A truck moves a group of the Checca community’s combatants to the plain known as Chiaraje, where the ritual will be celebrated. There, the blood spilled in combat will be delivered to Mother Earth as symbolic payment. © Guillermo Gutierrez

Chiaraje: Blood Shall Be Spilled in the Name of Pachamama

Guillermo Gutierrez

2019 — Cusco, Peru

About this series

“Ama wayqey manchankichu (never fear my brother)
wayqechallay fulanito (my dear brother)
yawar mayu unupiña (even if you see yourself involved)
rikukuspapas. (in a great river of blood)
Ama wayqey manchankichu (Never fear my brother)
wayqechallay fulanito (my dear brother)
rumi chiqchi chaupinpiña (even if you see yourself in the middle)
rikukuspapas. (of a great rain of stones)”
-Quechua harangue song during the Chiaraje-

Every January 20, members and allies of the Checca and Q’ewe communities gather on the sacred pampa of Chiaraje to celebrate an ancient and bloody ritual in honor of the goddess Pachamama. The Chiaraje is rooted in the Andean worship of nature, which provides everything and can take everything away.
Preparations begin at dawn. The men of the communities are divided into two sides to face each other in combat, with stones and whips. Days before, they prepare their weapons, incorporating metallic pieces in the tips of the whips. For protection, they use miners’ helmets and shin guards. Wounding the opponent is a serious matter: the blood spilled in combat feeds the Pachamama and guarantees the prosperity and fertility of the farmlands.
Upon reaching the extensive pampa located over four thousand meters above sea level, the men finalize their strategy to repel their opponent and occupy the top of the mountain. The group that achieves this objective is the winner of the contest. The women watch from above and celebrate by singing and dancing. Their participation on the battlefield is not allowed, as it is considered a bad omen. Although the fighting is real, the communities are not enemies. They are neighbors who share a common tradition and a common vision of the world. The fertility of Pachamama is at stake and this requires a meaningful offering. No matter who wins the battle, the blood offered in the ritual guarantees a common prosperous future. Pain, and even death, is part of the ritual, just as in life itself.

The Peruvian Andes are called Apus by the local Quechuan comunities. According to the Andean worldview, the Apus are the higher spirits that protect men and communities. People in the Andes comunicate with them through rituales, prayers and offerings. In this manner, they request their protection and abundance for the lands they will cultivate all year long. © Guillermo Gutierrez
Fighting gear: a helmet intended for mining and whips with metal pieces on the tip are used in the battlefield. © Guillermo Gutierrez
Before batlle takes place, a group of combatants rallies with chants.© Guillermo Gutierrez
One of the combatants holds a stone in his hands. Before throwing it to his oponents, he blesses it by screaming at it in Quechua language.
Celebration is part of the ritual. Women rally the fighters with dances and chants.© Guillermo Gutierrez
A man from the Checca community holds coca leaves. All over The Andes, coca leaves are considered sacred: they represent vital strength and spiritual food that enables communication with the gods. When chewed, coca leaves stimulate the body, help fight hunger, thrist, pain and fatigue. © Guillermo Gutierrez
A fighter holds a whip that has a metal gear on one of his ends. The combatants use huaracas, stones, and these kind of modified whips to fight each other. © Guillermo Gutierrez
Despite being hurt, this man decides to return to the batlle fied. Winning is of paramount importance. © Guillermo Gutierrez
The battle ends when a community reaches the top of the mountain and occupies more land than their oponents.© Guillermo Gutierrez

Photographer: Guillermo Gutierrez
Nationality: Peruvian
Based in: Madrid, Spain
Website: www.guillermo-gutierrez.com
Instagram: @guilledgc

My name is Guillermo Gutiérrez and I am Peruvian freelance photographer currently based in Madrid-Spain. As a migrant and BIPOC person, I have focused my photography practice in photojournalism and documentary photography, particularly in topics such human rights, equality and indigenous traditions and cultural expressions.

I am a member of Diversify Photo a BIPOC community of non-western photographers, editors, and visual producers. I am part of the Everyday Projects, a global community of visual storytellers, as co-founder and curator of the EverydayPeru Instagram account.

As a photojournalist I have collaborated with large agencies such as Bloomberg and published internationally with assignments for The New York Times, The Washington Post, (USA), NPR (USA), Nature (UK) Libération (France), El País(Spain), among others.