Peruvian musician serenades Alpacas

You have alpacas? Here in San Diego? The excited man asked me when I told him what I did. I eagerly replied that we raised our alpacas (about 60 of them) 90 miles north of San Diego in a beautiful valley at 4,000 ft known as Anza.

It turned out that this chance meeting was with John Gabriel, the Executive Director of the Center for World Music. He then introduced me to Jorge Choquehuillca, from Peru, one of the many musicians brought here from his native land to teach and share his people’s music and culture. Jorge was staying in San Diego to be a part of the 50th anniversary music festival.

The next part of the conversation became magical as I extended an invitation for John to bring Jorge to our ranch to be with our alpacas and play his native music. It took several weeks to work out the logistics, however the wait was worth it.

Peruvian musician and teacher Jorge Choquehuillca visited the home of Professor Mark Hertica and Don and Julie Roy and their Alpaca’s in Anza Valley recently.

 Anza Valley Outlook – Friday, May 10th, 2013 – Issue 19, Volume 13

Jorge Choquehuillca has been experiencing culture shock since he first arrived in San Diego, where the Center for World Music is based. It is his first time here. The low elevation and moist climate of San Diego is extremely different than the high elevation and dryer climate of his home in Cusco, Peru.

Jorge serenadesCusco is a city situated high in the Andes Mountains at 11,200 feet in southeastern Peru. It was the capital of the ancient Inca Empire where the Quechua people now live, of which Jorge originates.

Jorge makes ceramics and weaves to make a living, but his first love is playing music. His people look at life differently than we do.

He explained, “You tell with words, we communicate with the eyes, through the soul. We don’t speak it, we glance, give a look, and of course, we sing.”

Another unspoken custom still observed today is the wearing of the hair, braided for both men and women. When worn over the shoulder, the message says you are available; down back behind the neck says, “I am taken.”

When Professor Mark Hertica invited him home for a jam session and to visit the Roy’s, Jorge was pleasantly surprised that the terrain looked and felt similar to home.

“It was the first good night of sleep he had since he arrived,” Jorge said.

While Anza may not be at 11,000 feet in elevation, the climate is noticeably drier than the coast. He was very happy to visit the Roy’s alpacas and sing and play his flute and stringed instrument, serenading them as his people would back home.

Alpaca’s are native to Peru. When asked what alpacas mean to his people, Jorge’s response was, “The alpaca is the fourth dimension to [our] lives. The other three dimensions are height, breath, and depth. They represent the fourth, the spiritual dimension.”

This may stem from the ancient Incan culture where alpacas belonged only to royalty.

Present day Peruvian alpacas are raised for their fleece which is the warmest, lightest, and softest fiber in the world. Traditionally, they are also a food source for the Quechua people, the equivalent to domestic sheep here in the US.

The native Quechua people connect everything in life to the elements around them: water, earth, fire, air. It all goes into their music. Jorge likes all types of US music but his favorite is country music.

Jorge remarked how here in the US we play one song on the radio and then go on to the next. In Peru, the lyrics repeat and the same song is played over and over. They believe as they tell the change through the look in the eyes, they gain power from the song as it repeats the words and rhythm going deep into the soul, reaching the spirit.

Jorge would like to meet the local tribes and see how their musical tradition incorporates into their lives and traditions.

Dressed in brightly colored, traditional clothes, a chullo/hat and his poncho, Jorge played his traditional Andean musical instrument the quena – one of the oldest flutes in the Americas.

The quena is a simple vertical flute with 5-6 finger-holes and a thumb hole, but no mouthpiece. It can be made from reed, wood, clay, metal, or from a Jorge & the flutecondor’s wing bone. His was made of metal.

He also played the bandurria. Jorge’s has 16 strings and the sound box was made of wood. South American percussion and wind instruments date back to Inca or pre-Inca times while string instruments were initially introduced by the Spanish.

Visionaries Samuel and Luise Scripps and ethnomusicologist Dr. Robert E. Brown founded the Center for World Music in 1963 as a nonprofit organization whose mission is to foster awareness and understanding of the world’s performing arts, culture, and traditions.

The Center for World Music will be celebrating its 50th anniversary with a festival of outdoor multicultural performing arts. Jorge Choquehuillca is one of the many musicians brought here from his native land to teach and share his people’s music and culture.

The festival celebrates the Center for World Music’s 50 years as a unique arts organization, one that has expanded and enriched the arts education opportunities for over 50,000 public school and university students who have participated in world music and dance classes taught by master musicians and dancers from folk and traditional cultures around the world.

To learn about the Center for World Music, go to To learn more about local alpacas go to

Author/Staff Writer:  Jodi Thomas ~ Center for World Music Peruvian musician serenades Alpacas of the Anza Valley

Online story can be found at

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