The Q’eros Nation is made up of five communities in the Peruvian Andes, roughly 75 extremely rugged miles east of the nearest city, Paucartambo. An estimated 2,000 people call these communities home, the highest of which rests at an incredible 14,000 feet. Q’ero people are widely known as the last living direct descendants of the Incas, having survived the Spanish conquest by receding high into the mountains. Though they do not follow a specific religion, they are highly spiritual, worshipping Pachamama (Mother Earth) and los Apus (mountain spirits) above all. Before drinking, Q’ero can be seen pouring the first sip onto the ground as an offering to Pachamama.
Quechua, the spoken language of the inhabitants here, is the most widely spoken language of indigenous people throughout the Americas, with a total of roughly 4.4 million speakers in Peru alone. Artisan work with alpaca wool is the main source of income; the ground being too infertile to make a profit from growing crops, let alone produce enough variety in vegetables for a healthy diet. Their main source of sustenance consists of potatoes, alpaca, and the regionally popular coca tea.
The Q’ero believe so deeply in preserving their customs that until 1996, the community had never been visited by outsiders.