Every year, the residents of Canas, Cusco (southeast of Cusco city) meet to repeat a ritual that has lasted for at least 600 years. A thousand people, from four communities, spend three days weaving plant fibers together to make the ropes that will form the Q’eswachaka (also Queshuachaca) rope bridge, using techniques inherited from the Quehue people.
This is the only hanging bridge whose annual rebuilding process has been maintained to this day; the only one built entirely by hand in a collective effort, and using local fibers.
The wisdom associated with the renovation of the bridge has been declared a part of Peru’s national cultural heritage, and has been submitted for inclusion on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.
The hanging bridge is 28 meters long and is part of the Inca road and building system known as the Qhapaq Ñan.
Each family produces 70 meters of rope during the renovation. The raw fiber is collected from grass (similar to the ichu) that grows in the puna (the high plateau of the Andes), meaning walking long distances.
Once the fibers are dry, they are twisted and braided by hand, a technique passed down through generations and includes the participation of the children in the task. During this process, and in the production of the large ropes, there are various rituals and ceremonies directed at the local apus and guardian mountains.
The rebuilding of the bridge starts on Thursday and is finished by Saturday of the same week. The first day starts with the production of the ropes, the structure is built on the second day, and the bridge is weaved together on the third. On Sunday, the ritual ends with celebrations, music and dancing.
There is not a fixed date for the renovation of the Q’eswachaka rope bridge, as it depends on various factors, but it usually takes place in June.
Cover photo: Victoria Pickering/Flickr
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