Shy by nature, don Mariano’s happy and positive personality and his enormous heart shine through everything he does. He has blossomed into a great wisdom teacher and healer, according to his students. After many decades of service to his community as a pampamisayoc, he was named as a Kurak Akulleq – a title reserved for the most highly esteemed healers and ceremonialists. This was an indication of great respect for his clear spiritual vision and healing gifts.
In his world view it is difficult for don Mariano to grasp the tremendous power he carries. Perhaps the difference between him and his ancestors is that he has broken ground traveling the world over. Yet when introducing himself to students, he says, “I’m just a paqo,” with a twinkle in his eyes, even when pressed. This is the name the Q’eros use for a simple shaman.
In the paqokuna tradition, Q’ero healers are bound to the animistic or shamanistic worldview with rituals and ceremonies that honor the earth.
Through their deep connection and ability to discourse with nature they mediate with elemental forces to bring healing to both Pachamama and to people. Core to the Andean spiritual tradition is the concept of ayni or sacred reciprocity. This sacred reciprocity is clearly expressed in all aspects of their lives, as well as ceremonially in the form of the despacho ritual.
In his life and in his work as a pampamisayoc, don Mariano calls on his star ancestors, Creator, and the spiritual strength of his personal apus and Pachamama to sustain him when he is tired and hungry. He also turns to them to keep him, his family, his animals and his chakra safe. He calls on their blessings when he wakes and again when he goes to bed at night. He calls on them when he heals and when he makes a pago, or offering, to his beloved Pachamama for the abundance she bestows upon him. His deep faith has never failed him and it has guided him all his life.
says he is a very lucky man. He never says no to anyone who needs a healing. If he is tired, he goes outside, takes a deep breath and soaks in the energy of the sun and then goes back to work. His work traveling the world to teach would tire someone half his age.
Students are awed by his ability to touch each and every one of them, even in a large workshop, gifting rites, encouragement, and prayers. When asked which grandchild might follow his footsteps and carry on his tradition as a pampamisayoc and healer, don Mariano says that he still doesn’t know. Things have changed for the Q’ero way of life with many of the younger generations leaving the mountains for work or educational opportunities. His grandchildren and great-grandchildren live far away, so it’s hard to know at this time who will show the signs and answer the call.
He always seems to be thinking about the future but never obsesses about it. In his typical way, he maintains trust of the life-cycle in all things. He remains curious and alert for what is to come, knowing that perhaps the responsibility rests on Santiago, a paqo in his own right, to bring the future of the lineage into discussion.
Traditionally, shaman healers are chosen in one of three ways:
- By being born into a lineage of shaman ancestors who then pass on the tradition to a family member who shows the aptitude,
- By surviving the “rayo” or lightning-strike,
- Or by being chosen by a shaman who provides apprenticeship through many years of initiations.
After being chosen, a shaman then waits to hear, either directly from his guides or through a vision, permission to bring his wisdom to the world. Don Mariano received this call to share his wisdom about 15 years ago, after almost 60 years of living his path.
He lives his paqokuna healing tradition and makes his offerings to Pachamama on a regular basis. This is normal to him and he gets a kick out of the attention that people give him. In his humbleness, he says that he is just chopping wood and carrying water like everybody else. He feels lucky to get to travel the world and teach his ways to others. Yet it is his farming life that keeps him grounded and provides safety and shelter.
When asked about this dual-role that he seems to live, it is obvious that it is not dual to don Mariano. “Taking care of Pachamama is not about talking about it or making laws. It is a value taught at home,” he says.
What he further implies is that we must simply get on with our lives and live them in the normal way, yet always being mindful of the greater world around us and making the best of what we have.