Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fun facts to know and tell about Quechua Language

by Mark Rosenfelder

I thought I'd tell you a little about the Native American language I'm learning, Quechua.
You may have heard of Quechua as the language of the Incas. You may not know, until you finish this sentence, that it's the most widely spoken Amerindian language, with over 8 million speakers. In Peru, a quarter of the population speaks Quechua, and about a third of the Quechua speakers speak no Spanish.

Quechua spoor

Here's some English words derived from Quechua: coca, condor, guano, gaucho, guanaco, Inca, jerky, lagniappe, lima [bean], llama, pampa, puma, quipu, quinine, quinoa, and vicuña.

Peruvian Spanish, of course, has literally hundreds of Quechua words, from names of animals and plants (papa 'potato', viscacha 'type of rodent', cuy 'guinea pig'-- yum, a delicacy in Peru), to cooking terms (choclo 'corncob', pachamanca 'earth oven', tocos 'horrid dish of fermented potatoes'), to items of clothing (chompa 'sweater', chullu 'knitted cap', cushma 'shirt') to terms from everyday life (china 'young woman'; calato 'naked', cachaco 'cop', chacra 'farm', caucho 'rubber', quena 'flute').

Quechua has also influenced Spanish syntax. In Iquitos, for instance, it's common for even monolingual speakers to put the verb at the end, as in Quechua, or to say things like de mi padre su casa 'of my father his house, my father's house', reflecting Quechua tayta-y-pi wasi-n.

Quechua can be heard on Andean music, which is getting easier to find in the States, either in its natural form (such groups as Rumillaqta, Markahuasi, Ayllu Sulca, Ch'uwa Yacu), or in more Westernized forms (e.g. Inti Illimani). The singer Yma Sumac has a Quechua name-- ima sumaq means 'how beautiful!'

The Quechua people

Peru is divided into three main racial strata. The criollos or whites (15% of the population) are on the top; the mestizos or mixed-blood people are in the middle (37%); the Indians (45%) are on the bottom. Peruvians can be very racist, and indio is used as an insult. (The Quechua refer to themselves as Runa, 'the people'.) Like oppressed classes worldwide, the Indians are described as lazy, criminal, and stupid.

However, there is much to admire about Quechua culture. It's a culture that places great emphasis on community and mutual help (ayni). The social system is based on reciprocity: you help your neighbors, they do something for you in return. Some Quechua communities were well enough organized that Peru's Sendero Luminoso guerrillas could make little headway among them.

The Incas also did not lay down before the Spanish quite as docilely as we are taught in school. Armed resistance continued for fifty years after the Spanish conquest, and flared up again in 1770 in the rebellion of Tupaq Amaru II, still remembered fondly by the Quechua (and by at least one American rapper).

The novels of José María Arguedas, himself bilingual in Spanish and Quechua, are powerful evocations of Quechua culture, and of the scorn the Quechua face from the rest of Peru.

A single word which tells much about the relationship of Quechua and Spanish speakers is pishtaku: in Andean folklore, a supernatural being which kills Indians and sells their fat in the cities to make sacrifices, or to be made into soap. In modern forms, this is said to be done to pay off the external debt! During the war, the pishtakus were associated with Sendero's guerrillas, or sometimes with the army-- twin sets of outsiders, coming into Quechua territory to make demands and to enact brutal crimes; only a word depicting a sort of demon predator could convey the appropriate tone of horror.

Types of Quechua

Quechua is divided into a number of dialects. The major division is into 'Central' and 'Peripheral' Quechua. These are not normally mutually intelligible. Mutual intelligibility is tricky, however (see the linguistics FAQ on 'languages vs. dialects'). Speakers of the modern Quechua dialects don't interrelate much (if they do much travelling, they know Spanish), and so don't have the habit of deciphering other dialects. Given the opportunity (for instance, at a congress of Quechua activists), the differences between the dialects can be bridged.

The Central Quechua dialects, spoken in the central Andean spine of Peru, are the most diverse among themselves; this leads some linguists to suppose that this area, and not the Inca capital Cuzco, is the ancient homeland of the Quechua peoples.

The Incas extended Quechua to (modern-day) Ecuador, Bolivia, and Chile; the language continued to expand after the Spanish conquest, due to its importance as a trade and missionary language. As a result, it's spoken today in some areas (e.g. parts of Colombia, Brazil, and Argentina) which were never part of the Inca empire.

Distinctive forms of Quechua are found in the north of Peru (Cajamarca, San Martín, Loreto) and in Ecuador, where it is known as Quichua.

The best-known form of Quechua is that spoken in Cuzco (Qosqo), in southern Peru and east to Bolivia. A closely related dialect, that of Ayacucho, is spoken just to the west of Cuzqueño.
Cuzqueños, and even students of Quechua who should know better, will tell you that Cuzco Quechua is 'purer' than other varieties. This is quite untrue; Cuzco dialect has innovated in many ways, both in phonology and in the lexicon.
Quechua has been heavily influenced by Spanish, of course. Some 30% of the lexicon, even in monolingual speakers, comes from Spanish. Different layers of Spanish can be found in the language. Early borrowings, such as riru <>

It has long been believed that Quechua and Aymara are related, but doubt has recently been cast on this hypothesis. The chief problem is that the similarity (lexical and phonological) is most pronounced between Cuzco Quechua and its neighbor Aymara; other dialects of Quechua, and Aymara's relative Jaqaru, are less obviously related. It may be that Quechua has simply borrowed massively from its neighbor (or vice versa).

Sounds of Quechua

Quechua has a three-vowel system: a, i, u. The vowels, like computer geeks, spread out to fit the space available-- an i, for instance, may be heard as [i], [I], or [e]. Bilingual Quechua speakers may approximate the five-vowel Spanish system (but they often get it wrong, producing a distinctive Quechua accent called motosidad).

Quechua words are often cited with e or o in them. This is because before or after a /q/, i sounds like [e] and u sounds like [o]. Some people prefer to write (e.g.) qumir and not qomer 'green'.
Disregarding Spanish loans, the consonants of Ayacucho Quechua are: labial alveolar palatal velar post-velar glottal
stops p t ch k
fricatives f s q h
nasals m n ñ
laterals l ll
vibrants r
semivowels w y
Stress regularly falls on the next-to-last syllable.

About the only difficult sound for English speakers is q, rather like the German ch in Bach, but pronounced farther back in the throat. The pronunciation of q varies widely by dialect; in Cuzco it's a post-velar stop (like Arabic /q/) except at the end of a syllable, where it's fricativized; in Ecuador and San Martín it becomes [k]; in Junín it's lost at the beginning of a word, and becomes a glottal stop [?] elsewhere.

ll and ñ have their (original) Spanish values. Thus llama sounds something like "lyama", not "lama" or "yama".

Cuzco dialect has two entire additional sets of stops: aspirated ph th chh kh qh and glottalized p' t' ch' k' q'. Other dialects of Quechua, including Ayacuchano, do not have these sounds, and they constitute a puzzle in Quechua linguistics. The same sounds occur in Aymara, and our best guess is that they are borrowed from Aymara.

The northern dialects distinguish between two types of s and two types of ch (the phonetic details vary by dialect). Early colonial sources show such a distinction made in Cuzco dialect as well, indicating that the distinction dates back to the earliest forms of Quechua, and has been lost in the southern dialects.

Quechua, in fact, is very nice for studying sound change, because we have written sources (from bilingual speakers) dating back five hundred years, yet its monolingual speakers have generally been illiterate. We can thus observe the process of sound changes over the centuries, without the conservativizing filters imposed by a written language.

Highlights of the grammar

(Citations are in Ayacucho Quechua.)


Quechua words can almost always be divided neatly into morphemes (elements with a single meaning). Quechua is thus an agglutinating language. By contrast the Indo-European languages are inflecting languages.

Compare Quechua wasikunata 'houses (acc.)' with Russian domá. Both consist of a root (wasi-, dom-) plus suffixes; but while the Quechua suffixes can be separated into units adding the ideas of plurality (-kuna) and accusativity (-ta), Russian -á cannot be so broken down: it's a unit, plural + accusative.

Likewise compare Spanish comí 'I ate' with its indivisible inflection -í conveying the first person singular subject and the tense, as against Quechua miku-rqa-ni, where -rqa expresses the past tense and -ni the subject.


Nouns are pretty easy. There's no gender (as in Spanish or French) and no articles (i.e. 'the' and 'a'). The plural is -kuna, but it's optional if the meaning is clear.
Adjectives come before nouns: hatun wasi, 'a big house'. So does a noun used as a modifier: alqo wasi 'dog house'.

In addition to the direct object marker -ta-, there's also a topic suffix, -qa- (like Japanese wa). It indicates that the word in question is old information; it's what the sentences is about. Compare:
Alqoqa qarita kachuran.
Dog (topic) bit man: The dog bit the man; the dog, it bit a man.
Alqo qaritaqa kachuran.

Dog bit man (topic): The man was bitten by a dog; the man, he was bitten by a dog.
There are also suffixes to indicate possession: e.g. wasiy 'my house', wasiyki 'your house', wasin 'his house'.


The verb generally comes last in a sentence. However, as objects are explicitly marked, word order is fairly free.
Quechua verbs are entirely regular. Once you know one verb, you know them all. Even kay 'to be' is regular.

That doesn't mean that they're exactly easy, however. Verbs are inflected by person--
rimay 'speak'
rimani 'I speak' rimanki 'you (singular) speak' riman 'he/she speaks' rimaniku 'we (but not you) speak' rimanchik 'we (and you) speak' rimankichik 'y'all speak' rimanku 'they speak'
Other tenses are expressed by other suffixes: rimarani 'I spoke'; rimachkani 'I am speaking', etc. None of this is really hard, but it takes getting used to, for an English speaker.

These can get pretty baroque: there's a narrative past suffix, a causative, a reflexive, a benefactive, suffixes indicating movement, repetition, and so on.
Even more unusually (at least to English ears... French speakers might find it natural) is that object pronouns are incorporated into the verb: e.g. rikuwanki 'you see me', where -wa- means 'me'.

Actually the distinction between nouns and verbs is not rigid in Quechua. The word awa, for instance, means 'weave' if you attach verbal suffixes, or 'a weaving' if you attach noun suffixes.


The basic pronouns are
ñoqa 'I' qam 'you (singular)' pay 'he/she' ñoqayku 'we (excl.)' ñoqanchik 'we (incl.)' qamkuna 'you (plural)' paykuna 'they'
Quechua makes do with one word, pay, for 'he' and 'she'.

'You' and 'they' are regular plurals, formed by adding the plural suffix to the singular pronouns. That's a regularity that didn't occur to the inventor of Esperanto!
Quechua distinguishes between an inclusive and exclusive we (including or excluding the hearer).


One of the most interesting features of Quechua is what we might call 'attitude particles'. For instance, -m(i) expresses personal knowledge:

Tayta Wayllaqawaqa karpintirum
Mr. Huayllacahua is a carpenter (I know it for a fact).
By contrast -s(i) expresses hearsay knowledge:
Tayta Wayllaqawaqa karpintirus
Mr. Huayllacahua is a carpenter (or so I've heard).
It would be nice to be able to see this distinction used in Usenet postings.

There are also particles expressing that an action was--
performed for someone else's benefit (-pa-)
performed for the actor's own benefit (-ku-)
futile or of little importance (-ri-)
unusual, out of the ordinary (-yku-)
important or urgent (-ru-)
lamentable (-lla-)
not the responsibility of the speaker (-sqa-)
...and so on...

