In the discussion below, we describe our emergent understanding of elements of the Andean worldview and ceremonial tobacco use in the Pachamama ceremony and how each of these thematic constructs might be used in smoking prevention strategies. We discuss four emergent themes below: historical continuity, cosmological beliefs (holism, reciprocity, and balance), the hierarchy of social relations and respect for elders and tradition, and norms governing ceremonial tobacco use. These results are summarized in . We then turn to a discussion of how youth characterize secular, recreational use of tobacco in contrast to ceremonial use and close with a discussion of how our results can be integrated into smoking prevention programs for Andean youth.
Ceremonial and recreational smoking among Andean youth
Andean youth are reared with an understanding of the ancient origin and historical continuity of the Pachamama ceremony. As these young men indicate, offerings to Pachamama transcend time and ensure the continuity of life across generations.
I was told that it is a ritual that comes from long time ago. (Rural male, age 18, smoker)
Pachamama, I have heard that it comes from generation to generation. People get together, feed Mother Earth, praise her, and pray to have good fortune and progress for the coming year. (Urban male, age 17, non-smoker)
Youth perceptions of the historical continuity of the Pachamama
ceremony are relevant since they provide a sense of coherence and belonging, a critical factor in the establishment of group identity during adolescence (Phinney 1990
). This kind of identity has been described as a feeling of being at home in your body, knowing where you are going, and experiencing an inner assuredness of recognition from those who are important to you (Erickson 1968
). Group identity plays a role in behavioral patterns of substance use among youth. In particular, ethnic or cultural identity can foster the development of anti-drug use norms (Love 2006
; Marsiglia et al. 2004
) or increased drug use (James et al. 2000
), indicating that its effect may be mediated by other factors like social and familial influences or peer subcultures (Dornelas 2005
; Jessor et al. 1998
The Andean world view encompasses several core constructs that include the unity of material and spiritual realms, social reciprocity, and the complementary nature of opposite forces such as the interplay of good and evil or hot and cold (Van den Berg 1992
). These core elements of the Andean worldview emerge from young people’s descriptions of the Pachamama
ceremony. The accounts of different respondents about the experience and meaning of the ceremony demonstrate coherence and convergence, providing evidence that their beliefs about traditional ceremonies are grounded in a core set of collectively constructed and shared meanings about holism, reciprocity, health and illness, hierarchy, and respect each of which is discussed below.
There are no inanimate objects in the Andean worldview. Rather, material and spiritual aspects coexist in each and every element of the universe – including human beings, animals, plants, and minerals and this embodies holism (Polia Meconi 1996
). The land, Pachamama
, provides material sustenance, but it also possesses the attributes of a deity or a spiritual entity that can fill a person with joy:
“Pachamama means time and space, the time of our lives and the space we occupy…each of us has her in our own being…she makes me feel happy,” (Rural male, age 18, smoker).
In Andean societies, the activities of daily life are infused with spiritual meaning. The offerings used in propitiatory practices, including tobacco, are perceived to posses both a material and a spiritual nature. This belief in the dual nature of tobacco stands in stark contrast to its treatment as a commodity in Western society, providing a basis for critique of its portrayal in advertisements and the profit-making aims of tobacco companies.
Households in the Andes rely on family members to provide labor and skills for subsistence activities. Andean institutions that ensure mutual assistance have existed for thousands of years. Such reciprocity and solidarity take on a variety of forms (Osorio Acuña 1992
). The ayni
is a system of reciprocity involving an exchange of labor that cannot be reciprocated with money, only with work (Harris 1987
). Reciprocity is a core concept in the Andean belief system that provides the social basis for the Pachamama
We give things to the Earth, we venerate her, because the majority of the people believe that in doing so we will receive more food, all things come from her, our crops. (Urban Female, age 15, smoker)
Thus, the Pachamama ceremony reinforces the pervasive theme of reciprocity and interrelatedness of the land, the people, and the cosmos. Among Andean peoples this results in an emphasis on the common good over individual success, a construct that could be enlisted to justify the protection of non-smokers from exposure to second hand smoke.
