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Traditional Knowledge
Traditional Farming
Andean farmers harvest potatoes on their chacra, or family farm.
Andean farmers harvest potatoes on their chacra, or family farm.
Photo by Enrique Castro Mendívil, courtesy of PROMPERÚ

In the Andean foothills of Ayacucho, farmers cultivate potatoes, quinoa, fava beans, corn, wheat, and barley in their chacras (fields) for subsistence and the local market. They also raise guinea pigs, cattle, sheep, and pigs. Families maintain craft traditions such as pottery, weaving, and woodcarving to produce items for home use and for sale.

Domesticated in Peru approximately 6,000 years ago, quinoa has long been an essential part of the Andean diet. The Inkas called it “the tears of the sun.” During the early colonial era, the Spanish discouraged quinoa consumption, introducing instead European wheat. Today, quinoa has been rediscovered as a marketable organic product, though its popularity in the United States and Europe makes it unaffordable for most Peruvian families.

The Servicios Educativos Promoción y Apoyo Rural (SEPAR) launched the project Jóvenes Emprendedores de Huamanguilla to take advantage of these market opportunities and empower young farmers from the Huamanguilla region in an effort to attain organic certification for quinoa exports.

While young farmers Rene Quispe, Ana María Berrocal, “Johncito” Sayas, and “Sandra” Gálvez learn new skills for growing and marketing quinoa, they use traditional farming practices for subsistence crops. For example, they plant complementary crops together—corn or peas with fava beans and potatoes with quinoa—on terraces in the foothills.

Beyond Farming

Many farmers are also storytellers, woodworkers, potters, and weavers in their spare time. They make utilitarian crafts for the home and to sell at local markets. Many are talented musicians and dancers who contribute to community agricultural ceremonies and traditional festivities.

Crisscrossed with paths connecting communities across geography and history, Peru boasts a stunning vertical landscape that integrates a diversity of ecosystems and cultures. Peru is one of the world’s most biodiverse nations, containing ninety microclimates across extreme variances of altitude. The coastal, rain-forested, and mountainous environments provide abundant resources, including major exports such as fish, copper, and asparagus. Many culturally and historically significant areas are popular tourist destinations that encompass complex layered histories.

The uniqueness of Peru’s diversity lies in the connectedness of its landscape in the form of rivers, roads, and pathways that existed long before the Inka Empire (fifteenth–sixteenth centuries) and Spanish colonization (sixteenth–nineteenth centuries). Across its different altitudes and climates, communities exchange commodities and practices, shaping deeply rooted but constantly changing daily customs and celebrations. The influx and movement of people between and beyond borders also influence and transform these exchanges.

The 2015 Peru program featured projects, organizations, and groups whose cultural expressions highlight these social, cultural, and economic exchanges. It demonstrated how the networks of celebration and community, crops and markets, textile and craft production, foodways and technology, and music and dance forge the diverse cultural heritage of the country.

Visitors to the Peru Festival program could experience these unique connections through cooking and craft demonstrations, music and dance performances, moderated discussions, ritual and celebratory processions, and other participatory activities. In addition, there was a robust involvement with Peruvian American and diaspora communities. The public had the opportunity to learn, to eat, to dance, to shop, to witness these vibrantly connected cultures, and to create their own connections with Peruvian artists and specialists on the National Mall and beyond.

Olivia Cadaval and Cristina Díaz-Carrera were Curators for the Smithsonian; Rafael Varón Gabai was Curator and Consultant to MINCETUR. Valentina Pilonieta-Vera was Program Coordinator; Alexia Fawcett was Community Engagement Manager, and Betty Belanus was Family Activities Curator. A Curatorial Advisory Committee included: Madeleine Burns, Marjorie Hunt, Mary Linn, Luis Guillermo Lumbreras, Giancarlo Marcone, Soledad Mujica, Diana N’Diaye, Luis Repetto, Marcela Ríos, Daniel Sheehy, Jorge Ortiz Sotelo, Milagritos Saldarriaga, Francisco Tumi, and Madeleine Zúñiga. A Community Advisory Group included: Catherine Cabel Chicas, Nelly Carrión, Billy Castillo, Kristy Chavez-Fernandez, Fabiana Chiu- Rinaldi, María del Carmen Cossu, Miguel García, Elmer Huerta, Vicky Leyva, Doris Loayza, Ana Noriega, Elena Tscherny, and Ricardo Villanueva.

The program was co-presented and co-sponsored by the Republic of Peru Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism (MINCETUR). Additional support was provided by the staff of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, directed by Kevin Gover (Pawnee), coordinated by Amy Van Allen; Washington Dulles international Airport and the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. The program received federal support from the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center. Special media support is provided by Telemundo Washington DC,, Latin Opinion Baltimore Newspaper, Orange Barrel Media, WAMU 88.5, El Tiempo Latino, Washington Hispanic, Washington Blade, El Tiempo Hìspano (MD-DE-PA), CTM Media Group, El Zol 107.9, Digital Conventions, and Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Support for the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage's welcoming ceremony was provided, in part, by Avocados From Peru and Pisco Portón (in-kind).

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