As you can imagine, you can put quite a fine spin on a statement. Being able to use all these suffixes correctly is the mark of one who knows the language well.


It's a pain to find sources on Quechua in the States, and not much easier in Lima. One book that's not too hard to find is Ronald Wright's Quechua Phrasebook, from Lonely Planet. It's well done and contains such useful phrases as Q'echa onqoywan kashani 'I have the shits'.

Anatole Lyovin's An Introduction to the Languages of the World has a sketch of Quechua grammar in a little more detail than this one (and is worth reading for its other grammatical sketches as well: Tibetan, Tok Pisin, Inuit, Dyirbal, etc.).

I've also used Rodolfo Cerrón-Palomino's Lingüística Quechua, Bruce Mannheim's The Language of the Inka since the European Invasion, John Lipski's Latin American Spanish,and the series of reference grammars and dictionaries published in 1976 by the Instituto de Estudios Peruanos. One of them (San Martín) has, I swear to God, the sample sentence wakayni kuruyan ukutinpi 'My cow has worms in its anus.' And you think you've got problems.

I'm also indebted to my wife Lida, a Peruvian, for giving me an inside perspective on Peruvian society, and for being understanding when I didn't like the chicken stomachs.
If you're inspired to learn Quechua, your best options, in descending order, seem to be--
go to South America and learn it there
find a native speaker here and arrange for lessons
find a university that offers Quechua courses
wait for UFOs to kidnap you and give you good self-study materials
Happy learning! Watch out for those worms!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pachamama Home: Cabanaconde´s worst restaurant

by the Colca Specialist

Cabanaconde is an interesting place but it still has many problems to be solved. One of the main problems is the lack of knowledge about tourism.
I won´t make of this article an essay about tourism but there is much to do in Cabanaconde.

The last time I visited Cabanaconde, was last year, and I took part in a mountainbiking event in Colca Canyon.
We arrived early to Cabanaconde and we were recommended to have breakfast in a place called Pachamama Home.

The bus driver recommended us this place to all the group, and said to us that the owner, a man called Ludwig was his friend and that we were going to be treated properly.

Well, it seemed to us that we were going to have a good breakfast. We went to the place and the cooks were really friendly, and the guys from the TV program we were traveling with, decided to interview them.

We had breakfast. At the end the bill comes and the price was not the one agreed. They overcharged everything. We understand that all things and goods are taken from Arequipa, but come on guys you have to be reasonable.

Tourists we are not stupid. A bottle of wine costs in Arequipa 20 soles and the same wine here 60 soles. I am not going to make a list of costs, but if you say that the BREAKFAST has a specific price, please respect it. Don´t lie to the clients,because of people like you the imagen of tourism in Peru is terrible.

We tried to talk with the owner and we were told that he was not there in that moment.
His “replacement” was a gringo backpacker who tried to cheat us with the prices of breakfast. What he was doing there? If I have a business, especially one that deals with tourists I have to hire a person with knowledge about tourism with a friendly, reliable attitude. I am not going to hire a couple of jerks because I will go bankrupt in a couple of months.

After the event I decided to check the web page of these guys and everything is good. The classical web page. Web pages cannot be trusted much because all of the owners and services they offer are good. All of them work properly, and the most funny thing is that all of them say that are involved in charity activities.

Not even one of these hotels, restaurants or travel agencies has a certificate of quality. Neither an award or something that says that they are really good. I can tell many things about myself but in reality can be other thing.

If these guys say that they provide a high quality service why the hotel had an unpolite backpacker in charge of the restaurant and the hotel? It seemed to me that he was picked up from the streets from Arequipa, dirty, unpolite. What kind of service is that? If I were you Mr. Ludwig I would fire those guys inmediately before your business goes bankrupt.

The next day, I went by myself and I ate in a local restaurant in Cabanaconde and it was really good. Besides, the food was better quality and gladly I would have payed more for the food. The lady there didnt´t speak English but she was good, smiling all the time. We asked for a lemon. She didn´t have one, but without hesitation she went to market to buy some lemons for us. Different from the attitude taken by the Pachamama Home workers.

The local authorities have to realize that if theywant to increase the flow of tourists to Cabanaconde the services have to be improved in all different areas. If not, be sure that everybody is going to go away. Cabanaconde is a beautiful place but if the tour guides are not professional and if the services quality is low, tourism in Cabanaconde won´t go far.Nothing important can be done with unpolite, uneducated people. Be sure of that.

Next time I go to Cabanaconde I don´t plan to visit Pachamama Home anymore...Neither I will pay attention to the bus driver. I will find out by myself.

The Colca Specialist.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sacred Mountains

E. Bernbaum

Edwin Bernbaum is Director of the Sacred Mountains Program, The Mountain Institute, and a Research Associate at the University of California, Berkeley, United States.
Throughout the world mountains are revered as mysterious places with the power to evoke an overwhelming sense of the sacred. For people of many different cultures, that mystery and sense of the sacred imbues their existence with meaning and vitality.

Mountains may be considered sacred in several ways. First, certain hills and peaks are designated as sacred mountains by particular cultures or religious traditions and enveloped with myths, beliefs and religious practices. Second, a mountain or mountain range that may or may not be revered itself may be associated with the activities of holy persons or beings or may contain sacred sites such as temples and groves.
Third, mountains that may not be considered sacred in any traditional sense may awaken a sense of wonder and awe that sets them apart as places imbued with cultural and inspirational value for particular individuals or groups of people.

Many cultures revere mountains as high places, embodying lofty aspirations and ideals. As the highest mountain on earth, Mount Everest has assumed the status of a sacred mountain even in the modern world. Its summit symbolizes for many the highest goal one can strive to attain, whether one's pursuit be material or spiritual.

An extremely widespread theme is that of the mountain as centre - of the cosmos, the world or a local region. A number of mountains in Asia, such as Mount Kailas in Tibet, Autonomous Region, China, and Gunung Agung in Bali, Indonesia, provide the pattern for the mythical Mount Meru or Sumeru, which stands as a cosmic axis around which the universe is organized in Hindu and Buddhist cosmology.

Many sacred mountains are revered as places of power. In the Bible, God descends on Mount Sinai wreathed in fire and smoke, the divine presence so intense that no one other than Moses could step on the mountain and live. For the ancient Greeks, Mount Olympus was the fortress of Zeus, the king of the gods who struck down his enemies with bolts of lightning.

The power of many sacred mountains derives from the presence of deities - in, on or as the mountain itself. The Kikuyu of Kenya revere the summit of Mount Kenya as the resting place in this world of Ngai or God. Native Hawaiians regard Kilauea as the body of the volcano goddess Pele and object to geothermal drilling on the mountain as a violation of her physical Parvati, which means "daughter of the mountain".

Many traditions revere sacred peaks as temples or places of worship. Tibetan Buddhists, for example, view Mount Kailas as the pagoda palace of Demchog, the One of Supreme Bliss. In the Judaeo-Christian tradition, pilgrims go to the sacred mountains of Sinai and to Moriah, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, to worship in the places where Moses and Abraham responded to a divine call.

Numerous people, both traditional and modern, view mountains as gardens and paradises - heavens on earth. Orthodox Christian monks refer to the sacred peninsula of Mount Athos in Greece as the "Garden of the Mother of God". Many hikers and climbers go to mountains as earthly paradises where they can find relief from the dusty grind of the modern world.

A major theme links mountains to the other world as ancestors, often in connection with origin myths, and as abodes of the dead. Mount Koya (Koyasan) has one of the most impressive graveyards in Japan, located in a forest of giant cedars centred around the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon or Esoteric Buddhism. The Maori believe themselves descended from ancestors who came to New Zealand in legendary canoes and went ashore to freeze into the mountains seen there today.

As the bodies of frozen ancestors, mountain peaks in New Zealand illustrate the widespread theme of mountains as symbols of cultural and even personal identity. Maoris, at intratribal meetings, identify themselves first by giving their tribal mountain, then their lake or river and finally the name of their chief. The Puruha of Ecuador believe themselves descended from the union of Mount Chimborazo and his wife, the nearby volcano Tungurahua.

Throughout the world people look up to mountains as sources of blessings such as water, life, fertility and healing. Hundreds of millions revere the Himalayas, the Abode of Snow, as the source of sacred rivers, such as the Ganges, on whose life-giving waters they depend for their very existence. Mountains such as the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona, United States, provide medicinal herbs and the blessings of water, health and well-being for the Navajo and Hopi peoples.

In China, mountains were regarded as such ideal places for meditation and spiritual transformation that the ancient Chinese expression for practis-ing religion meant literally "to enter the mountains".
Today many people in various parts of the world seek out mountains as places of artistic inspi-ration and spiritual renewal for the same reasons given by Guo Xi, one of China's most famous landscape painters, in the eleventh century: "The din of the dusty world and the confines of human habitations are what human nature habitually abhors; while, on the contrary, haze, mist, and the haunting spirits of the mountains are what human nature seeks".

Sacred mountains have a special value that makes them worth protecting at all costs. Beliefs and attitudes held by people who revere them can function as powerful forces helping to preserve the integrity of natural environments. Because wildlife such as vicuñas are believed to belong to the Apus, the mountain deities of the Peruvian Andes, many indigenous people in the Cusco area refrain from killing them.
The Dai people of southwestern China regard their Holy Hills as gardens of the gods and set them aside as sanctuaries of biodiversity off limits to hunting and farming.

Ideas and beliefs associated with sacred sites in mountains can also be used to help promote conservation, restore damaged environments and strengthen indigenous cultures. Indian scientists have been working with Hindu priests at the major pilgrimage shrine of Badrinath in the Indian Himalayas to encourage pilgrims to plant seedlings for reasons connected to their religious and cultural traditions.
They hold planting ceremonies that allow people to enrich their pilgrimage experience by restoring an ancient sacred forest.

Sacred mountains highlight values and ideals that profoundly influence how people view and treat each other and the world around them. In order to be sustainable over the long term, environmental policies and programmes need to take such values and ideals into account; otherwise, they will fail to enlist the local and popular support that they need to succeed.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The best mountainbiking raid ever done in Colca Canyon

The Mallku Jaqe (Kondor Man 2005)

by the Colca Specialist

This mountainbiking raid took place in 2005 and it was a duel between two champions. Downhill champ vs Cross country champion.The participants were two notorious peruvian mountainbikers from Arequipa: Guillermo Rendón Cuadros, 3 times champion of the controversial event Kamikaze Nitro Downhill and Aldo Peña Altamirano , the 2004 national cross country champion. The dream team was called INKABIKERS.

The event was divided in two parts, and the first circuit started in Colca Valley, specifically in Sibayo village, located at 3880 meters above sea level . The arrival was in Costa Inka Camaná on the seashore of the Pacific Ocean, after three days of an incredible adventure. The circuit name was “From Heaven to the Ocean: the Collaguas Route”.

The locals of Sibayo village in the ancient times ,they use to do the Illakuy, a kind of trip in which they traveled from the mountains towards the Pacific Ocean. This trip was done by the preinca and inca people, and on the way, they bartered their products with people from lower places, trying to get what they didn´t have on the mountains. It had a religious purpose too.

The travellers collected the sea water and special seashells in order to use them in the rain ceremonials performed to the apus or spirits of the mountain,the protectors of agriculture.

