The Curious Legend of the Papitos

“Superstition” and “faith” are interesting aspects of human nature.  So many of our beliefs, or disbeliefs for that matter, are formulated around unsubstantiated facts, and still we choose to think what we want to think based solely on what our intuition tells us correct.  I can’t argue with you that ghosts don’t exist when you claim to have seen one, it’s impossible for any singular conclusion to come of it.  And yet, without any scientific merit, we will maintain our speculations until something changes how we feel.

The papitos of Southern Peru are the latest “beings” of the region that have been met with skepticism, their supposed manifestations taking on a variety of forms and purposes.  Considering the Inca empire – whose central operations were based in this area – was a polytheistic civilization that celebrated an assortment of mythical creatures, it shouldn’t be a surprise that a society which venerates its ancestry has generated its own lore.  Or is it lore?  Obviously, that would depend on who you ask.

For those who believe in the papitos, the general consensus is that they’re here for good; to provide services for the native population.  What those services are, though, revolves around what you need.  They have been known to be doctors, psychiatrists, mediums, or business consultants; I’ve heard of requests from clients looking to solicit healthy harvests from the mountain spirits to widows seeking counsel on their grief.  The only issue is that the papitos never stay in one place, they travel from town to town in complete secrecy, setting up shop at random locations for fluctuating durations of time. You have to be lucky to catch wind of their arrival and set up an appointment with an intermediary before they leave for wherever the next destination may be.  What this means, of course, is that if you’re in some kind of medical emergency, a visit to the papito probably isn’t in the cards.

If you’re wondering how it is that these papitos are capable of tackling so many professions, the answer is unknown.  That’s because no one has ever seen a papito before, a clear rationale for the debate over what these social benefactors even are in the first place.  There are three theories that have gathered the most traction; they’re either angels, devils, or aliens, with a fourth, smaller faction hypothesizing they’re nothing more than humans with metaphysical powers.  There’s a solid reason for why they’ve gone undetected so long, and it’s due to how they welcome their patients to the meetings.

Once you’ve arrived at a predetermined venue (usually at night), an enlisted helper ushers you into a windowless, pitch black room and sits you down before shutting the one and only door.  It’s there, in the total dark, that you wait for the consultation to begin.  After a certain period of time – whenever the papitos are ready – they expose their voices from obscurity and start discussing whatever is troubling the customer.  How they enter, no one is sure, but it’s here in the shadows that they perform their miracles, never being seen nor touched.  Whenever they’ve concluded their business, the papitos inexplicably disappear and the operation is taken over by the helper again, gathering payment and closing the transaction.

It’s natural to be apprehensive.  The entire scheme may seem suspicious, especially when you take into account that a majority of the locals that visit these less expensive “clinics” are usually impoverished and desperate, but what keeps the idea alive is that they do (supposedly) work!  People swear by them.  A friend of mine who taught English in Southern Peru recalled a story where the mother of one of her students suffered from crippling back pain, a shooting twinge that constantly plagued her spine.  Doctors were having trouble coming up with a solution to her discomfort, so she figured it’d be worth seeking out the papitos in case they could find a way to heal her.  She went through the whole bizarre process – dark room, strange voices – and was ultimately told a certain operation could be performed, that all she had to do was lay facedown on the ground. She was on the floor for around thirty minutes, not a single hand having touched her, when she was informed the “surgery” was complete.  Yet, when she rose to her feet, all of her aches had somehow dissipated.

The cherry on the sundae?  When she went for a routine check-up with her doctor, he noticed that her vertebrae were straight and asked when she had received an operation.  Creepy stuff.

I could easily approach the subject and call malarky, but the truth remains that this woman is one out of many successful cases.  I have no clue what really went down, I’m just the messenger, but somehow, someway, this fortunate lady is walking around pain-free.  It’s no thanks to a doctor, either, that cannot be disputed.  So, what happened? How is it possible that a seemingly incurable ailment casually rehabilitated itself?  Most likely, there will never be a clear explanation.

In the end that’s not what’s important, it’s not like this narrative is the first to bring light to an unexplained phenomena.  When it comes down to the basics we’re an odd species with disparate and peculiar beliefs, not everything we do makes sense.  Instead what the papitos offer is insight into a beautiful and historically complex culture, exhibiting a way of thinking that’s rooted centuries in the past.  It’s fascinating that this greater recognition of folkloric spirits is the residue of a belief system that has permeated through the generations, and that the remnants of dated ideologies have birthed new concepts.  Oddly enough, when you look at in that context it’s totally reasonable.

One day the curtain may lift and we’ll know the reality of what’s going on backstage (I, for one, am rooting for aliens), but until that day comes let’s have fun deciphering the possibilities.  Isn’t that the point of a good mystery?  Let’s dig into a world different than our own and appreciate how a population deals with their own unique bumps in the road, facing challenges that contrast what we’re used to.  Let’s indulge in “faiths” and “superstitions” with an open mind, so that we may enjoy the stories that precede them.  And besides, the papitos, oh man what a cool basis for their “existence”!

What do you think?  Do you believe the papitos are real?