Traditional system of Corongo’s water judges

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Inscribed in 2017 (12.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Ministry of Culture of Peru, 2015

The Traditional System of Corongo’s Water Judges is an organizational method developed by the people of the district of Corongo in Northern Peru, embracing water management and historical memory. The system, which dates back to pre-Inca times, is primarily aimed at supplying water fairly and sustainably, which translates into proper land stewardship, thereby ensuring the existence of these two resources for future generations. The people of Corongo are the main bearers of the element since the system regulates their agricultural tasks, and the highest authority is the water judge, whose role is to manage water and organize the main festivities in Corongo. The element is the pillar of Corongo’s memory and cultural identity and complies with the fundamental principles of solidarity, equity and respect for nature. Its functions, significance and value are transmitted to younger generations within the family and public spheres, and emblematic dances of the city, linked to the system, are taught across all school levels. The relationship between St Peter and water, and hence prosperity and wellbeing, is one of the main values passed on; children learn about devotion to the patron saint either by participating in religious celebrations or through the oral tradition.

The city of Corongo located in the department of Ancash in northern Peru is home of the traditional system of water judges since pre-Hispanic times
At the beginning of the year, the water judges and their wives from the two farm sectors of Corongo take an oath before they undertake to discharge their duties all year long
Each water judge leads the people in their moiety to clean water reservoirs and canals that irrigate the farm lands
As a token of devotion and authority, the water judges bear all year long a wooden rod with the image of the patron St. Peter
Each year the authorities of the system of water judges are responsible for properly managing water. The devotion to St. Peter is one of the cornerstones of Corongo's identity and the system's as well
Pallas is a traditional dance of Corongo in which women and girls dance in honor of St. Pater. This dance is part of the celebrations promoted by the water judges
Panataguas is a representative dance of Corongo and, like the Pallas, is related to the city's history. This dance in honor of St. Peter is staged by the cabecillas who, as a part of the system, assist the water judge
One of the main duties of the water judge is to organize the Feast of St. Peter, the city's patron saint. The water judges lead all the celebrations related to the patron saint
Every day the campos are in charge of equally distributing water among the district's users: to that aim they handle the valves of the irrigation and reservoir canals
Both of the two farm sectors of Corongo shelter large water reservoirs. The water judges are responsible for the yearly cleaning and maintenance of these reservoirs