The second circuit had as starting point the Condor Cross in the Colca Canyon. The cyclists visited Cabanaconde, Huambo, Lluta, Taya, Huanca and then they arrived to Yura in Arequipa. The trip was done behind the volcanoes Huallca-Huallca,Sabancaya, and Ampato . The circuit belongs to Ampato Corridor, which is a new touristic option and the landscapes are really impressive.

The cyclists baptised this circuit as “The Route of the Inca Princess”, and they dedicated this circuit to Juanita, the snow maiden of Ampato volcano. In the second circuit a local champion joined the dream team in their trip: Miguel Mamani Huanca, a mountainbiker of Chivay whose is actually considered one of the best mountainbikers in Arequipa.

This event was a real success and it was filmed by Destinos TV Program and Pureq Runa which are well known TV programs specialized in tourism and adventure trips.

This raid was so successful that it had to be repeated 15 times on TV and the cyclists received emails and phone calls of people from Colca Canyon and Colca valley, who are residents in other parts of Peru, thanking them for showing not only their homeland ,but also their traditions and culture. It became successful because of the mix of sports and culture. The creator of this raid is Guillermo Rendón Cuadros who is actually an events promoter,tour guide and an active mountainbiker famous for his feats.

The event was called Kondor Man or Mallku Jaqe in Aymara Language, because the kondors in the summer season they migrate to the Pacific Ocean. Don´t forget that condors are very special for people of the Colca Valley and Colca Canyon. Because the first circuit was dedicated to the people of Sibayo village who belong to the Collagua ethnic group,the name was put in Aymara language,as a tribute to the Collagua ancestors who traveled to the Pacific Ocean with their packs of Lamas.

The event Kondor Man was done before in 2003 and 2004 and Guillermo Rendón was present in all of them pedaling along with Dante Paz Bustamante , Manuel Vera and Jose Linares which are well known cyclists in Arequipa.

To participate in this event the main requirement was to be a mountainbiking champion. Pedaling on the Andes is not childs´ task and in order to reach the objectives, Guillermo Rendón decided to create the INKABIKERS with mountainbiking and road cyclist champions. Creme de la Creme. A “no retreat,no surrender team”.

Because of the success of this event Guillermo Rendón Cuadros and Aldo Peña Altamirano are members of the Hall of Fame of Cyclism in Arequipa, and they were invited to be part of the Hall of Fame in 2009. The “duo dinamita” (dinamite duo) are getting ready for new events and be sure that we are going to hear about them soon.

We would like to thank Planet X Adventures for providing us the pictures. Kodak Time my friends!!!!!!

Here we can see Guillermo Rendón in action.This picture was taken at 5;000 meters high in the area next to Huarancante Volcano.

Aldo Peña (left) and Guillermo Rendón (right) the mountainbikers who took part in the odyssey called Kondor Man 2005.

Guillermo Rendón and the one in charge of the broom car Williams Medina giving the last check to Guillermos machine. The mountainbike Guillermo Rendón used is an hybrid that could be used for downhill purposes and uphill.

The cameran was incredible in this trip,he was put on the top of the van to film all the way down.
The writer of Peru Press magazine smiling for the camera.

Aldo Peña Altamirano (national cross country champion 2004) giving his impressions to the cameras of Pureq Runa Tv Program. Here we can see him being interviewed and posing for the picture along with his all time partner cannondale mountainbike.

Guillermo Rendón Cuadros,3 times champion of the xtreme kamikaze nitro downhill events interviewed by the TV Program Pureq Runa.

This is one of the highets interviews Guillermo Rendón had. The altitude and the cold weather were going to be the main obstacles the cyclists had to overcome if they wanted to reach their desired goal.

Final instructions to the camera man before put him on the roof of the van. That is why he is so well covered with scarf and sweater included.

A wonderful view of Chachani volcano behind the antena.

Aldo Peña Altamirano and Guillermo Rendón going down to Chivay Village.

Aldo Peña (left) and Guillermo Rendón (right) enjoying the company of the recepcionist from one of the best hotels in Coporaque village in Colca Valley: Mamayachi Hotel. This hotel belongs to Giardino Travel agency which was one of the sponsors of this event of the decade!!!!

After and adventure of two days on the highlands ,the cyclists are moving towards the Pacific Ocean. This picture was taken in the desertic area close to Camaná which is one of the main towns on the coastal southpart of Peru.

Aldo Peña passing by the control located a few kilometers away from Camaná.

Guillermo Rendón passing by the control. Mission complete. Guillermo Rendón arrives to Camaná area. There is no doubt of his physical strenght. As a downhill mountainbiker he had superiority on the way down with his full suspension bike but on the way up he had to follow the non-stoping rythm of Aldo Peña and his Cannondale cross country mountainbike. Well done Guillermo!!!!

The desired goal.: The Pacific Ocean in Camaná. The path of the ancestors was done with lamas but with mountainbikes.This circuit is one of the best mountainbiking circuits in Perú

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Human Sacrifice in Ancient America

By Alex Graham-Heggie

Human Sacrifice in Ancient America

Ancient American Civilizations live in some infamy for their alleged practices of human sacrifice.
The truth of human sacrifice is inescapable, and continued in the Americas considerably longer than any comparable practice in Europe. However, the American civilizations, such as the Moche, Teotihuacanos, Maya and Aztecs ought not be judged solely on that basis.

The Moche were a pre-Inca civilization from northern Peru in the early Common Era. Their blood cult is one of the most notorious. Little is understood about the Moche civilization. However, their art depicts many instances of brutal punishments.

The human-like high priest entity that features in the many portrayals of elaborate and sadistic sacrificial rituals is known as ‘the Decapitator.’ Bloodletting, beheading, flaying and other forms of torture and execution were all parts of the pageantry.

However, the Moche also dedicated artistic attention to themes of nature, daily life and dress, and even erotica. Little more is known about them at this time, except that their civilization collapsed, possibly due to climate or invasion, around 750 CE.

Further north, at about the same time the Moche were in their ascendancy, the city of Teotihuacan erected a new structure: the Temple of the Feathered Serpents. Believed to be the burial place of a monarch, it represents an unusual moment in Teotihucan, where a definite monarchy seems to have been in place.

Beneath the pyramid, 260 skeletons of are buried. Each of them, in turn, is wearing a necklace of human jawbones.Interestingly, after about one hundred years, the dynasty that erected the temple seems to have been overthrown and the temple itself walled off. This suggests that the regime was deposed by the majority.

Again, limited information is available, but afterwards Teotihuacan reverts to an impersonal form of leadership.
The Maya, further south and east likewise practiced human sacrifice. However, as stated in this author’s article on Maya warfare, it was a relatively rare aspect of their religion, nor necessarily an end in itself.

Indeed, sacrifice was often a way of formalizing one state’s dominance over another, by ritually executing its highest lords; social rank was a deciding factor in who was made captive in Maya warfare, as when the King of Tikal captured and ‘chopped’ the king of Caracol, thus establishing their own rule over it.

Indeed, the greater part of blood sacrifice among the Maya was so-called ‘autosacrifice,’ wherein lords and ladies actually bleed themselves onto paper and burn the paper for offerings and for divination.

A word should be spared for another custom often attached to human sacrifice; the Mesoamerican ball game. Throughout Mesoamerica, and the Caribbean, variations on game were played with a rubber ball, cast between teams.

The Maya city of Copan and the Oaxacan centre of El Tajin both have especially famous ball courts. The founding monarch of Copan, Yax Kuk Mo, has a range of injuries on his skeletons suggestive of taking part in the ball game.

The popular understanding of the ball game frequently says that two teams competed and the losers were sacrificed at the end. In fact the rules of the ball game are not well-known. Nor is it realistic that the game was always played the same way everywhere. The simple fact is its full significance is unknown.

The Aztecs are easily the most infamous American civilization as regards the practice of human sacrifice. Their legends trace the origins of the world to a council of gods at Teotihuacan – long an abandoned ruin by that time – where one of the gods sacrificed himself to create the Sun. Such a great debt needed to be repaid in nothing less than blood. Without that, the crops would not grow, the rain would not fall, and the Sun would not rise.

Also, Aztec codices show them overthrowing cities with temples much like their own, and they took their example of militarism in great part from the Toltecs. In short, their tendency towards sacrifice did not set them apart from their neighbors. They may have been especially good at it, but they did not invent it.

Between lack of information, and common oversimplifications, the stereotype of American civilizations as bloodthirsty has become altogether too commonplace in the 20th Century. No civilization is all one way.


Bob Brier, “The Pyramid Builders” Pyramids, Mummies and Tombs, Discovery Civilization, Summer 2007.
“Yax Kuk Mo” Ancient Clues, Discovery Civilization, Summer 2007.
Harrison, Peter D.
1999 Lords of Tikal: Rulers of an AncientMayaCity. Thames and Hudson Ltd., London.
Evans, Susan Toby Ancient Mexico and Central America: Archaeology and Culture History. Thames and Hudson Ltd., 2004.
“The Fifth World of the Aztecs” Spirits of the Jaguar, NOVA, PBS, 1998.
Personal Communications, Prof. S.E. Jackson, Dept. of Anthropology, University of Toronto, 2007-8.
Irving Rouse. The Tainos: Rise and Decline of the People Who Greeted Columbus. Yale University Press, 1992.

Friday, January 14, 2011

About the Quechua Culture


The Quechua Indians of the central Andes are the direct descendants of the Incas. The Inca Empire, which existed for a century before the arrival of the Spanish, was a highly developed civilization. The Inca Empire stretched from parts of present-day Colombia in the north, southward into Chile. The Incas had an impressive governing structure. The government imposed tribute and taxes on the population which were exacted in the form of labor and in crops. Vast warehouses were used to store food, which was then distributed in times of famine. The Incas also had an immense army, used to continuously expand the empire and conquer new peoples.

The Spanish conquistadors arrived in South America in the early 1500s. When they arrived, the Inca king Huayna Cápac(d.1527) had already died from one of the many European diseases that preceded the conquistadors. The Incas were in a state of civil war when Spanish forces arrived. After the Spanish captured the new Inca king, Atahualpa (1500?–33), the Incas suffered a swift defeat.

Peru attained independence from the Spanish in 1821. Modern-day Peru has struggled to modernize. It has been plagued by problems of hyperinflation, poor governments, and terrorism. Most Quechua still live in the Andean highlands. They rely on subsistence agriculture (growing little more than their own food) and pastoralism (nomadic herding) as did their Inca ancestors.


Quechua Indians still live in the areas once governed by the Inca Empire in Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia. The geographical conditions between regions differ dramatically. In mountain valleys there is rich soil and access to water that is suitable for farming. Most Quechua, however, live on the stark, steep slopes of the central Andes. Here the soil is poor, the wind strong, and the weather cold.

About one-third of Peru's 24.5 million inhabitants are Quechua Indians. Migration and urbanization in the past few decades have drawn many Quechua to Lima, the capital city of Peru. There is now a large indigenous and mestizo (mixed-race) population in Lima.


The Quechua language is known by its speakers as Runa Simi, or the language of the people. The term quechua refers more to the language than to a concrete ethnic group. The Quechua language was the administrative language of the Inca state. It is spoken by millions of people in Peru (about 8 million), Ecuador (nearly 2 million), and Bolivia (about 1 million). Quechua words that have been assimilated into the English language include puma, condor, llama, and coca. Unlike most other native South American languages, Quechua is an official language of Peru, accorded the same status as Spanish. Although it rarely occurs, senators and members of congress can give speeches in the Peruvian Congress in Quechua.


