It was August 2006, and I had just arrived in Cuzco for a two- or three- month
stay. Nazario called me to say that he could not come to the house where I
was staying; instead, could I go to the Plaza de Armas? It was going to be hard
to find him because he was attending a demonstration—there were lots of
people there. But he would wait for me at El Ayllu, a restaurant frequented
by non- Cuzqueño Peruvian “lefties”—the likes of me. I was curious about
the event that had congregated people in the Plaza de Armas, the site of all
political demonstrations in Cuzco. The people gathering on that day in the
main square of Cuzco had come from the region where Nazario’s village is
located. A mining corporation was prospecting Sinakara, an earth- being con-
nected to Ausangate, which was also an icon of regional Catholicism and a
mountain—and thus a potential reservoir of minerals, possibly gold. Such
complexity is not new in the Andes, where mining tunnels have cut across the
bowels of many important earth- beings since colonial times. So far, these enti-
ties have been capacious enough to allow mining machinery and despachos to
move through them with relative ease. However, prospecting for Andean gold
in the current millennium is different, for new mining technology demands
the destruction of the mountain from which minerals are being extracted:
the mountain is transformed into tons of earth that needs to be washed with
chemicals dissolved in water in a process that separates useful from useless
minerals. Extremely productive in economic terms, this technology is also ex-
tremely polluting environmentally and represents the ultimate threat to earth-
beings: the mountains that they also are and exceed faces nothing less than
their destruction and so may the world where runakuna are with tirakuna.
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