Visiting Peru With Cultural Ambassadors From the North Fork | Up Bear Creek
by Art Goodtimes
Apr 10, 2008 | 434 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TARA & SAM … For years, two intrepid cultural ambassadors from the North Fork of the Gunnison, from a mesa studio/home and gardens overlooking Paonia, Tara Miller and Sam Brown have been traveling down to South America, bringing Norteamericano solar ovens to a small island town of Taquille and bringing back stories and goods to share and sell – all the while supporting the education of youngsters from several families there … I asked them to share some of their experiences with us norteamericanos, not from the kind of save-a-dime American jock mentality you might find on-line at some social networking travel site named ball of dirt: , but from folks who have made life-long indigenous friends they keep going back down south to visit. Here’s performance poet and master potter Tara’s most recent dispatch, edited for length.

SILLUSTANI … Friends, I am writing from rainy Azangaro, a town about three hours north of Lake Titicaca. Sam and I are traveling alone – our little adventure outing without any Taquileño friends – for this week. Our eye was caught by this town on the map: up in the mountains, completely surrounded by snowcapped peaks. However, we are having second thoughts if this rainy front continues … Last weekend we brought six young girls plus mother Eufrasia and Silvano to the ruins of Sillustani, about a half hour bus ride out of Puno [the mainland town closest to Taquille]. Some of the girls were disappointed not to get to go to Ayaviri [on a special outing], so we offered this more simple adventure and educational outing. The girls are: from Eufrasia's family, Alicia and Natalia; from Lino and Valeria's family, Delia and Juanna Luz; and from Gonzalo and Pelajia's family, Elizabeth and Jenifer. On Saturday, after a morning of errands (a big market day in Puno), we climbed the 650 stairs up to the Condor viewpoint, with its big sculpture of a Condor on top. It was great fun with the kids running around and playing tag on the way up. Sam was the tortoise but got to the top first! … That evening we passed out notebooks and pens to each of the girls to write about their experiences. We drew slips of paper to choose which color cuadernothey got. At first I asked them to speak and tell one memory from the day, and they got all shy and mumbled small ideas, such as “We played Climbing up to the Condor.” But then, after each had spoken, they started writing. I told them they had to write at least two sentences or make a drawing, and Silvano joked that they wouldn't eat tomorrow unless they did that. All of a sudden we couldn't stop them. The older girls filled pages of writing and the younger wrote quite a bit and did some drawings. I was surprised and quite impressed … Sunday we had a hearty breakfast in the market and then caught the bus to go to the ruins of Sillustani. This is a site on a peninsula in Umayo Lake, which has been used for centuries, mostly as a burial grounds. The Inka came along and built some very finely constructed round “chulpas,” which are [sepulchral] structures above the buried bones. One of the chulpas had been excavated by archeologists and was found to have the bones of 15 people, including all ages and sexes, theoretically the servants of the honored dead … Silvano, who is in training to be a guide and already certified as a local guide for Taquile, went on a tour of Sillustani with other guides in training a few months ago and had a lot to tell us. Also we acquired some interpretive materials in Puno so we could provide an educational experience for the girls. They wrote constantly in their journals. I thought we might never get through the ruins, they were so dedicated! They were also very respectful … When we first got to the ruins we held a coca leaf ceremony. In this case we used a bandana and mounded it with coca leaves. Then each person picked out three well shaped leaves, meditating and praying as they chose the leaves, as if to imbue the leaves with the prayer. I also picked out an extra set of leaves and went around and brushed each person with the leaves, a smudging and a blessing. Then one person (me, in this case) takes the pile of chosen leaves and buries them (sometimes they are burned or offered to the Lake), paying Pachamama. I think this ceremony set the tone for the day, because the girls wrote a lot and were relatively quiet – no running around playing tag or yelling … We had a nice picnic of bread and avocado (Sp. palta) and tomato and cheese with fresh limes. We had bought a half palta for each person and somehow came up short. We falta palta! [Sp.falta “lack, want, fault, mistake, absence] found the extra one under where Sam was sitting, luckily not actually sitting, but still slightly smooshed. Falta Paltais an old family joke by now. Did Sam do that on purpose? … An island in view from our picnic is a Vicuña reserve. Vicuñas are small cameloids, in the same family as llamas and alpacas, with very silky fur. They are endangered and Silvano said it was illegal to have their pelts or even to shear them. Apparently some have been domesticated because people comb them to get the fur, which is very rare and expensive. The Inka allowed Vicuña fur only for the rulers. That evening we shared our journals and the girls used my colored pencil set to color everything. We will make prints of our photos and stick them in their cuadernos for a keepsake of the adventure.

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