The myth of Incarrí perhaps reveals the most about the feelings of the vanquished Inca. After the conquest of Peru in 1532, the Inca rulers retreated from Cuzco to Vilcabamba. There they resisted the Spanish invasion for nearly fifty years. In 1579 the last rebel Inca, Tupac Amaru, was captured and beheaded by the Spanish. The Spaniards stuck his head on a pike and placed it in the plaza of Cuzco as a warning to the rebels. The head disappeared, and they say that it is buried. The myth tells that it is slowly growing its body back and when the body is complete, the Incas will return to rule their land.

Many of the ancient Quechua myths are still preserved in their oral tradition. Most of them narrate the origin of various ethnic groups, or of mountains, rivers, and lakes.


Quechua religion combines both pre-Columbian and Catholic elements. The most significant pre-Columbian influence that endures is the belief that supernatural forces govern everyday events, such as weather and illness. This belief serves a utilitarian purpose to the agricultural Quechua. By making offerings to the powers that control natural forces, the Quechua feel they can influence events and not merely be helpless in the face of bad weather or disease. When drinking alcohol, for example, it is customary to first offer a drink to Mother Earth, Pachamama.

This religious Andean world is populated by gods who have human attributes. Sometimes they love each other and other times they hate and fight each other. For this reason, the Andean religion has two dimensions in the lives of the people. First, in human terms it promotes social cohesion, and second, in transcendental terms it connects gods and humans.

The Quechua have adopted Christianity and also have incorporated it into their indigenous beliefs.


The Quechua celebrate important Catholic holidays such as Christmas and Easter. At the same time, they have not abandoned their ancient holidays. In the ancient Inca capital of Cuzco, the Inca Sun Festival is still celebrated. The Inti Raymi festival, as it is called, draws thousands of tourists from all over the world to witness its spectacular festivities. Donning replicas of Inca tunics, rather than contemporary Andean garb, Quechua Indians reenact the Inca sun-worshiping ceremony. The Inti Raymi festival, which celebrates the June solstice, reflects the Inca's vast knowledge of astronomy. On this occasion, there is much eating, drinking, and dancing. True to Inca traditions, a llama is also sacrificed on this day.


Major life transitions, such as birth, puberty, and death, are marked by rituals and celebrations that combine Catholic and indigenous traditions.


Courtship and marriage involve a lengthy series of rituals and stages. Most unmarried youths meet (and flirt) during one of the community's many festivals. When a young couple decides that they are ready to consider marriage, the family of the bride is visited by the family of the prospective groom. The groom himself stays home while his parents and godparents discuss the wedding and negotiate what each family will donate to the newlyweds. The engagement is made official at a later date when the bride and groom exchange rosaries. At the wedding, there is a public procession as the bride leaves her home to join her husband's ayllu or community. Various other rituals, including fertility rites, follow the wedding.


The dominant building material throughout most of the Andes is adobe. Adobe has the advantages of being highly durable, free, and widely available. Adobe can be made almost year-round with the rich Andean soil. Traditionally, roofs were made from thatched material.
However, now they are more often made of tiles. House-building is a communal affair, based on the ancient Inca system of labor exchange known as mita. Neighbors are offered chicha (beer), cigarettes, and food in return for their help in the construction of a new home. In exchange, those who participated in the house-building are owed labor that they can claim at any time.
The quality of health care in rural communities is still extremely poor. Most Quechua first turn to a curandero (literally, "curer") who provides herbal medicines and treatment.


Children in Quechua society play many important roles. From a very young age they participate in economic activities and key household tasks. As in most other subsistence economies, children are essential as they are expected to provide long-term economic security to their parents as they age. An optimum family size is considered to be three or four children. However, due to limited access to birth control, many families have ten or more children. Generally, male children are more highly valued than females, as their economic potential is seen to be greater.

Women play a subordinate role compared to men in the community political structure. Women are less likely to receive a formal education, do not hold significant positions of power within the community, and are excluded from many potentially profitable economic activities. A clear sexual division of labor exists with regard to both agricultural and household tasks. Within the family, women have a say in matters such as decisions about finances or issues surrounding the upbringing of children. However, there is little evidence to suggest that they are free from subordination in that domain either.


Traditional Andean clothing reflects Spanish influences. In 1572, the Spanish prohibited the Quechua from wearing native Inca tunics and wrap-around dresses. Andean peoples then adopted the clothing still in use today. Quechua women wear skirts and blouses, with colorful woven shawls around their shoulders. Men wear trousers, shirts, and woven ponchos (capes). Sandals are the preferred footwear for both men and women.

The style and color of clothing worn by Quechua Indians varies dramatically from region to region. The Otavalo of Ecuador, an important subgroup of the Quechua, have a very distinctive dress. They wear white trousers and shirts, covered by a solid black poncho. Otavalo men are also famed for their long black braids.

12 • FOOD

The potato was first domesticated in Peru approximately 4,500 years ago. The potato and quinoa grain remain as two of the main staples of the Quechua diet. Common dishes include meat or potato stews, spiced with hot peppers, coriander, or peanuts. For community feasts, a pachamanca, or underground oven, is occasionally used.

Also considered a delicacy is guinea pig. The preferred dish for festivals, guinea pigs are often raised in the house and provide a productive use for kitchen scraps and discarded food. The use of guinea pigs as an important source of protein pre-dates the Incas.


Formal education in Peru is required until the age of sixteen. In rural areas, however, the percentage of students who finish their schooling is much lower than in urban areas. This is, in part, because children play a valuable role in household and agricultural tasks and their labor cannot be spared. The schooling received is generally very poor. Teaching methods are based on rote memorization rather than problem-solving skills. Personal initiative is rarely encouraged, and teachers generally have low expectations of what their students can achieve. A further problem emerges for Quechua children, since Spanish is the primary language taught and used at schools.


The characteristic music of the central Andes is called huayno . The mountain origins of huaynos are reflected in their lyrics that recount daily life in mountain villages and proclaim Andean nationalism (patriotism). Traditional instruments still widely used include drums, flutes, and the charrango, a mandolin-style guitar made from an armadillo shell. Huayno singers are increasingly popular in urban areas.

Quechua folk music also includes beautiful, haunting music for panpipes (hollow pipes of graduated length). One of these songs, "El Condor Pasa," was a hit record for the singing duo, Simon and Garfunkel in the 1960s.

As the Incas did not write, there is not a tradition of Quechua literature. In twentieth-century Peru, however, there has emerged a tradition of indigenista writers who focus on the life of the indigenous (native) Andean peoples. Jose Maria Arguedas, Cesar Vallejo, and Ciro Alegría have written influential books that portray the oppression of the Quechua throughout the centuries and chronicle their hard life in the Andes. These authors have contributed to a growing Andean nationalism and pride.


Most Quechua rely on subsistence farming for their livelihood. Corn, potatoes, and grains are crops that have adapted to the high-altitude environment. Land is still farmed using the Inca method of terracing on steep slopes. This labor-intensive approach to agriculture requires a tremendous amount of time. Little time is left to devote to other economic activities.

Trade is highly developed between different villages and regions. In addition to agricultural products, many communities produce pottery, textiles, belts, hats, and other handicrafts for cash sales. In most communities, there is a weekly market day, which plays an important role in the economic and social fabric of the village.


There are no uniquely Quechua sports. However, as part of a mestizo (mixed background) society, the Quechua participate in a variety of Western sports, such as soccer.


Socializing is the primary form of recreation in Quechua society. The Quechua celebrate a great many religious festivals, national holidays, and birthdays. Parties and festivals are eagerly anticipated and require many weeks of planning. Many festivals involve up to eight days of drinking, feasting, and dancing.


The most significant handicraft produced by the Quechua is textiles. Women throughout the Andes can be seen spinning wool almost all day, even while sitting at the market or waiting for a bus. Both llama and sheep wool are used. The "belt loom" still in use by the Quechua dates back to pre-contact (with Europeans) times. The Quechua are skilled weavers. Their products are increasingly in demand for the tourist and export markets.


Male drunkenness is a serious social problem throughout the central Andes. Drinking alcoholic beverages is not only an accepted behavior at the Quechua's many festivals and parties, it is also an expected behavior.

Alongside feasting and dancing, becoming drunk is a core part of most social occasions. Unfortunately, this behavior often spills over into daily life. Excessive male drinking has a negative impact on both family relations and family finances. Spousal abuse is a common result of alcoholism.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Melting glaciers threaten Peru

Melting glaciers threaten Peru

Thousands of people in the Andes mountains of Peru are having their lives affected in both a practical and cultural way by climate change, which is causing the region's glaciers to melt.

This is already having a major impact of some aspects of life for the people who live in the mountains - and the government of the country is worried that the situation could get much worse.

In the last three decades, Peruvian glaciers have lost almost a quarter of their area.

"This is an indicator which gave us some concern on how the future was going to be on these tropical glaciers," Patricia Iturregui, head of the Climate Change Unit of Peru's National Council for the Environment, told BBC World Service's One Planet programme.
"All our estimations on the basis of this data are that in the next 10 years the top tropical glaciers of Peru - and eventually other Andean countries - above 5,500 metres will disappear if climate conditions remain as the last 10 years."

Nasa fears

The most immediate threat is coming from the change to water supplies in the area.
During the dry season, river water comes exclusively from the glaciers, which melt naturally at that time of year. They then replenish themselves in the wet season.
But this balance has been upset - the glaciers are melting faster than they can replenish themselves. As they thaw, dozens of new lakes have spread all over the highland.

A recent report by US space agency Nasa suggested that a large chunk of ice in the area could break off and fall into one of these lakes, triggering a devastating flood.
Satellites had detected a crack in the glacier overlooking Lake Palcacocha.
One city under threat would be Huaraz, with a population of 100,000. The news from Nasa came as a very worrying shock to many in the city.

"We were all very worried in my family - we packed suitcases with clothes and blankets," Joana, one of the citizens of Huaraz, told One Planet.
"We warned our relatives to be prepared."

Risk assessment

Some scientists dispute Nasa's claims. Mario Giva, of the Peruvian National Institute for Natural Resources, said that it was "necessary for some work in the field to determine whether there is sufficient evidence of any imminent danger".

Nevertheless, Nasa is currently in conversation with the Peruvian Government over these findings, which is drawing up plans to respond to the risks posed by the melting glaciers.
"We need to make an important effort to plan disaster management and prevention of risks in the future," Ms Iturregui said.

"The most important measures to be taken are to organise local communities and to organise an institutional framework able to respond to these adverse effects."
She added that an assessment of water resources available in the future was currently under way.

"We are in the process of desertification," stressed Ms Iturregui.
"The retreat of the glaciers is definitely going to mean a shortfall in the water supply in years to come."

Tourism threat

Some in Huarez itself recall when, in 1941, a chunk of ice did melt off - and destroyed around a third of the city, killing between 5,000 and 7,000 people.
But the melting glaciers are also causing other problems.

The deluge is proving too much for some of the canals - some of which are many years old - that supply the farms and mills in the central region.
Conversely, the fact that the glaciers are not replenishing themselves is also a potential threat to life in the region, as in the dry season they are the sole source of fresh water.
And there are further impacts on the lives of people in the mountains.

"Now, glaciers are sliding over the bedrock," said glacier expert Cecil Portocarrero.
"This is causing problems - not only for water resources but also for tourism, for climbers."

'Healing water' banned

Meanwhile some ancient spiritual traditions are also under threat.
Every year thousands of people from across the Andes flock to the Sinakara glacial mountain to attend the Qoyllur Rit'i religious festival.

