The Amazonas of Peru
[From Chicago to Kuelap]
By Dennis L. Siluk
We caught a plane from St. Paul, Minnesota to Chicago, an early morning flight, one day in late February 2006. We were trying to set up our move to South America, Peru, and had to see the Consul General of Peru in Chicago, we had seen him a few years prior to this, when he was visiting Minnesota, but our move was to take place in mid March (kind of a semi retirement move), and we had to sign our marriage papers from six years prior, thus, making it legal in Peru, since I would be seeking duel citizenship. I slept briefly on the plane, and we landed at O’Hare, around 8:00 AM, second class. Somewhere near the airport was the train station, we found our way to it, and my wife Rosa bought roundtrip tickets to downtown Chicago, we’d return after seeing the Consul, having late lunch and perhaps a walk around the windy city’s Michigan Avenue area. It was a special day you could say, not only in that we would sign all this documentation, but also it was Valentines Day, and the Consul General gave Rosa a suggestion where to take me, and she did, to a fine Italian Restaurant, and the food was great, I had lasagna. It was her gift to me; she always takes me to the best restaurants in town when we go on trips though.
We headed right into the main building of the Consul General’s second floor office, he had moved about a block away from where his previous address was, so Rosa had told me, she was down to see him twice before, to vote and pay some kind of miserable small tax, for not voting in Peru think: it is next to a minor crime not to vote there. This time I was with her, as she had made an attempt before to have me go to Chicago, I suppose I was hoping we could do all the paperwork needed without me going, but it was impossible, I had to be there to sign the papers. So we caught the elevator to the second or third floor, and walked up to the window in the office of the Consul General, told the secretary who we were and to our surprise, or at least to mine, they had all the paper work already made up; next, they called us, and took us into the back room, sat us down, and we started filling in the blank spaces necessary.
The Consul General was a warm sort of fellow, cross-legged as he sat behind his desk, a nice looking older man, sound, healthy looking; after we had done all the signing, he invited us into his personal office, we didn’t have to wait like the others out in the small cramped hall area. His father was a poet, and so we got talking about poetry and I think special treatment, for meeting a poet he appreciated—as I was known to be, or at least showed his appreciation in the only way he could at the time, that is, allowing us the comfort of his soft office seats, until we had to go anyway; and being Poet Laureate of San Jeronimo de Peru at that, made things a little better between us. In the short-term of our meeting and free conversations he talked about his home in the Amazonas (in a few words adding bits and pieces of his childhood), and poetry of course. Rosa and I gave him the last three books I had written, two on Peru, one on Minnesota, all poetry (‘Last Autumn and Winter,’ ‘Poetic Images Out of Peru,’ and ‘Peruvian Poems’.)
“I’m from the Amazonas,” he said to Rosa, and they carried on a short conversation, then gave us a poster of Kuelap, it was the first time I had seen this location in the Andean-jungles of Peru, about 1000-miles from Lima. As I looked over the poster, I was quite impressed; it had a picture of a fortress I’d soon find out was called, “The Hidden Fortress,” or Kuelap.
He liked poetry so much he read out loud to us (my wife and I, and the secretary who stood behind us for that moment) my poem called, “The Ice Maiden,” in the book, ‘Peruvian Poems;’ I thought at the time he could have been a second Dylan Thomas, he sounded quite dramatic and powerful, a good reader of poetry, a lot of emotion, but then Peruvians have an extra dose of that for some God given reason. (In a short time I’d find out more about Kuelap, and its 9th Century fortress; its wild warriors of antiquity—the Chachapoyas, and their warring with the Incas. All in due time, and as I looked more and more into this area I got more excited about Kuelap and its ancient walled ruins (discovered less than a half century ago); by the research I had done on Kuelap, it seemed, or reminded me of, compare to or with: ‘The Great Enclosure,’ of Zimbabwe in Africa. Of course that was just a mindset. I then had visions of grassy slopes, by the Navahos, as I’ve told my wife, time and again first you hear about a location of interest, then you dream about it ((find out things)) then you see it, and it become part of you.
An Afternoon in Chicago
The sun, like a deer trail—bit my brow,
Industriously, as my wife and I took the train
Back to O’Hare from downtown Chicago, —
Windy city, with stretched-up eyebrows
In its winter sleep.
We walked around, downtown: busy city—
From Washington Street to Michigan; across
The bridge, there on East Ontario, we
Ate at ‘Bice,’ Italian Restaurant (my wife
Paid the bill) her treat, Valentine’s Day.
I’m waiting for the plane now; it’s 5:00 PM;
It has been one of those happier days, moments,
In my life: strange, even with Northwest being late.
