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Distributed by Documentary Educational Resources, 101 Morse Street, Watertown, MA 02472; 617-926-0491
Produced by Tad Fettig and Andrea Heckman
Directed by Tad Fettig and Andrea Heckman
DVD, color, 61 min.
Sr. High - Adult
Anthropology, Latin American Studies, Multicultural Studies, Native American Studies, Religious Studies, South American Studies

Reviewed by Charlotte Diana Moslander, MS, MA, Assistant Director of Library Services, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY

Date Entered: 10/26/2007

This documentary, based upon over 20 years of research by Andrea Heckman, shows the lives of the alpaca- and llama-herding descendants of the Incas who live around the sacred Peruvian mountain called Ausangate. Their ancestors retreated into the mountains to escape the Spanish conquest. Although they are Christians, many of the old, pre-conquest ways of worship, especially of the mountain god and the earth mother (Pachamama), who is identified with the Virgin Mary, persist. Folkways such as weaving and the use of traditional sources for dyes, once forbidden by the government, are being rediscovered through research. In this non-literate culture, the patterns in the woven fabric are a means of communication and record keeping. Their work and social relationships are governed by the traditional culture of ayni, or reciprocity. A pilgrimage that draws people from communities throughout Bolivia and Peru shows clearly how Christianity and the old, indigenous religion mingle here. The Quechua hope to be able to survive in the modern world while keeping their traditions alive by encouraging guided hiking and camping groups from the outside.

The audio quality is excellent, but the video is a bit dark in places: it is not impossible to make out what is happening, but the shadows seem to be deeper than what the mountain peak would cast. The voiceover narration in English gives a sense of coldness and distance from the subject, especially in the beginning. The native speakers of Quechua and Spanish seem more immediate and human, even though separated from the viewer by subtitles.

Although the length of the program would keep it from being used effectively in the classroom, it could serve as an assigned viewing to be discussed and enlarged upon in class discussions and short papers. It also could be shown to a general audience and followed by a panel or group discussion. It would be a useful resource for those interested in anthropology, indigenous peoples of the developing world, and comparative religions. Only more mature and motivated high school students would stay with it. The role of coca as the basis of all rituals, an offering to the gods, and a leaf to be brewed into tea and/or chewed might be considered a controversial concept in some high school settings.