Catholic tradition believes that the Christ child appeared in 1870 to a shepherd boy named Marianito Mayta. Ever since, pilgrims have believed that Christ lives in the rock.
And for the Incas - and other civilisations that preceded them - mountains were gods to be honoured, as they supplied water and controlled the weather.

Many people come down from the glacier with pieces of ice, as they believe the ice can cure them of illness.
"They think it acts like a medicine - like a sacred water," explained mountain guide Feri Coba.
"Perhaps at home someone is not feeling well. They will drink it and they will be cured."

Ritual ending

This year, because of concerns about melting, the Pablitos - the guardians of the Qoyllur Rit'i ceremony - have stopped the ice being taken away.

"We decided to eliminate this part of a ritual because we are concerned about the glacier," explained one Pablito. "We have taken this decision to protect the ice."
The decision has upset many pilgrims.

"The glaciers were bigger - when I first came here this particular one reached around 200 metres down," one said.

"In a few years' time we might not have any ice. I don't know where the Andean people will be able to go for their rituals."

Quipus:The Talking Knots of the Inka

by Viviano Domenici and Davide Domenici

An Inka accounting system that used knotted strings called quipus to record numerical data has long been known to scholars. The complexity and number of knots indicated the contents of warehouses, the number of taxpayers in a given province, and census figures. Were quipus also used to record calendars, astronomical observations, accounts of battles and dynastic successions, and literature? If so, all knowledge of such use has been lost--or has it?

At conference of Andean scholars this past June, Laura Laurencich Minelli, a professor of Precolumbian studies at the University of Bologna, described what she believes to be a seventeenth-century Jesuit manuscript that contains detailed information on literary quipus. Surfacing at a time when the decipherment of these string documents is at a standstill, the manuscript, if authentic, could be a Rosetta Stone for Andean scholarship.

Found in the family papers of Neapolitan historian Clara Miccinelli, the manuscript consists of nine folios measuring eight by 11 inches with Spanish, Latin, and ciphered Italian texts. Included in the document are three half-pages of drawings signed "Blas Valera" and an envelope containing a wool quipu fragment. The manuscript, folded in eighths, had been bound in a chestnut-colored cover bearing the title Historia et Rudimenta Linguae Piruanorum, or History and Rudiments of the Language of the Peruvians.

Miccinelli believes the text was written by two Italian Jesuit missionaries, Joan Antonio Cumis and Joan Anello Oliva, between 1610 and 1638, and that the three half-folios were written by Valera, a mestizo Jesuit, sometime before 1618. An inscription and the manuscript's cover were apparently added in the mid-eighteenth century by another Jesuit, Pedro de Illanes. A short dedication on the last page bears the name of an Italian duke, Amedeo di Savoia-Aosta, who is said to have given the manuscript as a wedding gift to a fellow army officer in 1927.

In addition to details about reading literary quipus, the document discusses events and people associated with the Spanish conquest of Peru. It includes the incredible claims that Francisco Pizarro conquered the region after poisoning Inka generals with arsenic-tainted wine and that the chronicler Guamán Poma de Ayala, author of one of the most important works on Inka Peru, the Nueva Corónica y Buen Gobierno (New Chronicle and Good Government), merely lent his name to a work actually written by Valera.

Of particular interest is the text's abundant biographical information on Valera, about whom little is known and whose writings are known only from the works of others.
According to Cumis there were quipus that differed from the ones used for accounting. These so-called royal quipus had elaborate woven symbols, which hung down from a main string.

Cumis tells us that few existed by his time since so many thad been burned by the Spaniards out of ignorance. In discussing how Quechua, the language of the Inka, was recorded on the knotted strings, Cumis writes that "The scarceness of the words and the possibility of changing the same term using particles and suffixes to obtain different meanings allow them to realize a spelling book with neither paper, nor ink, nor pens....

[The] curaca emphasized that this quipu is based by its nature on the scarceness of words, and its composition key and its reading key lie in its syllabic division....[The] curaca explained, "If you divide the word Pachacamac [the Inka deity of earth and time] into syllables Pa-cha-ca-mac, you have four syllables. If you...want to indicate the word 'time,' pacha in Quechua, it will be necessary to make two symbols [in the quipu] representing Pachacamac--one of them with a little knot to indicate the first syllable, the other with two knots to indicate the second syllable....

[The curaca] listed the main key words with an explanation of how to realize them in quipus. " Following this section of the text, the author provides a vocabulary list along with illustrations of the symbols used to indicate the words on quipus.

Most of the historical information contained in the manuscript is in conflict with our current understanding of the Spanish conquest of Peru, which is based on the writings of Garcilaso de la Vega, the Spanish Jesuit Bernabé Cobo, Guamán Poma de Ayala, and numerous official communications between Spain and its New World colony.

Few scholars have had access to the Naples document, and what was presented by Laurencich Minelli has met with mixed reactions as academics cautiously evaluate the manuscript's authenticity and the reliability of its contents.
According to Laurencich Minelli's preliminary examination, signatures on the Naples manuscript appear to match those on authentic documents by the same authors.

Moreover, the watermarks on some of the sheets are similar to late sixteenth-century European watermarks, and the substance of the pigments used in the drawings attributed to Valera appears to be South American. "The ink binder in the main text of the manuscript itself has crystallized over the years and in some places has perforated the paper, which is in need of conservation," says Laurencich Minelli.

"Our biochemical laboratory at the University of Bologna would like to run a battery of nondestructive, noninvasive tests on the document. We are hoping that Clara Miccinelli will release the manuscript for analysis."

According to Bruce Mannheim, director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Michigan, "From its sound, scribal practice, and grammatical forms, however, the Quechua itself is likely of northern, probably Ecuadorian, origin and resembles that used by Jesuits in the mid- to late seventeenth century--no earlier.

" Colgate University's Gary Urton, a specialist in quipus, is skeptical about the manuscript's authenticity. He cites its extravagant claims about Pizarro and Valera and wonders why this method of quipu decipherment has not surfaced in other chronicles. John H. Rowe, a professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, has little doubt about the manuscript's authenticity, but questions the reliability of its contents.

If much of the historical content is suspect, what about the document's information about quipus? "If, in fact, it does offer a method for reading the quipus, this would represent a tremendous advance in the study of Andean societies," says Urton. "We need to have the results of the tests that Laura Laurencich Minelli wants to run on the document, tests analyzing the inks, paints, and paper that were used.

We also need a group of scholars well versed in the study of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spanish and Italian documents from the New World to look very closely at the language to give us some assurance that it is of the period that it purports to be. Until then I think we simply have to withhold judgement. If we admit into the literature a document that was written in recent decades, we risk diverting ourselves from the serious study of Inka writing."

Monday, January 10, 2011

Congratulations Mario Vargas Llosa!

by the Colca Specialist

Congratulations Mario!

Thank you for believing in your dreams!
You are our inspiration!

These are just a few phrases that express the happiness of the people from Arequipa, birth place of the literature nobel prize Mario Vargas Llosa.

One of his favorite places in Arequipa is Colca Canyon and the andean condor is one of his favorite birds. One of his good friends in Colca Valley was the american nun Madre Antonia who lived in Yanque village,a person whose sweetness cautivated Mario Vargas Llosa.

When we saw Mario Vargas llosa on TV receiving the Noble Prize of Literature 2010 in Stockolm,Sweden, we felt very proud about him and we are sure that Madre Antonia wherever she is, she is proud of you Mario.

Madre Antonia is gone now, she passed away last year, but we know she is very happy that at the end, his friend, Mario Vargas Llosa made his dreams come true.

Congratulations once more again Mario Vargas Llosa!
Receive the greetings of all the people from Colca Valley and Colca Canyon.

The Colca Specialist
Vargas Llosa Takes Nobel in Literature

The Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, whose deeply political work vividly examines the perils of power and corruption in Latin America, won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday.
A brief and unsuccessful effort to officially enter the political arena came later. While Peru was besieged by high inflation and the attacks by the Maoists of the
Shining Path in 1990, Mr. Vargas Llosa made a quixotic run for the presidency, opposing Alberto Fujimori, then a little-known agronomist.

Mr. Vargas Llosa was ahead in polls for much of his campaign, but some factors may have worked against him: his aristocratic bearing in impoverished Peru and his acknowledgment that in the largely Roman Catholic country, he was an agnostic.
Mr. Fujimori triumphed, and the failed bid left Mr. Vargas Llosa with a sour taste for politics in his country.

Afterward, Mr. Vargas Llosa’s influence in the Spanish-speaking world became more widespread through his column for El País, the Spanish daily newspaper in Madrid. The column, “Piedra de Toque,” or “Touchstone,” is distributed in newspapers throughout Latin America and explores themes including literature, travel and the politics of the Middle East and Latin America.

The previous Nobel laureate of the “boom generation,” Mr. García Márquez of Colombia, won after wide acclaim for his masterpiece, “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” In a twist worthy of one of Mr. Vargas Llosa’s subplots, Mr. García Márquez and Mr. Vargas Llosa, at one point close friends, had a violent falling out in 1976 in Mexico City, which they have yet to patch up.

The episode unfolded at a film premiere. When Mr. García Márquez approached Mr. Vargas Llosa to embrace him, the Peruvian writer instead punched him in the face, giving him a black eye,
an image immortalized days later by the photographer Rodrigo Moya. Mystery shrouds what happened, but apparently the feud had to do with Mr. Vargas Llosa’s wife, whom Mr. García Márquez had consoled during a marital estrangement.

Confusion over the enigmatic feud persisted on Thursday, after news of a Twitter message attributed to Mr. García Márquez — which read, “Now we’re even” — made the rounds in literary circles across Latin America. Mr. García Márquez’s foundation in Colombia later tried to clear things up by saying the Twitter message was not authentic.

In any case, Álvaro Mutis, a Colombian writer who lives in Mexico City and is a friend of both men, told the EFE news agency that a reconciliation between the two heavyweights of Latin literature, after 34 years of rancor, was probably not going to happen.

The news that Mr. Vargas Llosa had won the prize reached him early on Thursday morning, when he was working in his apartment in Manhattan, preparing to set out on a walk through Central Park, he told a radio station in Peru. Initially, he thought it was a prank.
“It was a grand surprise,” he said. “It’s a good way to start a New York day.”
Banquet Speech

Mario Vargas Llosa's speech at the Nobel Banquet, 10 December 2010

I am a storyteller, so before I propose a toast I will tell you a story.
Once upon a time, there was a boy who learned to read at the age of five. This changed his life. Owing to the adventure tales he read, he discovered a way to escape from the poor house, the poor country and the poor reality in which he lived, and to journey to wonderful, mesmerizing places peopled with the most beautiful beings and the most surprising things, where every day and every night brought a more intense, more thrilling more unusual form of bliss.

He so enjoyed reading stories that one day this boy, who was now a young man, took to making them up himself and writing them. He had a hard time doing it, but it brought him pleasure and he delighted in writing tales as much as he delighted in reading them.

The character in my story, however, was very aware that the real world was one thing and the fancy world of dreams and literature quite another, and that the latter only came to light when he read and wrote stories. The rest of the time, it vanished.

Until one day, in the wee hours of the morning, the protagonist of my story received a mysterious call in which a gentleman with a name that defied all pronunciation announced to him that he had won a prize and that in order to receive it he would have to travel to a place called Stockholm, the capital of a land called Sweden (or something of the sort).