The complementary nature of opposite forces, much like the concept of yin and yang in Chinese philosophy, explains the dynamics of the ever-changing life energy in the universe. Respondents explained the dual nature of good and evil and the need to balance such forces.
Pachamama is a ritual to keep the house in harmony, so you feel better, so evil will go away. That is what one believes, and one feels better. (Urban male, age 14, smoker)
The idea of balance is crucial to the health belief system. In the Andes, as in many cultures, health is conceived as the maintenance of a state of harmony with nature and the universe within the context of a constant interplay of the forces of good and evil and hot and cold. Thus, Pacha, Mother Earth, is both a source of healing and of illness. This is also true for the ceremonial offerings made to her, including tobacco. Health is also contingent on maintaining harmony in social relationships by observing social norms and meeting social obligations. Maintaining harmony with nature especially through ritual offerings is especially important, hence the importance of the Pachamama ceremony. In this world view, the land provides life and sustenance but it can also take life away if it is not properly appreciated and attended to through rituals and offerings:
Sometimes the earth takes you away, takes your life away. (Rural male, age 13, smoker)
These cosmological beliefs can be enlisted in prevention of tobacco use by highlighting the interplay between good and evil forces. Each ritual element has a power that cures and a power that kills (Polia Meconi 1996
). This concept can be used to explain the positive and negative aspects of using psychoactive substances such as tobacco and to modify beliefs about the social acceptability of recreational smoking. Tobacco could be framed dualistically as a substance that can have negative health effects when used outside of the ritual context.
Hierarchy and Respect
Youth refer to two elements in the Pachamama ceremony that manifest their knowledge and acceptance of the hierarchical social relations of Andean society, adult leadership and age-based participation order as the following passage illustrates.
My grandmother, she starts praying, she prays for everybody. Then, she starts giving (Pachamama) the food, then the drinks, then she lights a cigarette. That is the ritual that we do. (Urban male, age 17, smoker)
Although all participants must take a turn giving offerings to Mother Earth, there is a strict ordering sequence; elders first, adults next, and children last. The acceptance of the hierarchical order of the ceremony could serve to reinforce the authority of adult family members in conducting family life. Enlisting the aid of ceremonial leaders, elders, and parents could be used to legitimate campaigns to change perceptions of tobacco and its recreational use.
Study respondents said that they approach the Pachamama ceremony with a respectful attitude. This is a cultural practice that has been internalized with a positive affect.
With my family I always ask something from Pachamama. I simply ask that she helps me and I respect her at the time when I am doing these things. (Urban female, age 16, smoker)
An attitude of respect facilitates compliance with the norms and rules that guide the ceremony and the use of its ritual elements. Respect for the ancestors and tradition is related to historical continuity and contributes to the maintenance of a sense of coherence and belonging. It is likely that youths who profess respect might be more prone to value the teachings of adults and role models.
Ceremonial tobacco use
In the ritual context, tobacco acquires magical and supernatural characteristics. The power of tobacco is visualized, felt, and internalized as adults perform the rituals or, on occasion, explain the properties of tobacco. Lit cigarettes set around the ceremonial opening provide a venue for communication with Mother Earth. At this time the magical forces of tobacco are released in the smoke and require respect and care in handling. As the smoke diffuses upward, it carries messages to and from the spiritual world. Humans ask for good fortune, and the response of the spirits materializes in the shape of the ashes. Elders have the knowledge to interpret the ashes and decipher their signs to foretell the future.
