Don Mariano currently lives in the Ocongate District, in the Province of Quispicanchi, only a day’s travel from Cusco.
Gone are the days of a many days-long walk to the Valley! With the advent of the Interoceanic Highway the journey is not as arduous as it once was, and there are now buses that stop a few hours away. Ocongate is a rapidly growing city and many Q’eros have moved there looking for a better life.
When at home, don Mariano farms his chakra and grows potatoes, corn, and beans among other things. He talks enthusiastically of his crops and admires the farming of others – even remarking on the corn fields he sees in the United States.
Leaving the high mountains, however, has put the Q’ero traditions in danger of being lost. Many missionaries have moved closer to them in order to convert them to Christianity. Even though abandoning their millennial cultural rites is not required in order to convert, the pressure is immense. Many in the community dislike the traditional practices and offer financial incentives and social pressure to assimilate.
The possibility of the loss of these traditions is grave, perhaps only a few generations away. Likewise, the western hunger for their knowledge has brought corruption, jealousy, the perpetuation of misinformation, and many other inevitable changes and challenges to their way of life.
A loving father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, his greatest concern for the future is his most important legacy: Santiago and the other members of his large family of five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. He calls them his “richness in life.”
It is don Mariano’s sincere wish that people continue living the precious path that he’s teaching. He wants us to “keep it balanced.” He wants people to learn it and apply it in their own lives.
“Live what you have learned,” he says. When asked why he thinks people are so afflicted in the western world, don Mariano is very clear in his response.
“There are so many people here. They are very busy all the time and they are disconnected and suffering, he says. “Then they get sick. Families are very separated.”
“People also do not seem to visit the apus,” he continues. Being so cut off from nature and the strength of the nature beings around us is a foreign concept to a Q’ero. It’s also a concern that westerners live so far away from their family members and most are disconnected from their communities and each other.
“Many have lost their values and are confused,” he reiterates.
People follow don Mariano Quispe Flores like he’s the Pied Piper. Wherever he goes, he builds community, brings happiness, opens hearts, and brings peace, health and hope to all whom he touches.
And thus, the world becomes a better place.