Victor Vimos Wins CSR Award

Congratulations to Victor Vimos on winning a CSR Research/Travel Award! Victor is a third-year Ph.D student in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. Read about his research project below!

The Wamani: representation and behaviors of mountain in the mythology of Quechua community during the war.

In the Ecuadorian town where I grew up, I was warned that the mountains could steal my soul. To avoid this I had to greet them and, as if they were grandparents, be respectful to them. Years later, accompanying a group of Peruvian farmers to place an offering in the mountains, they warned me that he was hungry and, therefore, could eat me. Smoking, whistling, and strictly following the ritual to please the mountain were ways to stay safe. Numerous myths in the Andes describe the man-mountain relationship and constitute social discourses in which both have agency and will for their interaction. This principle orders the symbolic representations and behaviors attributed to the mountain and is an essential element of the mythical imaginary that informs contemporary religiosity in this region.

My project traces the symbolic representations and behaviors attributed to the mountain in the mythical imagination of Víctor Fajardo, a Quechua community of Ayacucho, during the period of political violence (1980-2000) in Peru, where the conflict between the Army and the Shining Path left 70,000 victims, the majority belonging to the Quechua and Ayamara population of the central and southern regions of the country.

In the myths of the Ayacucho region, the mountain is called Wamani. People frequently turn it as a source of power to guarantee the fertility, health and protection of animals and men, as long as they give offerings through specific rituals throughout the year. The works of Hiroyasu Tomoeda (1980) and Néstor Taype (2010) have shown that the Wamani is symbolically represented in the myths of Ayacucho as an old man, a mammal or a bird. Billie Jean Isbell (2005) observes these representations as the embodiment of behaviors with which mountains affect, positively or negatively, the social framework in which they are inscribed. My work aims to observe how war impacts could have transformed the mythical imaginary, inserting new representations of the mountain, while modifying the practices that emerge from it. I argued that the period of political violence affected the representation and behaviors attributed to the Wamani, altering the social discourses of the mountain man-religion bond. I maintain that by analyzing the agrarian and livestock songs in the community of Víctor Fajardo, where the relationship between man and the mountain is narrated, the forms and functions attributed to the Wamani will be observed and, therefore, it will be possible to determine the impact and dimension that the war had on the mythical imagination.

This project is part of my doctoral thesis that analyzes the impacts of war on the man-mountain relationship in the Quechua regions of Peru. It basis is interdisciplinary, combining my backgrounds in anthropology and literary studies. I include literary materials (novels, poetry) and anthropological materials (myths, songs, and ethnography) to trace relationships between man and the mountain, rituality as a mediator between them, and poetic languages to inscription and updating of mythical contents during the war.