Every year, the residents of Canas, Cusco 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 Bridge, using techniques inherited from the Quehue people.
This is the only hanging bridge whose annual rebuilding process has been maintained for 600 years, 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 the national cultural heritage, and has been submitted for inclusion on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.
The hanging bridge, which is 28 meters long, forms a part of the Inca road and building system, the Qhapaq Ñan.
Each family produces 70 meters of rope during the renovation. The raw materials must be collected, as it is the fiber of a grass, similar to the ichu, that grows in the puna. That requires walking long distances.
Once the fibers are dry, they are twisted and braided by hand. The technique is the same one used for hundreds of years, and is passed-down generation-by-generation, with 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 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 parties, music and dancing.
There is not a fixed date for the renovation of the bridge, as it depends on various factors, but it usually takes place in June.
For more information about witnessing this event, visit: http://www.patronatomachupicchu.org/qeswachaka.html