To his total bewilderment, my character then started to experience in real life one of those stories that until then he had only found in the unreal and ideal realm of literature. He suddenly felt like the pauper must have felt when he was confused with the prince in Mark Twain's The Prince and the Pauper. He is still there, quite startled, not knowing whether he is dreaming or fully awake, whether what is happening is for real or a lie, whether what is occurring is life or literature, because the border that separates the two seems to have totally vanished.

Dear friends, now I can propose the toast I had promised. Let us toast to Sweden, that strange kingdom that seems to have performed, for a privileged few, the miracle of turning life into literature and literature into life.
Cheers (skål) and thank you very much!

The Nobel Foundation 2010


"I am honored and recompensed for something that has been a recompense in itself ..."
Telephone interview with Mario Vargas Llosa following the announcement of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature, 7 October 2010. The interviewer is Adam Smith, Editor-in-Chief of

[Mario Vargas Llosa] Hello?
[Adam Smith] Oh, hello, is that Mario Vargas Llosa?
[MVL] Yes, speaking?
[AS] Oh, hello, my name is Adam Smith. I'm calling from the Nobel Prize website in Stockholm. My congratulations on the news of the award.
[MVL] Well, so, is it true then? Ha ha!
[AS] Ha, ha! It most certainly ...
[MVL] Because, I received a call from the Secretary General of the Academy, and I was wonder if it was true or joke of a friend!
[AS] Well, I can confirm that it has just been announced to the public in Stockholm.
[MVL] Ah, it has already been announced. Well, I'm deeply moved and grateful! It's been a great surprise! Well, I don't know what to say ... I feel overwhelmed, really!
[AS] That's a nice thing to say! You've been tipped for some years, so ... what does it mean to be awarded the Prize, do you know?
[MVL] Well, I know but I still don't believe it, you know? I need to read it in the papers.
[AS] Of course, yes. Once it's in literature, then it's real. We have a ...
[MVL] I feel very moved and it's a fantastic encouragement. And, frankly, I didn't expect it, you know! I never knew that it was true that my name was among the possible candidates and ... But, anyway, it's a fantastic event and I feel very surprised, you know! Very surprised.
Writing has been such a fantastic pleasure for me all my life, that I cannot believe that I am honored and recompensed for something that has been a recompense in itself, you know? Anyway, please ...
[AS] My sincere congratulations ...
[MVL] Anyway, please convey my gratitude to all the members of the Academy.
[AS] Of course, may I ... keep you on the phone for just a couple of minutes because we like to record a very brief telephone interview?
[MVL] Yes, of course.
[AS] Thank you. Ok, so I gather you're in Princeton at the moment, teaching?
[MVL] I am in New York, but teaching in Princeton. I spend Monday and Tuesdays teaching, but I am living in New York until December.
[AS] Ok. And, you live in many different places. You're Peruvian ...
[MVL] I live in, well, in Lima [phone line drops out], and Madrid. But mostly between Lima and Madrid.
[AS] And, I was going to ask: does it change the way you write, where you're living? Because it, in some ...
[MVL] Oh, I don't think so. I don't think so. I ... no ... I, well, I write about different places of course but, ah, I'm not ... Sometimes I move because I am writing about a certain place. But, I don't think the environment change very much the idea that I have of a story ... But, maybe, maybe, yes... but not in a very conscious way? Maybe unconsciously, yes, I am impregnated by the place in which I am. I, I don't [phone line drops out] know.
[AS] What about language? Because, of the ...
[MVL] The language, I am convinced that the fact of living in a foreign, let's say, language, enriches very much the relationship that I have with Spanish. I think that I have understood better my own language in this constant confrontation – of the Spanish with the English, with the French, with the German. Ah, I think you become much more conscious of the nuances that each language has to express the same idea, same feelings. I think in this [phone line drops out] my relationship with my own language has been much, much more rich because I have lived in countries where the Spanish language was not a national language, you see.
[AS] And, you write in a very large number of forms - and unusually large number of forms - why is that so?
[MVL] Well, I write novels, and ah ... But, I think I am a writer of fiction, you know, because I write plays also, or short stories. But, ah, I don't believe that the different literary genres change the vision, the beliefs ... the feelings that I try to express in my stories.
But, I think certain stories expressed or represented in a play, than in a novel, or in a short story that in another [phone line drops out] . In other stories, of course, I think that the novel is the ideal way to tell them, no?
[AS] Yes. And, may I ask about your interest in politics? You say that you entered politics from a sense of obligation. Was this personal obligation or the obligation of the writer?
[MVL] Well, you know, when I ... I, I think writers are citizens too, you know, and have the moral obligation to participate in the civic debate, in the debate about the solutions to the problems that the societies face. That doesn't mean that I think that writers should become professional politicians. No, I never thought, I never wanted to become a professional politician. I did it once because the situation in Peru was deeply, deeply serious. We had hyperinflation, we have terrorism, there was war, civil war, in the country. And, in this environment, my impression was that the very fragile democracy that we had [phone line drops out] was on the point of collapse! So, it was in this circumstances. But, I did it as something very exceptional and knowing perfectly well that this would be a transitory experience, no, which it was.
But, on the other hand, I am ... I, I think that writers, as the rest of citizens, should participate in the civic problems. Otherwise, you couldn't ... you couldn't protest! You couldn't [phone line drops out] participate. If you believe in democracy, democracy is participation, and I don't think why writers, or artists, or intellectuals should exonerate themselves of this moral obligation to participate.
[AS] Ok, a last question. The announcement will expose you to a whole new readership, who have never read you before. Would you recommend that they start will one book in particular?
[MVL] Oh, well, ha ha! I don't know! I suppose ... ah ... I don't really know. But, maybe ... No! I cannot say. No, I cannot say.
[AS] Ok. That's good: leave them to their free choice, yes.
[MVL] Very well, sir.
[AS] Well, it's been a pleasure to talk to you.
[MVL] Thank you very much.
[AS] Congratulations. Thank you very much, good bye.
[MVL] Good bye!


Mario Vargas Llosa
Born: 28 March 1936, Arequipa, Peru
Prize motivation: "for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt, and defeat

Nobel Lecture
December 7, 2010

In Praise of Reading and Fiction

I learned to read at the age of five, in Brother Justiniano’s class at the De la Salle Academy in Cochabamba, Bolivia. It is the most important thing that has ever happened to me. Almost seventy years later I remember clearly how the magic of translating the words in books into images enriched my life, breaking the barriers of time and space and allowing me to travel with Captain Nemo twenty thousand leagues under the sea, fight with d’Artagnan, Athos, Portos, and Aramis against the intrigues threatening the Queen in the days of the secretive Richelieu, or stumble through the sewers of Paris, transformed into Jean Valjean carrying Marius’s inert body on my back.

Reading changed dreams into life and life into dreams and placed the universe of literature within reach of the boy I once was. My mother told me the first things I wrote were continuations of the stories I read because it made me sad when they concluded or because I wanted to change their endings. And perhaps this is what I have spent my life doing without realizing it: prolonging in time, as I grew, matured, and aged, the stories that filled my childhood with exaltation and adventures.

I wish my mother were here, a woman who was moved to tears reading the poems of Amado Nervo and Pablo Neruda, and Grandfather Pedro too, with his large nose and gleaming bald head, who celebrated my verses, and Uncle Lucho, who urged me so energetically to throw myself body and soul into writing even though literature, in that time and place, compensated its devotees so badly.
Throughout my life I have had people like that at my side, people who loved and encouraged me and infected me with their faith when I had doubts. Thanks to them, and certainly to my obstinacy and some luck, I have been able to devote most of my time to the passion, the vice, the marvel of writing, creating a parallel life where we can take refuge against adversity, one that makes the extraordinary natural and the natural extraordinary, that dissipates chaos, beautifies ugliness, eternalizes the moment, and turns death into a passing spectacle.

Writing stories was not easy. When they were turned into words, projects withered on the paper and ideas and images failed. How to reanimate them? Fortunately, the masters were there, teachers to learn from and examples to follow. Flaubert taught me that talent is unyielding discipline and long patience. Faulkner, that form – writing and structure – elevates or impoverishes subjects. Martorell, Cervantes, Dickens, Balzac, Tolstoy, Conrad, Thomas Mann, that scope and ambition are as important in a novel as stylistic dexterity and narrative strategy.
Sartre, that words are acts, that a novel, a play, or an essay, engaged with the present moment and better options, can change the course of history. Camus and Orwell, that a literature stripped of morality is inhuman, and Malraux that heroism and the epic are as possible in the present as is the time of the Argonauts, the Odyssey, and the Iliad.

If in this address I were to summon all the writers to whom I owe a few things or a great deal, their shadows would plunge us into darkness. They are innumerable. In addition to revealing the secrets of the storytelling craft, they obliged me to explore the bottomless depths of humanity, admire its heroic deeds, and feel horror at its savagery. They were my most obliging friends, the ones who vitalized my calling and in whose books I discovered that there is hope even in the worst of circumstances, that living is worth the effort if only because without life we could not read or imagine stories.

At times I wondered whether writing was not a solipsistic luxury in countries like mine, where there were scant readers, so many people who were poor and illiterate, so much injustice, and where culture was a privilege of the few. These doubts, however, never stifled my calling, and I always kept writing even during those periods when earning a living absorbed most of my time.
I believe I did the right thing, since if, for literature to flourish, it was first necessary for a society to achieve high culture, freedom, prosperity, and justice, it never would have existed. But thanks to literature, to the consciousness it shapes, the desires and longings it inspires, and our disenchantment with reality when we return from the journey to a beautiful fantasy, civilization is now less cruel than when storytellers began to humanize life with their fables.
We would be worse than we are without the good books we have read, more conformist, not as restless, more submissive, and the critical spirit, the engine of progress, would not even exist. Like writing, reading is a protest against the insufficiencies of life. When we look in fiction for what is missing in life, we are saying, with no need to say it or even to know it, that life as it is does not satisfy our thirst for the absolute – the foundation of the human condition – and should be better.
We invent fictions in order to live somehow the many lives we would like to lead when we barely have one at our disposal.Without fictions we would be less aware of the importance of freedom for life to be livable, the hell it turns into when it is trampled underfoot by a tyrant, an ideology, or a religion.
Let those who doubt that literature not only submerges us in the dream of beauty and happiness but alerts us to every kind of oppression, ask themselves why all regimes determined to control the behavior of citizens from cradle to grave fear it so much they establish systems of censorship to repress it and keep so wary an eye on independent writers.
They do this because they know the risk of allowing the imagination to wander free in books, know how seditious fictions become when the reader compares the freedom that makes them possible and is exercised in them with the obscurantism and fear lying in wait in the real world. Whether they want it or not, know it or not, when they invent stories the writers of tales propagate dissatisfaction, demonstrating that the world is badly made and the life of fantasy richer than the life of our daily routine.
This fact, if it takes root in their sensibility and consciousness, makes citizens more difficult to manipulate, less willing to accept the lies of the interrogators and jailers who would like to make them believe that behind bars they lead more secure and better lives.

Good literature erects bridges between different peoples, and by having us enjoy, suffer, or feel surprise, unites us beneath the languages, beliefs, habits, customs, and prejudices that separate us. When the great white whale buries Captain Ahab in the sea, the hearts of readers take fright in exactly the same way in Tokyo, Lima, or Timbuctu.
When Emma Bovary swallows arsenic, Anna Karenina throws herself in front of the train, and Julien Sorel climbs to the scaffold, and when, in “El sur,” the urban doctor Juan Dahlmann walks out of that tavern on the pampa to face a thug’s knife, or we realize that all the residents of Comala, Pedro Páramo’s village, are dead, the shudder is the same in the reader who worships Buddha, Confucius, Christ, Allah, or is an agnostic, wears a jacket and tie, a jalaba, a kimono, or bombachas. Literature creates a fraternity within human diversity and eclipses the frontiers erected among men and women by ignorance, ideologies, religions, languages, and stupidity.

