Quechua Chief, Pisac, Peru

Every Sunday the colonial village of Pisac, Peru, hosts a colorful market where locals come to buy, sell and trade their goods. The market takes place on the town plaza, and as usual in plazas all over Latin America, there is a church next to it. Pisac’s church, a white washed adobe building, is called San Pedro Apostol in honor of St. Peter.

 Quechua man ("varayoc" or local mayor) dressed in traditional costume outside church, Pisac, Urubamba, Cusco, Peru

At 11am on Sundays there is a mass conducted in Quechua, the language spoken by the indigenous people of the same name, and the ceremony begins with the arrival of the varayocs, a Quechua term that can be translated as “mayor” or “chief.”

Dressed in traditional hats and ponchos and wielding a ceremonial staff made of wood and silver, the varayocs arrive to the sounds of conchs blown by young boys. Stern-faced and straight-backed, the varayocs line the entrance as the faithful enter the church.

Pisac’s Sunday market and the arrival of the varayocs attract tourists from Cusco and other nearby towns. I therefore arrived in Pisac with plenty of time to scout the area to make sure I was in good position to photograph the varayocs.

Although I was able to get within a few feet of the varayoc depicted here, I used my 70-300mm zoom lens to isolate him and shot wide open (f4.5) to blur the background. I got lucky that he was at the end of the line as I could photograph him without distracting objects in the foreground. I admit, though, that the picture is made by the subject; without having ever met him, his face, presence and proud demeanor tell me he’s the man in charge.

Now get out and shoot something