the wisdom keepers of the Andes. They are organic potato farmers, alpaca herders, weavers and musicians who live in remote villages at 14,500 feet. Considered to be the last Inkan community of Peru, the Q’eros strive to preserve their indigenous ethnic identity. Q’eros live a hardworking life at one with nature. They perform offerings to Pacha Mama, Mother Earth, and to the Apus, mountain spirits, in exchange for their well being and that of their animals and crops. Worldview concepts of ayni, the importance of reciprocal sharing, and animu, awareness of an animated essence in all things, shape their interactions with each other and their environment.

Centre for ancestral culture

The creation and building of a museum and centre for the preservation of Q’eros culture is in progress! The Q’eros community will curate, archive and exhibit photographs, videos, books, oral histories, musical recordings and instruments, clothing, textiles, botanicals, artifacts, and more, unique to their community. The centre is expected to be a platform for research and educational programming. It will be a repository and resource where students, visitors and scholars can come to a deep understanding of how these people adapted to extreme environmental challenges, something our entire planet is now facing, through cooperation and reverence. The Q’eros feel an obligation to share their teachings at this time. Our goal is to conserve, propagate and celebrate their legacy of care and respect for each other and mother earth.

The Q’eros are profoundly proud and fiercely protective of their culture. In April 2019 they selected a site high above the village looking toward their sacred mountain Waman Lipa. The plan is to design the centre with input from a committed Peruvian architect, Carlos Rey, working pro-bono. This centre will benefit the entire Q’eros Nation community of more than 2,000 people and the world. Due to COVID-19 the planning is now on hold, but soon to be continued!



A budget proposal was made by our partner Hannah of Willka Yachay and shared with us in March 2020. The start of the construction is uncertain now due to Covid-19 and an indefinite lock-down in Peru. The costs in the first year reflect the construction of the building. The second and third year capture the implementation and management of the program. Ideally managers will be hired and the centre will be maintained by community volunteers.
The project will most likely be funded by: individuals around the world (like you!), Willka Yachay (owner of the project), JNF, and a family foundation.

More than a centre to preserve legacy, it's a message to the world
Q’ero | Ausangate mountain range, Andes | 2018
The Project Journal

Ancestral centre

The adventure of creating an ancestral centre at 4400m in the Andes in Peru is worth sharing on itself. Let this journal take you on the journey from the very first contact with the Q’eros community to the center in full service and all the memorable steps in between.

You may want to keep an eye on this page. When noteworthy events occur, they will be listed here.

Hannah meets the Q’eros, 2010

Hannah Rae Porst’s work in Q’eros began in 2010 when she lived among its people while researching the intersection of indigenous culture and global development. During a community dinner on the eve of her departure she asked village parents how she could thank them for their hospitality. There was initial talk about soccer shoes, but what they really needed, they told her, was a school.

Working with the Q’eros people, Hannah raised funds for, founded and built the first primary school in the village of Ch’allmachimpana. She moved to Peru in 2011 to continue her work there. Up to the present day, Hannah’s heart is part of the Q’eros community and being most of her time living in this beautiful part of the world.

Willka Yachay, 2012

In 2012, Hannah founded a Peruvian NGO called Willka Yachay (Quechua for sacred wisdom) to develop education that enables young Q’eros to become leaders who guide their community toward sustainable modernity and perpetuate their cultural identity. Together with the Q’eros, Willka Yachay builds and sustains schools; builds and maintains infrastructure; provides food and water security, emergency medical care, mother and infant care, solar lighting, satellite internet, national and international travel experiences; and leads learning expeditions and spiritual retreats to Q’eros.

Jimmy meets the Q’eros , 2018

Peru with its colourful culture had always been alluring to the project. Once we found out about Hannah’s passion and her foundation we felt strongly about visiting the Q’eros. Living at an altitude of almost 4,400 metres they are said to be the last Inca community in the country. On our first visit we get acquainted with the Q’eros community and their way of life before setting out on a pilgrimage through the Ausangate mountain chain. For a few weeks our colourful caravan of twenty adults, a few children, one loyal dog and fourteen horses will trek across the high Andean passes. Every day we hike a considerable amount before setting up camp and indulging in film and photography. The warmth of the people is overwhelming and we are already making plans to come back.


Jimmy returns to the Q’eros, 2019

Not even a year later we are back at the same Q’eros village and are welcomed with open arms. There are two purposes to this visit. Firstly, we had to return with the book including the pictures we made last year. The whole village gathers around us in a tight bundle as Jimmy shows the breathtaking result. Secondly, Jimmy is now using a 10×8 analogue plate camera to elevate his pictures into art. After days of planning, we decided to climb the highest mountain peak at 5,200 meters where we set up camp. When we wake up the next day, everything is covered in a white blanket of snow. It’s the perfect setting and Jimmy will take only one single picture. We won’t see the result until we are back in Amsterdam which makes the whole process even more exciting!

Collaboration with Willka Yachay, 2019

When Jimmy returned to Q’eros to present the book Homage to Humanity, he asked Hannah and village leaders how the Jimmy Nelson Foundation could support the community. They told Jimmy they had been dreaming about creating a museum and cultural center project for a few years. Jimmy said immediately that the foundation would whole heartedly support this project! Willka Yachay and JNF are excited to collaborate because they both revere indigenous culture and see it’s wisdom as key to human survival.


Start reciprocity project, 2020

We have officially started the museum and cultural center project! Our wonderful pro bono architect Carlos Rey has visited Q’eros and has begun to draft drawings of the center. Due to the pandemic and on and off lockdowns in Peru, our construction and implementation schedule will be released in the coming months.


Finish, 2024 

We plan to finish the project in the fall of 2024!