Since every period has its horrors, ours is the age of fanatics, of suicide terrorists, an ancient species convinced that by killing they earn heaven, that the blood of innocents washes away collective affronts, corrects injustices, and imposes truth on false beliefs. Every day, all over the world, countless victims are sacrificed by those who feel they possess absolute truths.
With the collapse of totalitarian empires, we believed that living together, peace, pluralism, and human rights would gain the ascendancy and the world would leave behind holocausts, genocides, invasions, and wars of extermination. None of that has occurred. New forms of barbarism flourish, incited by fanaticism, and with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, we cannot overlook the fact that any small faction of crazed redeemers may one day provoke a nuclear cataclysm.
We have to thwart them, confront them, and defeat them. There aren’t many, although the tumult of their crimes resounds all over the planet and the nightmares they provoke overwhelm us with dread. We should not allow ourselves to be intimidated by those who want to snatch away the freedom we have been acquiring over the long course of civilization.
Let us defend the liberal democracy that, with all its limitations, continues to signify political pluralism, coexistence, tolerance, human rights, respect for criticism, legality, free elections, alternation in power, everything that has been taking us out of a savage life and bringing us closer – though we will never attain it – to the beautiful, perfect life literature devises, the one we can deserve only by inventing, writing, and reading it. By confronting homicidal fanatics we defend our right to dream and to make our dreams reality.

In my youth, like many writers of my generation, I was a Marxist and believed socialism would be the remedy for the exploitation and social injustices that were becoming more severe in my country, in Latin America, and in the rest of the Third World.
My disillusion with statism and collectivism and my transition to the democrat and liberal that I am – that I try to be – was long and difficult and carried out slowly as a consequence of episodes like the conversion of the Cuban Revolution, about which I initially had been enthusiastic, to the authoritarian, vertical model of the Soviet Union; the testimony of dissidents who managed to slip past the barbed wire fences of the Gulag; the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the nations of the Warsaw Pact; and because of thinkers like Raymond Aron, Jean Francois Rével, Isaiah Berlin, and Karl Popper, to whom I owe my reevaluation of democratic culture and open societies.
Those masters were an example of lucidity and gallant courage when the intelligentsia of the West, as a result of frivolity or opportunism, appeared to have succumbed to the spell of Soviet socialism or, even worse, to the bloody witches’ Sabbath of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

As a boy I dreamed of coming some day to Paris because, dazzled by French literature, I believed that living there and breathing the air breathed by Balzac, Stendhal, Baudelaire, and Proust would help transform me into a real writer, and if I did not leave Peru I would be only a pseudo Sundays-and-holidays writer. And the truth is I owe to France and French culture unforgettable lessons, for example that literature is as much a calling as it is a discipline, a job, an obstinacy.
I lived there when Sartre and Camus were alive and writing, in the years of Ionesco, Beckett, Bataille, and Cioran, the discovery of the theater of Brecht and the films of Ingmar Bergman, the Theatre National Populaire of Jean Vilar and the Odéon of Jean-Louis Barrault, of the Nouvelle Vague and the Nouveau Roman and the speeches, beautiful literary pieces, of André Malraux, and what may have been the most theatrical spectacle in Europe during that time, the press conferences and Olympic thunderings of General de Gaulle. But perhaps I am most grateful to France for the discovery of Latin America.
There I learned that Peru was part of a vast community united by history, geography, social and political problems, a certain mode of being, and the delicious language it spoke and wrote. And in those same years, it was producing a new, forceful literature.
There I read Borges, Octavio Paz, Cortázar, García Márquez, Fuentes, Cabrera Infante, Rulfo, Onetti, Carpentier, Edwards, Donoso, and many others whose writings were revolutionizing narrative in the Spanish language, and thanks to whom Europe and a good part of the world discovered that Latin America was not the continent only of coups, operetta despots, bearded guerrillas, and the maracas of the mambo and the cha-cha-cha but of ideas, artistic forms, and literary fantasies that transcended the picturesque and spoke a universal language.

From that time to this, not without stumbling and blunders, Latin America has made progress although, as César Vallejo said in a poem, Hay, hermanos, muchísimo que hacer [There is still, brothers, so much to do].
We are afflicted with fewer dictatorships than before, only Cuba and her named successor, Venezuela, and some pseudo populist, clownish democracies like those in Bolivia and Nicaragua. But in the rest of the continent democracy is functioning, supported by a broad popular consensus, and for the first time in our history, as in Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Peru, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and almost all of Central America, we have a left and a right that respect legality, the freedom to criticize, elections, and succession in power.
That is the right road, and if it stays on it, combats insidious corruption, and continues to integrate with the world, Latin America will finally stop being the continent of the future and become the continent of the present.

I never felt like a foreigner in Europe or, in fact, anywhere. In all the places I have lived, in Paris, London, Barcelona, Madrid, Berlin, Washington, New York, Brazil, or the Dominican Republic, I felt at home. I have always found a lair where I could live in peace, work, learn things, nurture dreams, and find friends, good books to read, and subjects to write about. It does not seem to me that my unintentionally becoming a citizen of the world has weakened what are called “my roots,” my connections to my own country – which would not be particularly important – because if that were so, my Peruvian experiences would not continue to nourish me as a writer and would not always appear in my stories, even when they seem to occur very far from Peru.
I believe instead that living for so long outside the country where I was born has strengthened those connections, adding a more lucid perspective to them, and a nostalgia that can differentiate the adjectival from the substantive and keep memories reverberating.
Love of the country where one was born cannot be obligatory, but like any other love must be a spontaneous act of the heart, like the one that unites lovers, parents and children, and friends.

I carry Peru deep inside me because that is where I was born, grew up, was formed, and lived those experiences of childhood and youth that shaped my personality and forged my calling, and there I loved, hated, enjoyed, suffered, and dreamed.
What happens there affects me more, moves and exasperates me more than what occurs elsewhere. I have not wished it or imposed it on myself; it simply is so. Some compatriots accused me of being a traitor, and I was on the verge of losing my citizenship when, during the last dictatorship, I asked the democratic governments of the world to penalize the regime with diplomatic and economic sanctions, as I have always done with all dictatorships of any kind, whether of Pinochet, Fidel Castro, the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Imams in Iran, apartheid in South Africa, the uniformed satraps of Burma (now called Myanmar). And I would do it again tomorrow if – may destiny not wish it and Peruvians not permit it – Peru were once again the victim of a coup that would annihilate our fragile democracy.
It was not the precipitate, emotional action of a resentful man, as some scribblers wrote, accustomed to judging others from the point of view of their own pettiness. It was an act in line with my conviction that a dictatorship represents absolute evil for a country, a source of brutality and corruption and profound wounds that take a long time to close, poison the nation’s future, and create pernicious habits and practices that endure for generations and delay democratic reconstruction.
This is why dictatorships must be fought without hesitation, with all the means at our disposal, including economic sanctions. It is regrettable that democratic governments, instead of setting an example by making common cause with those, like the Damas de Blanco in Cuba, the Venezuelan opposition, or Aung San Suu Kyi and Liu Xiaobo, who courageously confront the dictatorships they endure, often show themselves complaisant not with them but with their tormenters. Those valiant people, struggling for their freedom, are also struggling for ours.

A compatriot of mine, José María Arguedas, called Peru the country of “every blood.” I do not believe any formula defines it better: that is what we are and that is what all Peruvians carry inside us, whether we like it or not: an aggregate of traditions, races, beliefs, and cultures proceeding from the four cardinal points.
I am proud to feel myself the heir to the pre-Hispanic cultures that created the textiles and feather mantles of Nazca and Paracas and the Mochican or Incan ceramics exhibited in the best museums in the world, the builders of Machu Picchu, Gran Chimú, Chan Chan, Kuelap, Sipán, the burial grounds of La Bruja and El Sol and La Luna, and to the Spaniards who, with their saddle bags, swords, and horses, brought to Peru Greece, Rome, the Judeo-Christian tradition, the Renaissance, Cervantes, Quevedo, and Góngora, and the harsh language of Castile sweetened by the Andes. And with Spain came Africa, with its strength, its music, and its effervescent imagination, to enrich Peruvian heterogeneity.
If we investigate only a little we discover that Peru, like the Aleph of Borges, is a small format of the entire world. What an extraordinary privilege for a country not to have an identity because it has all of them!

The conquest of America was cruel and violent, like all conquests, of course, and we should criticize it but not forget as we do that those who committed pillage and crimes were, for the most part, our great-grandfathers and great-great-grandfathers, the Spaniards who came to America and adopted American ways, not those who remained in their own country.
Such criticism, to be just, should be self-criticism. Because when we gained our independence from Spain two hundred years ago, those who assumed power in the former colonies, instead of liberating the Indians and creating justice for old wrongs, continued to exploit them with as much greed and ferocity as the conquerors and, in some countries, decimating and exterminating them.
Let us say this with absolute clarity: for two centuries the emancipation of the indigenous population has been our exclusive responsibility, and we have not fulfilled it. This continues to be an unresolved issue in all of Latin America. There is not a single exception to this ignominy and shame.

I love Spain as much as Peru, and my debt to her is as great as my gratitude. If not for Spain, I never would have reached this podium or become a known writer and perhaps, like so many unfortunate colleagues, I would wander in the limbo of writers without luck, publishers, prizes, or readers, whose talent – sad comfort – posterity may one day discover.
All my books were published in Spain, where I received exaggerated recognition, and friends like Carlos Barral, Carmen Balcells, and so many others were zealous about my stories having readers. And Spain granted me a second nationality when I could have lost mine. I have never felt the slightest incompatibility between being Peruvian and having a Spanish passport, because I have always felt that Spain and Peru are two sides of the same coin, not only in my small person but in essential realities like history, language, and culture.

Of all the years I have lived on Spanish soil, I remember as most brilliant the five I spent in a dearly loved Barcelona in the early 1970s. Franco’s dictatorship was still in power and shooting, but by then it was a fossil in rags, and especially in the field of culture, incapable of maintaining its earlier controls. Cracks and chinks were opening that the censors could not patch over, and through them Spanish society absorbed new ideas, books, currents of thought, and artistic values and forms prohibited until then as subversive.
No city took as much or better advantage of this start of an opening than Barcelona or experienced a comparable excitement in all fields of ideas and creativity. It became the cultural capital of Spain, the place you had to be to breathe anticipation of the freedom to come. And, in a sense, it was also the cultural capital of Latin America because of the number of painters, writers, publishers, and artists from Latin American countries who either settled in or traveled back and forth to Barcelona: it was where you had to be if you wanted to be a poet, novelist, painter, or composer in our time.
For me, those were unforgettable years of comradeship, friendship, plots, and fertile intellectual work. Just as Paris had been, Barcelona was a Tower of Babel, a cosmopolitan, universal city where it was stimulating to live and work and where, for the first time since the days of the Civil War, Spanish and Latin American writers mixed and fraternized, recognizing one another as possessors of the same tradition and allied in a common enterprise and certainty: the end of the dictatorship was imminent and in democratic Spain, culture would be the principal protagonist.

