By Marcia Llacuachaqui
Peruvians have a rich history in philanthropic activities, back in the time of the Inca Empire; “ayllus” were the basis on the Inca society. Ayllus consisted of families living together and sharing land, animals, and crops. Ayllu members worked the land cooperatively to produce food crops and cotton. This attitude of community assistance and helping each other in any situation is still alive among the descendants of the Incas today.
Two great examples of how Peruvians participate in philanthropic actions these days are seen in communal kitchens and carnivals.
Communal kitchens or comedores populares are well-known in Peru. Women created communal kitchens in the late 1960s in order to alleviate the consequences of economic crises by cooking meals for small children and sick family members in the community Now, communal kitchens have the support of governmental and non-governmental organizations. Interestingly enough, the first communal kitchens in Lima were composed of migrants from rural areas, where the “Ayllu” is still practiced. This means that traditions of solidarity are still present among indigenous Peruvians and collective labours can still benefit communities in Peru.
Similarly, philanthropic activities are also seen in carnivals. According to historians, the celebration of Carnival, which was brought by the Spanish, gave the Peruvians an opportunity to rebel against the Christianity imposed on them as well as the repression opposed on them.
Carnival celebrations take place in the month of February every year. Carnivals are no longer associated with rebellion in Peru. On the contrary, they are joyful and involve people throwing water balloons or buckets, eggs, flour or talc and even water based paints at each other, as well as a traditional ritual of cortamonte in the coast, yunza in the mountains, and umisha in the jungle. This ritual involves a music band, plenty of food and drinks, and dancing around an enormous eucalyptus tree decorated with gifts, balloons, and streamers that is especially-transplanted somewhere until it is ceremoniously cut down. Several couples then try to cut down the tree with an axe as if it was a piñata, only people are not blindfolded. Finally, the couple that cuts the tree will be in charge of the organization of the cortamonte celebration next year, the couple will be known as the godparents. Once the tree falls down, everyone, especially the children, runs to grab the gifts. The gifts consist of toys similar to the ones contained in a piñata, as well as money, food products such as fruits and bread, clothes, even bottled-beverages, etc. The gifts vary per region and may depend on the godparents.
In summary, the philanthropic activities embraced by Peruvians demonstrate that philanthropy is not expressed at its maximum when it involves giving money but on the contrary when a community works or rejoices together.
1. Ponz Muzzo, G., Compendio de Historia del Peru. 1978, Lima: Editorial Universo S.A. 224.
2. Kamioka, N. Women’s Voluntary Groups in Lima, Peru: Comedores Populares. 2001 [cited 2010 October 1]; Available from: http://lasa.international.pitt.edu/Lasa2001/KamiokaNaoko.pdf
3. Tomoeda, H.Folklore Andino y Mitologia Amazonica: Las Plantas Cultivadas y la Muerte en el Pensamiento Andino. 1982 [cited 2010 October 1]; Available from: http://ir.minpaku.ac.jp/dspace/bitstream/10502/377/1/SES10_012.pdf