The Q'eros Ceremonial Terrace

Images from left to right: Fredy, Emiliana & Marilena, Q’ero | Qochamoqo, Hatun Q’eros, Andes | Peru, 2018



      Q’eros | Ausangate Mountain Range, Andes | Peru

  • WHAT

      A ceremonial terrace

Q’ero women showing how the construction of a new road may affect their community. © Photo by Charlotte Chastain for Willka Yachay 2023.

Preserving Heritage, Embracing the Future

Nestled amidst the majestic Andes mountains, the Q’ero people of Peru, guardians of an ancient spiritual and earth-centric life, face a delicate balance as a new road is being built to connect their remote villages to the city.

While the benefits of improved access to healthcare and supplies are evident, challenges like mining interests and migration to urban areas are a concrete risk.

In light of these challenges, the Q’ero community recognises the pressing need to inspire the younger generations to stay rooted in Q’eros, actively preserving and transmitting their rich traditions and customs. Likewise, they aim to create a hospitable environment that not only showcases their vibrant culture but also stands as a source of pride for their heritage.

The Q'ero Ceremonial Terrace built in 2023 with the joint support of the Jimmy Nelson Foundation, Willka Yachay and EarthAction. © Photo by Charlotte Chastain for Willka Yachay (2023).
Fredy, Q’ero | Qochamoqo, Hatun Q’eros, Andes | Peru, 2018

The Hawarikuy Ceremony and the Journey to Cultural Preservation

In collaboration with Willka Yachay and supported by the Serving Our Spirits Fund of EarthAction and the Jimmy Nelson Foundation, the Q’eros community completed the construction of a ceremonial terrace in 2023.

This new ceremonial space is dedicated to the Despacho ceremony. This practice, known by its Spanish name, involves the burning of offerings to send messages to the mountain spirits, or Apus. Referred to as Hawarikuy in Quechua, the ceremony marks important life events such as marriages and births, while also ensuring a bountiful harvest. Designed pro bono by architect Carlos Rey, the multi-level terrace embodies the three worlds of the Andean mythology.

The Jimmy Nelson Foundation expresses heartfelt gratitude to all collaborators, ambassadors and supporters whose contributions were indispensable to make this project happen. This marks the initial phase of a broader initiative aimed at preserving the Q’eros culture. The upcoming stages include the establishment of a cultural center designed to curate and exhibit photographs, videos, books, oral histories, and a diverse array of artifacts integral to their community.

The Q'eros making usage of the new ceremonial terrace for the first time ©Photos by Charlotte Chastain for Willka Yachay (2023).

Empowering the Q’eros

Founded in 2012, Willka Yachay, led by Hannah Rae Porst, collaborates with the Q’eros to drive sustainable development and cultural preservation. The NGO supports education, infrastructure, and various community needs.

Willka Yachay first contributed with the establishment of the first Q’ero primary school in 2011.

As a key on-the-ground partner, Willka Yachay aligns with the Jimmy Nelson Foundation’s mission, and continues to contribute to the empowerment and resilience of the Q’ero community.

Hannah Rae Porst explains how she founded the Willka Yachay non-profit. © Photo by Charlotte Chastain for Willka Yachay (2023).
Two Q’ero girls | Qochamoqo, Hatun Q’eros, Andes | Peru, 2018

The Q’eros Museum and Cultural Preservation Center in Progress

In their mission to safeguard and share their unique heritage, the Q’eros community is planning the creation of a museum and cultural preservation center.

This visionary project will curate, archive, and exhibit a diverse array of elements, from photographs and videos to oral histories, musical recordings, and more—each representing the distinctive identity of the Q’eros people.

Envisioned as a hub for research and educational programming, the center aims to deepen understanding of the Q’eros’ adaptation to environmental challenges, offering insights crucial for our planet’s collective journey. Despite a pause in planning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Q’eros community remains resolute in continuing their work.

The center, designed in collaboration with committed architect Carlos Rey, holds the promise of benefiting not only the Q’eros Nation but also contributing to global awareness and appreciation of cultural diversity.

Stay tuned for updates as the planning resumes!

If we save our traditions, they will serve all the communities in the world. - Fredy Flores Machacca, President of the Q'eros Nation