Bolivia: Water is the source of life on Pacha (Earth)

According to indigenous wisdoms, life on Pacha (earth) originated from water and water is vital to life on Pacha.

Water is the source of life of our Mother Earth and the source of all kinds of life, be it animal, plant, human, or otherwise. Therefore, any action or project that refers to water should be based on this principle: water is a source of life, water has life.

The concept of Vivir Bien, or ‘Good Living’ in English, is based on the existential principles of Pacha. Buen vivir is a solid principle which means living in harmony and equilibrium between men and women, between different communities and, above all, between human beings and the natural environment of which they are part. This concept implies knowing how to live in community with others, respecting nature and preserving its equilibrium. It is therefore important to care for and respect water.

Water is an essential part of Pacha, it is the blood of Pachamama (Mother Earth). Water is part of everything that exists on Earth. It is the source of life of all living beings. Therefore, each one of them has the right to have access to this source of life, this is a basic principle among Andean communities where all families and each individual have the right to access water.

Andean people also believe that water is a gift from Pachamama and it is given for free; therefore, they say ama pachi niwaychu yakupis apawanmanchari (if someone tries to get some profit from water they should be punished by being carried away by water).

Indigenous peoples decide upon their projects on the basis of permanent dialogue: dialogue and coexistence with all beings on Earth and dialogue within human community itself. In particular they have wisely realised how important is listening and recognising the message of life on Earth which can be understood by listening to the song of birds, or by observing ants’ movements, the rain falling, or the shape of hail and frost, or by paying attention to winds and plant behaviours. Men must keep in mind these messages in their everyday life.

The dialogue with plants, animals, hills, waters, develops a sensitivity of communion between the different beings. According to the Andean peoples’ cosmovision, besides human beings and animals, also mountains, rivers, lakes and all that populates the earth are living forms. They are a sort of different kind of people; therefore, the dialogue with nature and all its beings is a dialogue between different living beings. This experience of dialogue with Pacha strengthens community relations and goes beyond the single human context. It is a permanent holistic dialogue.

Water is one of the elements that consolidates and reaffirms community ties. Solidarity and equity in water sharing reaffirm community structures.

Therefore, any activity or project that affects sources of life, such as water, must be implemented and developed, taking into consideration different cultural realities in order to respect those principles and values that have been saved and passed down through generations by the millenary indigenous peoples.

All peoples are co-responsible for the care of life on Earth. Life is a fundamental right for everyone, so each one of us is responsible for the care of the sources of life, including water: Yaku Mama.

Respect and care for all sources of life maintain equilibrium and harmony on Earth. That is why Andean communities protect and care and have great respect for all sources of life, and mainly for water.

Andean peoples think that rationalisation of water use and consumption is not enough to protect this precious gift from Pacha; human beings must also rediscover the sacred sense of water.

The Andean cosmovision, according to which everything in nature has a sacred meaning, has undoubtedly and significantly favoured indigenous peoples’ attitude of respect for nature. The sacred demands respect, love and care by human beings.

We people of the Andean communities have much respect for everything that is sacred, such as water. The ancient Andean peoples’ respect for nature and all sources of life was strictly linked to their sacred meaning. Respecting and caring for nature was an integral part of those ancient and wise peoples’ spirituality. (Víctor Bascopé Caero)

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