The tradition is to set the cigarette standing around the opening. According to my father if it burns to the bottom you are going to be fine. If the cigarette is not burning it is a bad omen. (Urban male, age 17, non-smoker)
My grandmother would help us set the cigarettes on the Earth and when they were consumed she would read (in the ashes) how long you were going to be alive. (Rural female, age 16, non-smoker)
This ritual use of cigarettes is far removed from the secular and careless manner in which cigarettes are used in recreational settings for the simple goal of immediate pleasure seeking. Polia Meconi (1996)
asserts that the ritual use of psychotropic substances among indigenous peoples in the Americas is based on their refusal to accept western ideas about matter being the only form of reality and sensory and rational perception. It is based on a theory of natural law that is different from scientific understandings (Fiske and Shweder 1986
). The belief that tobacco is a means of communication with the supernatural might discourage its secular use. Highlighting the misuse of tobacco's power to seek material pleasure rather than spirituality might inhibit smoking uptake by youth.
Smoking is permitted only among adults during the Pachamama ceremony. However, the age at which youths are allowed to smoke ceremonially varies by each family’s perception about when young people reach adulthood.
Interviewer: How old does someone have to be to be considered a child?
Respondent: It depends, for example in my family to be a child is to be younger than eighteen years. (Rural male, age 16, non-smoker)
Control over cigarettes is also maintained by adults during the ceremony,
Interviewer: Did you ever light the cigarette?
Respondent: No, children never have to light it, only the adults. (Rural male, age 15, smoker)
My father lights it for me (the cigarette) and I set it there, I bury it. (Urban male, age 17, non-smoker)
Thus, adults oversee and guide cigarette manipulation by children and youth, as they do with all the ritual elements of the ceremony.
Youth have a clear understanding of ceremonial smoking rules whether or not they are recreational smokers. They consistently reported that they had received repeated messages from their elder tutors that children are prohibited from smoking during the ceremony. While young people who smoke talked freely about their smoking behavior in recreational contexts, they denied smoking during the Pachamama ceremony in the presence of adults.
The norm that it is not appropriate for children and adolescents to light cigarettes or to smoke in ceremonial contexts can be enlisted to prevent smoking initiation and to counter the social acceptability of recreational tobacco use in the wider social context.
None of the participants linked the meaning of ceremonial and recreational smoking either directly or indirectly. Reference to ceremonial smoking emerged only when youth were asked to describe the Pachamama
ceremony. A pervasive explanatory factor for recreational smoking initiation among youth interviewed was peer pressure (Stewart-Knox et al. 2005
). This occurred in a variety of settings outside of the home and away from parents -- at school, in the streets, and very often in dance halls where flirting adds sexual drama and exposure to the social cues for smoking.
The youth in this study shared common experiences of peer-induced smoking experimentation. Some resist the pressure:
Interviewer: Who offered you cigarettes?
Respondent: My friend from around the corner.
Interviewer: How old is your friend?
Respondent: Seventeen. But I did not want to smoke. (Urban male age 11, non-smoker)
Others give in to pressure from their peers:
We went to the dance. Then they lit a cigarette and all started smoking and started telling me things, insulting me, and I left and returned after a while but they kept insisting and at the end, I gave in because I could not take it anymore.
Interviewer: If you want to be their friend, do you have to smoke?
Respondent: I would think so, because if anybody is part of the group, after a while they are smoking. (Urban male, age 14, smoker).
These accounts are illustrative of the social context and reasons for recreational tobacco use. They highlight the difference between secular and ceremonial motivations and behaviors that are clearly conceptualized as separate issues in the minds of young people. Ceremonial tobacco use takes place in the controlled context of mystical ceremonies linking human beings to the physical and supernatural world. In the secular world, tobacco is used to ease social interactions and to assist young people cope with the pressures of modern life.
Our investigation into beliefs about ceremonial tobacco use via the trope of the Pachamama ceremony suggests that there is a strong consensus among the youth we interviewed about its nature and meaning and its importance in community life and cultural continuity. We note here that there were no differences in beliefs about the ceremony or the ritual use of tobacco expressed by sex, residence (urban or rural), or smoking status. Throughout this section ways that prevention strategies could make use of traditional attitudes about the sacred nature of tobacco have also been suggested. These implications for culturally focused prevention interventions are summarized in .
Culturally focused tobacco prevention interventions: Suggested guidelines and activities derived from qualitative work.