In a deeply religious country with a history shaped by Catholicism, it is nonetheless a place to encounter ancient spiritual beliefs and rituals. In Argentina, I found my nature-loving spirit even more reverent in the very real presence of the Pachamama, the Andean goddess, Mother Earth.
Pachamama, the Andean Goddess, Mother Earth
So important is the Pachamama to the daily existence of the Andean community, the only way to supplant her prominence in the minds of the people was for the Salacians that came to convert the local people to compare her worship to that of the Virgin Mary.
The priests brought with them statues of a weeping Virgin to show that she grieved over the people’s choice of worshipping Nature over God, who created Nature.
So it is today in the Andes that the “Mamacita” is revered in church and Mother Earth is thanked for her bounty.
The Pachamama is as integral in the Andean culture as it is in an adventure to the mountains of Argentina, Bolivia and Peru. Click To Tweet
Getting Ready to Hike to the UNESCO World Heritage Site
My own journey is a physical one: I come to the Jujuy province in northwestern Argentina to hike from a very special groove in the Andes formed by a river designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
2,500 meters above sea level (8, 202 feet), the Quebrada de Humahuaca is a long stretch of valley from which rise bare mountains glowing with a palette of colors in the rock seemingly brushed on by an artist’s hand.
The valley floor is green along the river and dotted with charming villages, vegetable fields, vineyards, and colorful cemeteries. The seclusion of the area preserved its ancient culture, even resisting cultural intrusion while being an important area in the fight for independence.
Ancestral Traditions Still Exist
I go to mass on a Sunday morning, where all the worshipers look as if they have stepped out of central casting for a movie about the Incan Empire, so noble are their faces, so connected to their Andean roots.
Here, ancestral traditions persist.
Old and even older celebrations still pepper the calendar:
- Tilcardo (a music festival) in January,
- Carnival in February and March,
- the Procession to the high peak Abra de Punta Corral with the Virgin Mary at Easter,
- the Feast of the Pachamama in August,
- the Day of the Dead in November.
To know this area is to know that the past and the present are indeed interwoven.
In northwest Argentina, it's still possible to see the incorporation of Christianity into ancient beliefs in its purest form. Click To Tweet
Nature as Amazing Artist
My hike journey is up into the mountains from one small town, Tilcara, but first I stop at the beginning of the valley in Purmamarca for a day hike in the lower area of the “Hill of Seven Colors” (Cerro de Siete Colores) a classic Humahuaca sight whose colors are owed to the abundance of minerals laid bare by erosion.
The mountains are indeed called “Palta del Pintir” and are swirled with layers of red, creamy green, soft pink and purple, framed by deep blue sky above and a green valley below.
Resting in Luxurious Hotels that Hosts European Queens
I rest in a beautiful and luxurious hotel that only the day before hosted a European queen and hike the area in evening and morning light to witness how the light changes shadings and hues of the mountains.
I visit Purmamarca town; surrounded by all the natural beauty, the market square is ablaze in colors of woven textiles punctuated with silverware goods.
Northwest Argentina is an artist and photographer's dream with mountains that look like they were created by a painter's palette. Click To Tweet
Note: My journey was arranged by Say Hueque, who arrange travel throughout Argentina and Chile.
Don’t forget to check out our other Argentina blog posts from this series:
- Argentina Travel Guide: A Land of Many Reasons to Go
- Traveling to Argentina: Adventure and Sustainable Travel – Where in the World is Theresa now?
- Salta, Argentina: A City in Andean Argentina (Part 1.a.1)
- Cultural, Natural and Ultimately Transformative Argentina Travel Tips: A Life-Changing Day in Salta, Argentina (Part 1.a.2)
- Natural Argentina: Ecotourism Can Fill Your Heart and Life Your Spirit (Part 1.b.)
- Desolate Beauty: The Great Salt Flat Salinas Grandes in Awe-Inspiring Argentina (Part 1.e.)
- Hiking in Search of the Pachamama in Argentina (Part 1.f.1.)
- Hiking in Search of the Pachamama in Argentina (Part 1.f.2.)
- Buenos Aires: How to Experience the Best of Its City and Countryside in 3 Days
If you’d like to have more ease in your travel planning, I’d love to help!
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