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article imagePeru & the Andean condor: A contradiction in celebration (Video)

By Anne Sewell     Feb 14, 2013 in Environment
For the people living up in the Peruvian Andes, the condor is a sacred creature. However they continue to use the endangered species in Yawar festivals, strapping them to the backs of bulls in bull fights, injuring and killing many.
The festival is a mixture of Incan tradition and imported Spanish colonial folklore, and threatens the last few hundred condors remaining in Peru, as they incorporate them into bull fights.
In a case of terrible irony, the birds that they almost worship, are being killed off and injured one by one, and as the number of Yawar festivals increases in the villages, more condors are threatened.
The festival's origins are not really known, but locals say that they date back before the Incas. However, the inclusion of bullfighting only could have happened when Francisco Pizarro brought the tradition from Spain. Now they combine the Spanish colonial influences with the traditional Andean worship of the condor, which the people consider to be a messenger between earth and the heavens.
An endangered condor is  celebrated  by Peruvians in the Yawar Festival by being strapped to the bac...
An endangered condor is "celebrated" by Peruvians in the Yawar Festival by being strapped to the back of a bull during a bull fight.
Video screen capture
The video above shows the village of Ihuayllo, where several hundred people live, at an altitude of 3,100 meters (10,000ft). It shows the festival beginning with the parade of their captive condor through the streets, accompanied by a brass band and cheering locals.
The condor is then strapped to the back of the poor bull and the bull fighting begins.
The two day festival is a gory affair, and the cruelty is not only to the condor. One bull is killed in the area and has its throat cut and hooves cut off in the middle of the crowd. In the video, we see a spectator, gored after drunkenly stumbling into the bullring. As he is carted off, a local shrugs and says: "It's a festival. This is normal."
An endangered condor is  celebrated  by Peruvians in the Yawar Festival by being strapped to the bac...
An endangered condor is "celebrated" by Peruvians in the Yawar Festival by being strapped to the back of a bull during a bull fight.
Video screen capture
The condor does not seem to be in good shape at the end of the festival, as they try to persuade it to launch into the air. The stress and trauma of the event have taken their toll on the huge bird. He does finally launch into the sky to cheers by onlookers, but he is one of the lucky ones.
In the video, Rob Williams, Peru co-ordinator for the Frankfurt Zoological Society, explains that the capture of the condor has been illegal since 2004 by Presidential decree, but the practice still continues.
He says, "We know there are up to 55 Yawar fiestas a year, some of which use several condors. And some condors are dying."
The Yawar festival was made famous by José María Arguedas, an author, anthropologist and champion of Quechua culture known as the "Hemingway of the Andes." He wrote a book in 1941 about the ceremony called, 1941, Yawar Fiesta (Festival of Blood).
An endangered condor is  celebrated  by Peruvians in the Yawar Festival by being strapped to the bac...
An endangered condor is "celebrated" by Peruvians in the Yawar Festival by being strapped to the back of a bull during a bull fight.
Video screen capture
Williams says, "This has changed an awful lot in the past 40 years. Many people because of their beliefs in the importance culturally of the Yawar fiesta – because of Arguedes' book – have begun to do Yawar festivals."
"Many of these towns who say it is a very important tradition have actually only been doing it for 20, 30 or 40 years," he added.
Anyone interested can sign a petition to the Peruvean government requesting that they put a halt to this dreadful mistreatment of the endangered condor before they are none left in the wild. It would be great if the petition also covered the unnecessary brutality of bull fighting at the same time.
More about Peru, Andes, andean condor, Endangered species, Bull fight
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