Award-Winning Filmmaker, Candido Rodriguez, At Newtown Friends Meeting

Newtown Friends Meeting will feature an award-winning documentary about the last handwoven Inca suspension bridge in Peru by Candido Rodriguez, Newtown Meeting member, filmmaker, molecular biologist, and musician, in a Zoom presentation at the First Day Adult Class at 9:45 a.m. on Sunday, November 14, 2021.  It will be followed by traditional Quaker worship based on silent meditation at 11:00 a.m. 

Candido Rodriguez’ will show his film, “Q’eswachaka,” about a bridge high in the Andes built of grass across a gorge by villagers using 15th century methods.  The film received the Award of Excellence at the Berkeley, California Film Festival in 2002.

Q’eswachaka, literally “bridge made of grass rope,” tells of the construction of the bridge in the province of Canas 13,000’ above sea level in Peru.   The bridge is rebuilt every two years to cross a 50’ gorge 120 feet wide, though there is now an iron bridge nearby. People from the communities harvest a local grass, make small cords by twisting together the grass, twist them together to form a larger rope, and then braid them to create the main cables for the bridge.

Historically, the bridge was built to connect two communities previously remote from each other. The bridge was not rebuilt or repaired in 2020 due to the covid 19 pandemic.   It collapsed in March 2021 and was rebuilt in the traditional way by the community a few weeks later.

About 700 men and women from four communities are usually involved in the four-day construction project to rebuild the bridge. The communities consider it a religious experience and make ritual offerings to the Apus, or protective Gods, consisting of coca leaves, wine, corn, eggs, the sacrifice of a lamb, and a continuously burning fire. 

The bridge itself is considered an Apu.  The weaving and construction techniques have been passed down through generations since the first bridge was built by the Incas, probably in the 15th century. Construction of the bridge is closely tied to the builders’ desires to maintain their relationships with earth and the Apus in harmony.  

Since retirement, Rodriguez has been making documentary films about the people of the Andes Mountains in South America.  His interest comes from the music his mother listened to when Candido was growing up.  Candido has also formed two bands in Newtown, “Los Gringos” and “Coro Cane,” which feature music from the Andes. 

Candido Rodriguez was born in Spain and lives in Newtown.  He retired as a molecular biologist at the Institute for Cancer Research at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.  Candido has a son, Miguel, a daughter Julia, and three grandchildren, Kanji, Sofia and Luca. 

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