The Village of San Cristóbal de Rapaz


The minor municipality of San Cristóbal de Rapaz is located at 4,120 m. above sea level in the province of Oyón (Department of Lima). It is one day’s travel from the national capital of Lima, and is located at the headwaters of the Checras River basin. It is home to some 900 inhabitants. Most are agropastoralists producing Andean tubers, dairy products, sheep and camelid wool, and meat. The Peasant Community of Rapaz was recognized in 1937, and it continues to control large expanses of natural pasture on the high slopes; at lower altitudes fields are irrigated in a sectorial fallowing system. Inhabitants over 30 years of age are generally bilingual in Spanish and “Ancash-Huaylas” Quechua (a member of the Quechua I or Quechua B group typical of central Peru). (Click on the pictures for larger images).


Rapaz is located on a mountain peak of dizzying elevation, and its landscapes are strikingly beautiful.
A panorama of the village. Like many high central-Peruvian villages, it is built on a plan of colonial “reduction.”
The Regular Assembly of January 2, 2004 approved the research plan described here. The members of the community gathered in the 'patio' of their Community Hall.
Rapaz villagers supported the protection of the khipu precinct by taking part in a faena, or collective work day. The ones who worked were the pasivos, or semiretired elders.
The ritual drama Inka Tinkuy (or ‘Challenge Between Inkas’) is the climactic event of Rapaz’s main festival (Saint Rose’s Day, August 30). The two contenders for the Inka throne are brothers, Waskar and Apu Atawallpa, whose battle seems sure to end in a tragic fratricide. However, at the last moment the rivals make peace with a brotherly embrace.
Raywan Entrego: This ceremony takes place in the Kaha Wayi on the night of January 2. The Balternos, authorities in charge of taking care of the communally controlled fields, bring potato, oca, and barley plants from each field. These plants, called raywanes, are honored with invocations to the mountains and they are stored in front of the khipus throughout the year.
The Rapaz rally supporting the Coalition for Struggle Against Poverty (July 26, 2005) brought visitors from around the world who were eager to see the khipus.
Rapaz celebrated the visit of the Coalition for Struggle Against Poverty with massive pachamancas. Meat, potatoes, and vegetables cook for a whole day in enormous ovens of rock and earth.
Rapaz’s church is an important colonial monument, and its mural paintings date from the 18th century. The architects Maribel Veas and Patricia Navarro Grau, with support from the Getty Foundation, have undertaken measures to stabilize them.
After the Inka drama, Rapacinos (people who are from Rapaz) bullfighters enjoy an afternoon with their bulls. Herdsmen show off their mastery lassoing bulls. The wall they stand on forms the parapet of a gigantic cliff. Its other side is a sheer drop of hundreds of meters.
Saint Rose’s procession exhibits the new clothing and flower ornaments that devoted Rapacinos annually give to their patroness. Their second patron, Saint Christopher Tana Punchu (“Ripped Poncho,” alluding to his poverty), follows behind.
Pallas are young women who sing in the presence of the two Inkas, and who figure in the drama as their princesses. The Pallas also accompany the patron saints musically. The Quechua lyrics of their songs contain southernisms and archaisms which central Peruvians do not readily understand. This suggests a connection with the colonial neo-Inka dramatic tradition.