39 imagesLATIN AMERICA, INDIOS SALT MINES OF THE ANDEAN MOUNTAINS In the remote and aislated valleys of the Andean mountains some local Indian communities still live of saltmines like many centuries ago. In Perù the Salinas de Maras, nearly 3000 wells of spectacular salt-mines on a plateau at 3.000 meters of height that dominates the Sacred of the Incas, have been used since the Inca's Tahuantinsuyo times. Still today the salt mines are worked from a cooperative of comuneros, peasants of the nearby villane of Maras. The people channel the salt water that bubbles to the surface from a spring called Qoripujio towards men-made wells. Exposed to the strong sun of the mountains, the water evaporates and the salt remains on the surface to be transported later to the market to be sold. The women, the "salt watchers", execute the heavier part of the job, with the hands deformed from the arthrosis, the eyes hit from vapors. the salti s still transported with mules to Maras to be sold in Cusco. once the Maras salt was sold till in Amazonas but today is not competitive and a 50 kilos bag is paid only one dollar. Much more south are Salinas Grandes, in northwestern Argentine's province of Jujuy, nearly 4000 meters high, not far from Bolivia's border. Salinas Grandes, 212 km square kilometer, are the third of the world for surface. Here the salineros, the salt workers, still made offers to the Pachamama, the Inca's Mother Earth, also asking for help against the exploitation of the companies that buy their salt.
38 imagesThe last years of the of the twentieth century have seen a strong rebirth of the ancestral religions amongst many indigenous peoples of Latin America, not only in the mountains and in the countryside but also in the shadows of skyscrapers of megalopolis like Mexico City but mainly amongst young political leaders and intellectuals, who claim to be followers of their ancestral religion. So the pride of younger generations in their cultural heritage is giving a new life to traditional priests, the shamans. A cultural resistance strengthened by a close relationship between the living world and the Inframundo, the underground world that does not materialize only in the Dia de Muertos, but also in many rituals and dreams of many shamans. The shaman acts as an intermediary between the men and the gods, cure illness, officiates ceremonies asking for the rain, foretell the future, is called upon to give practically any kind of advice and chooses propitious days for the ceremonies. Witchcraft and magic survive, as with deities beliefs are complicated and differ from one people to the other, but illness is still widely seen as “loss of soul” caused by the influence of some magical power or by the sufferer’s wrongdoing. So the soul can be regained with a appropriate ritual performed by a good witch doctor (brujo). In Maya culture for exemple the priest’s function is to pray for the good of the community, not only in church but mainly at holy shrines hidden in the mountains or in front of the caves that Maya think are doors to Inframundo, the Underworld. Chicken are sacrificed during the year and copàl, the incense, and candles are burned at the sacred places. In the Andes the Pachamama, the word for “mother earth” or “the great mother” used in Peruvian shamanism, is the existing energy field between all living things and is the source of the shaman’s power. Everything in life begins, exists, and ends in direct dialogue and communion with Pachamama, the collective of the land itself. The land exists both inside and outside of time and space, as spirit and matter. The natural world is an expression of Pachamama what is born from the land and is returned to the land, in an ongoing cycle of death and rebirth. Livingston, a small village at the mouth of the Río Dulce in the Gulf of Honduras that can be reached only by boat, is a settlement of Garífuna, or Garinagu, decendents from Carib people and Africans escaped slaves. A place with more Caribbean feel than Central American where the lazy tropical mood of the life is only the surface of a community where shamans and the traditional garifuna religion, product of Catholicism and African religions.