Although it did not occur exactly that way, the Spanish transition from dictatorship to democracy has been one of the best stories of modern times, an example of how, when good sense and reason prevail and political adversaries set aside sectarianism for the common good, events can occur as marvelous as the ones in novels of magic realism.
The Spanish transition from authoritarianism to freedom, from underdevelopment to prosperity, from third-world economic contrasts and inequalities to a country of middle classes, her integration into Europe and her adoption in a few years of a democratic culture, has astonished the entire world and precipitated Spain’s modernization. It has been moving and instructive for me to experience this near at hand, at times from the inside. I fervently hope that nationalism, the incurable plague of the modern world and of Spain as well, does not ruin this happy tale.

I despise every form of nationalism, a provincial ideology – or rather, religion – that is short-sighted, exclusive, that cuts off the intellectual horizon and hides in its bosom ethnic and racist prejudices, for it transforms into a supreme value, a moral and ontological privilege, the fortuitous circumstance of one’s birthplace. Along with religion, nationalism has been the cause of the worst slaughters in history, like those in the two world wars and the current bloodletting in the Middle East. Nothing has contributed as much as nationalism to Latin America’s having been Balkanized and stained with blood in senseless battles and disputes, squandering astronomical resources to purchase weapons instead of building schools, libraries, and hospitals.

We should not confuse a blinkered nationalism and its rejection of the “other,” always the seed of violence, with patriotism, a salutary, generous feeling of love for the land where we were born, where our ancestors lived, where our first dreams were forged, a familiar landscape of geographies, loved ones, and events that are transformed into signposts of memory and defenses against solitude.
Homeland is not flags, anthems, or apodictic speeches about emblematic heroes, but a handful of places and people that populate our memories and tinge them with melancholy, the warm sensation that no matter where we are, there is a home for us to return to.

Peru is for me Arequipa, where I was born but never lived, a city my mother, grandparents, and aunts and uncles taught me to know through their memories and yearnings, because my entire family tribe, as Arequepeños tend to do, always carried the White City with them in their wandering existence.
It is Piura in the desert, mesquite trees and the long-suffering burros that Piurans of my youth called “somebody else’s feet” – an elegant, sad name – where I discovered that storks did not bring babies into the world but couples made them by doing outrageous things that were a mortal sin. It is San Miguel Academy and the Varieties Theater where for the first time I saw a short work I had written produced on stage.
It is the corner of Diego Ferré and Colón, in Lima’s Miraflores – we called it the Happy Neighborhood – where I exchanged short pants for long trousers, smoked my first cigarette, learned to dance, fall in love, and open my heart to girls. It is the dusty, pulsing editorial offices of the paper La Crónica where, at sixteen, I stood virgil over my first arms as a journalist, a trade that, along with literature, has occupied almost my entire life and, like books, has made me live more, know the world better, and be with men and women from everywhere and every class, excellent, good, bad, and execrable people.
It is the Leoncio Prado Military Academy, where I learned that Peru was not the small middle-class redoubt where I had lived until then, confined and protected, but a large, ancient, rancorous, unequal country, shaken by all kinds of social storms. It is the clandestine cells of Cahuide where, with a handful of San Marcos students, we prepared the world revolution. And Peru is my friends in the Freedom Movement with whom for three years, in the midst of bombs, blackouts, and terrorist assassinations, we worked in defense of democracy and the culture of freedom.

Peru is Patricia, my cousin with the upturned nose and indomitable character, whom I was lucky enough to marry forty-five years ago and who still endures the manias, neuroses, and temper tantrums that help me to write. Without her my life would have dissolved a long time ago into a turbulent whirlwind, and Alvaro, Gonzalo, Morgana and the six grandchildren who extend and gladden our existence would not have been born.
She does everything and does everything well. She solves problems, manages the economy, imposes order on chaos, keeps journalists and intrusive people at bay, defends my time, decides appointments and trips, packs and unpacks suitcases, and is so generous that even when she thinks she is rebuking me, she pays me the highest compliment: “Mario, the only thing you’re good for is writing.”

Let us return to literature. The paradise of childhood is not a literary myth for me but a reality I lived and enjoyed in the large family house with three courtyards in Cochabamba, where with my cousins and school friends we could reproduce the stories of Tarzan and Salgari, and in the prefecture of Piura, where bats nested in the lofts, silent shadows that filled the starry nights of that hot land with mystery.
During those years, writing was playing a game my family celebrated, something charming that earned applause for me, the grandson, the nephew, the son without a papa because my father had died and gone to heaven. He was a tall, good-looking man in a navy uniform whose photo adorned my night table, which I prayed to and then kissed before going to sleep.
One Piuran morning – I do not think I have recovered from it yet – my mother revealed that the gentleman was, in fact, alive. And on that very day we were going to live with him in Lima. I was eleven years old, and from that moment everything changed.
I lost my innocence and discovered loneliness, authority, adult life, and fear. My salvation was reading, reading good books, taking refuge in those worlds where life was glorious, intense, one adventure after another, where I could feel free and be happy again. And it was writing, in secret, like someone giving himself up to an unspeakable vice, a forbidden passion. Literature stopped being a game.
It became a way of resisting adversity, protesting, rebelling, escaping the intolerable, my reason for living. From then until now, in every circumstance when I have felt disheartened or beaten down, on the edge of despair, giving myself body and soul to my work as a storyteller has been the light at the end of the tunnel, the plank that carries the shipwrecked man to shore.

Although it is very difficult and forces me to sweat blood and, like every writer, to feel at times the threat of paralysis, a dry season of the imagination, nothing has made me enjoy life as much as spending months and years constructing a story, from its uncertain beginnings, the image memory stores of a lived experience that becomes a restlessness, an enthusiasm, a daydream that then germinates into a project and the decision to attempt to convert the agitated cloud of phantoms into a story.
“Writing is a way of living,” said Flaubert. Yes, absolutely, a way of living with illusion and joy and a fire throwing out sparks in your head, struggling with intractable words until you master them, exploring the broad world like a hunter tracking down desirable prey to feed an embryonic fiction and appease the voracious appetite of every story that, as it grows, would like to devour every other story.
Beginning to feel the vertigo a gestating novel leads us to, when it takes shape and seems to begin to live on its own, with characters that move, act, think, feel, and demand respect and consideration, on whom it is no longer possible to arbitrarily impose behavior or to deprive them of their free will without killing them, without having the story lose its power to persuade – this is an experience that continues to bewitch me as it did the first time, as complete and dizzying as making love to the woman you love for days, weeks, months, without stopping.

When speaking of fiction, I have talked a great deal about the novel and very little about the theater, another of its preeminent forms. A great injustice, of course. Theater was my first love, ever since, as an adolescent, I saw Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman at the Segura Theater in Lima, a performance that left me transfixed with emotion and precipitated my writing a drama with Incas.
If there had been a theatrical movement in the Lima of the 1950s, I would have been a playwright rather than a novelist. There was not, and that must have turned me more and more toward narrative. But my love for the theater never ended; it dozed, curled up in the shadow of novels, like a temptation and a nostalgia, above all whenever I saw an enthralling play.
In the late 1970s, the persistent memory of a hundred-year-old great-aunt, Mamaé, who in the final years of her life cut off her surrounding reality to take refuge in memories and fiction, suggested a story. And I felt, prophetically, that it was a story for the theater, that only on stage would it take on the animation and splendor of successful fictions.
I wrote it with the tremulous excitement of a beginner and so enjoyed seeing it on stage with Norma Aleandro in the heroine’s role that since then, between novels and essays, I have relapsed several times. And I must add, I never imagined that at the age of seventy I would mount (I should say, stumble onto) a stage to act.
That reckless adventure made me experience for the first time in my own flesh and bone the miracle it is for someone who has spent his life writing fictions to embody for a few hours a character of fantasy, to live the fiction in front of an audience. I can never adequately thank my dear friends, the director Joan Ollé and the actress Aitana Sánchez Gijón, for having encouraged me to share with them that fantastic experience (in spite of the panic that accompanied it).

Literature is a false representation of life that nevertheless helps us to understand life better, to orient ourselves in the labyrinth where we are born, pass by, and die. It compensates for the reverses and frustrations real life inflicts on us, and because of it we can decipher, at least partially, the hieroglyphic that existence tends to be for the great majority of human beings, principally those of us who generate more doubts than certainties and confess our perplexity before subjects like transcendence, individual and collective destiny, the soul, the sense or senselessness of history, the to and fro of rational knowledge.

I have always been fascinated to imagine the uncertain circumstance in which our ancestors – still barely different from animals, the language that allowed them to communicate with one another just recently born – in caves, around fires, on nights seething with the menace of lightning bolts, thunder claps, and growling beasts, began to invent and tell stories.
That was the crucial moment in our destiny, because in those circles of primitive beings held by the voice and fantasy of the storyteller, civilization began, the long passage that gradually would humanize us and lead us to invent the autonomous individual, then disengage him from the tribe, devise science, the arts, law, freedom, and to scrutinize the innermost recesses of nature, the human body, space, and travel to the stars.
Those tales, fables, myths, legends that resounded for the first time like new music before listeners intimidated by the mysteries and perils of a world where everything was unknown and dangerous, must have been a cool bath, a quiet pool for those spirits always on the alert, for whom existing meant barely eating, taking shelter from the elements, killing, and fornicating.
From the time they began to dream collectively, to share their dreams, instigated by storytellers, they ceased to be tied to the treadmill of survival, a vortex of brutalizing tasks, and their life became dream, pleasure, fantasy, and a revolutionary plan: to break out of confinement and change and improve, a struggle to appease the desires and ambitions that stirred imagined lives in them, and the curiosity to clear away the mysteries that filled their surroundings.

This never-interrupted process was enriched when writing was born and stories, in addition to being heard, could be read, achieving the permanence literature confers on them. That is why this must be repeated incessantly until new generations are convinced of it: fiction is more than an entertainment, more than an intellectual exercise that sharpens one’s sensibility and awakens a critical spirit.
It is an absolute necessity so that civilization continues to exist, renewing and preserving in us the best of what is human. So that we do not retreat into the savagery of isolation and life is not reduced to the pragmatism of specialists who see things profoundly but ignore what surrounds, precedes, and continues those things.
So that we do not move from having the machines we invent serve us to being their servants and slaves. And because a world without literature would be a world without desires or ideals or irreverence, a world of automatons deprived of what makes the human being really human: the capacity to move out of oneself and into another, into others, modeled with the clay of our dreams.

From the cave to the skyscraper, from the club to weapons of mass destruction, from the tautological life of the tribe to the era of globalization, the fictions of literature have multiplied human experiences, preventing us from succumbing to lethargy, self-absorption, resignation.
Nothing has sown so much disquiet, so disturbed our imagination and our desires as the life of lies we add, thanks to literature, to the one we have, so we can be protagonists in the great adventures, the great passions real life will never give us.
The lies of literature become truths through us, the readers transformed, infected with longings and, through the fault of fiction, permanently questioning a mediocre reality. Sorcery, when literature offers us the hope of having what we do not have, being what we are not, acceding to that impossible existence where like pagan gods we feel mortal and eternal at the same time, that introduces into our spirits non-conformity and rebellion, which are behind all the heroic deeds that have contributed to the reduction of violence in human relationships.
Reducing violence, not ending it. Because ours will always be, fortunately, an unfinished story. That is why we have to continue dreaming, reading, and writing, the most effective way we have found to alleviate our mortal condition, to defeat the corrosion of time, and to transform the impossible into possibility.

Stockholm, December 7, 2010