THE JUDGE OF WATERS IN THE INCA SOCIETY *
By: José Luis Luján Cárdenas, sociologist
Despite the impressive development of science and technology, very few countries have achieved water security; vital for the ecosustainable development of a certain society. The Incas, in South America, achieved it eight centuries ago, in a territory of two and a half million square kilometers, which encompassed Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia, Argentina and Peru, with approximately 15 million inhabitants.
On the coast, mountains and jungle with an enviable nature-friendly hydraulic network (precursors of green infrastructure) and regulating microclimates, they irrigated more than 1,000,000 hectares of crops, achieving food security, new habitats, preventing and mitigating damage caused by weather as El Niño, La Niña, demonstrating high efficiency in the management of water and its natural sources.
The cult to the yaku and the mamapacha (water and mother Earth, in quechua) reached mystical and religious levels, so much that to attack the environment, it was punished with the death. It is said that Machu Picchu would have been a place of worship to water, for its portentosa hydraulic engineering. Today, in some parts of Peru, Inca works are maintained, such as the platforms, with almost 500 thousand hectares.
This ancestral water-agricultural knowledge has an expression -among many others- in the Traditional System of Water Judges of Corongo (1), in Áncash, which has recently been recognized as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (Unesco)
Its origin comes when the Inca, at the recommendation of the curacas (2), governors of the ayllus (3), designated the Yacucamayoc (superintendent of waters), to administer the hydraulic systems for the correct, timely, rational and sustained supply of water -produced from the Corongo River-, both for human consumption, as well as agricultural and livestock activity.
Today, this Water Judge, chosen by the community, continues this ancestral administration of water resources and places value on historical memory, based on the minka (obligatory community work), ensuring the care, protection, conservation and productivity of water and the soils, rotating crops, distributing equally parcels, enabling channels, etc.
In the Inca style, the Water Judge also organizes a popular religious festive calendar in Corongo, for Easter, Carnivals, Holy Week and the Feast of St. Peter, collectively thanking water, land and nature for its transcendental impact on the well-being of this Andean community.
(1) Province at 591 km north of Lima, located at 3.141 msnm
(2) The curaca was the political, administrative and judge head of an ayllu.
(3) Social organization of pre-Inca origin conformed by families united by economic, social, cultural, kinship and language ties, that lived in a specific place, and that today are called peasant communities.
* Published in IAgua el 29.07.2018
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