Ayni, or reciprocity, historically characterizes Quechua culture as a fundamental aspect of ancient Andean societies. Furthermore, ayni represents a cosmovision that may come from pre-Hispanic times (as a political practice and ideology of the Inca Empire), that can be found in the texts of historians of the colonial period and endure to the present day. In this way, ayni is an ancient principle that has influenced Andean communities and continues to maintain today as a way to re-energize and maintain livelihood of the community through environmental conservation and complex household economies of sharing land, labor, and food. Due to the continuity of this custom, the principle of ayni arguably carries the Andean communities as a strategy to confront challenges faced in the past, like the colonization of the Spaniards, and remains today amidst Western modernity. Thereupon, ayni has created a distinct “resilience” that has been important for the vitality and foundation of Andean communities. Ultimately, these reciprocal exchanges extend into established commercial markets offering a potential theoretical model that could be repeated in other contexts outside of the Andean world for the future.
Jose Eduardo Cornelio