Don Mariano’s devotion to family comes from cultural values held for millennia. As he puts it, “When a Q’ero marries, they are bound to each other for life.”
In fact, there is no word for divorce in his culture! Young people meet each other at one of the many festivals that are such an important part of Q’ero life. When a couple likes each other it leads to cohabitation rather quickly. Their respective families may oኤer some advice but the decision is up to the couple.
The tradition follows that the woman moves in with the man’s family and they test the relationship. If a child is born and the relationship does not work, the woman returns to her parent’s house where her family takes on the parental rights to her child and the child becomes a sibling to the woman. In that manner, there are no single-mothers. She may then go about trying another relationship.
If however, the relationship works and the couple decide to marry, they will never leave each other until parted by death. Therefore, weddings are very elaborate and involve the entire community who actively partake in the celebration. It is the community who pays for the wedding celebration, after which the couple is awarded a plot of land, or chakra. The event is not to be taken lightly, as all have a stake in the creation of a new family.
It was at one of the many lively Andean festivals that don Mariano married his wife, Rosa K’apa Apaza, also from Q’ollpak’ucho. He lovingly refers to his wife as “Mama Rosa.”
“I married rather late for a male in my community. I was 30,” don Mariano says with a mischievous smile. A devoted husband to his wife of almost 50 years, it’s endearing for his American friends to see him go shopping for her when he visits the United States.
“And she promptly takes all my earnings’ upon my arrival home,” he beams proudly.
Don Mariano’s eyes get misty when he calls her after he’s been away for a few days, and his voice cracks with emotion when he says good-bye, giving her blessings for her health, strength and animo. And there is not one meal eaten that don Mariano does not remember his beloved Rosa, as if he wants to impart the nourishment he is receiving unto her.
Santiago Quispe K’apa is don Mariano and Mama Rosa’s only child. Don Mariano’s love for his son Santiago is apparent to all who know him. His son is always on his mind. He also shops for little shoes, T-shirts, and school backpacks for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren on his visits to the U.S. He carefully handpicks one thing for each loved one so that he can carry it back home in his mochila-bundle upon returning to Peru.
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