It is pale, to dark now (6:00 PM)
Sitting on these worn-out seats…!
Thinking of nothing, like when you’re a little boy,
Spending the whole day rambling through the
City, on your high, two wheel bike!...
Whistling away a sunny day,
With nothing much to do or say.
My wife, sitting next me fell to sleep, hat on:
Holding my jacket in her two hands, sleeping;
Had to remove her coffee cup, in case it fell:
She’s in some joyful lofty solitude;
While I’m sniffling away like hell.
It was nice, just being we today
Before having to go back home, to St. Paul,
Go back to the kitchen—fixing things.
As I look about, everyone’s on cell phones.
Hurry-up—flight: NW 145!
Now that I think of it, one can smell the lake
The Great Lake Michigan; feel its pulse, its
Wind like tides in the air all about.
Soft dust, swirling along the cities streets;
Street people blowing brass horns for a meal.
Rhythmic packs, misplaced men and women:
Everywhere: like undergrowth, weeds not growing.
Drunks, and derelicts, eyes staring at your every move,
An endless forest of a city, with boulders,
Towering bricks, next to an unforgiving lake:
Semi prose/ 2/14/06 #1208
It was a about five o’ clock (in the PM) when we caught our plane back to Minnesota, and within the following month, March 19, we caught our plane to Peru, once we landed in Lima, I got word it had snowed 11-inches in Minnesota, I was not surprised, but more than happy to have avoided the snow storm, I had my fill of them. It was within the following two weeks where I had bought tickets to fly to Chiclayo (on the 27th of March); from there we’d take a bus to the surrounding area of Kuelap: a four day trip. And this is where we stop for moment (for I am writing this in advance of that four day trip), for I will be taking that journey in a few days, tickets in hand. (Written March 25, 2006.)
The Kuelap Bum
[Of the Amazonas]
Come; share a wild Kuelap Bum’s sunny afternoon—
I sit here, sipping my coffee and coke waiting for my pollo saltado
[Chicken with potatoes and rice),
And hear voices, cars pass: sounds, coming from iron motors Like purring cats and roaring mice, with squeaky feet for tires, race
Racing around the café (El Parquetito, in Miraflores)) Lima)), Around the streets and park—; the sun boiling overhead, as I’m
Reading Jack Kerouac’s: “The Dharma Bums,”—I feel like one.
My date to return back into the Amazonian region—this time to the
Andean-jungle—is in five days. My mind is excited, here is Where come my beautiful visions of grassy slopes, by the Nevados,
And there ahead in front of me, are the ancient ruins of Kuelap I can even see the wild warriors of antiquity: the Chachapoyas,
Fight the Incas in the wild deep, deep Andean-jungles of Peru.
I like the incredible peace here, lost in a maze of thoughts, looking for
No certain highway I can sweat, drink my coke and coffee in peace, while I write and dream…and get ready for my next journey.
#1283 3/23/2006 Note by the author: I have been to the Andes and to the Amazon, and even to the Amazonas as they are known for their sections, ranging from Equator to Peru, and Brazil and Venezuela, of which I have been to all these regions or sections except one, the one I am dreaming about, and will go in five days to, to what is known as the Andean-Amazonian region, where elevation is part of the jungle equation, not so in the other regions. Thus, here is where the “Forgotten Fortress,” is located, similar to the ‘Great Enclosure,’ in Zimbabwe. The Forgotten Fortress dates back to about 800 AD.
[and ‘The Forgotten Fortress]
Advance: I don’t even know these people I talk about, I’ve seen the landscape they’ve live on only in books, rushed through, gritting their ivory teeth before they warred with the Inca’s in the 16th century (this pre-Inca civilization). But the more one studies this great civilization, the more one admires its fantastic powers of visualization, its psychic rulers, and wild bull like hearts, and the great fortress (labyrinth) they built in the middle of the Andean-jungles of Peru (walking through it one can only hold their breath in awe: breath in its life-death patriarchal society.
Today, the Chachapoya still carry on in this area, with its pottery, and tapestry, garments, all highly prized; at onetime they worked for the Incas, and like today, gave them high quality. In a few more days, let’s say seven to be exact I shall be among them.
In the Andean-jungle—the Chachapoya’s (the tree-cloud people) Of the ‘Forgotten Fortress,’ of Kuelap (Amazonas de Peru) once
lived here—twelve-hundred years ago—perhaps 2000- or more Lived in this straddled low-land jungle citadel —; bold and free:
cadaverous war like people, spirit filled: more fierce than the Inca.
Here is where they lived—in Kuelap, in limestone houses: under
conical thatched roofs—; Houses of limestone masonry, in mud mortar plaster like tombs:
painted in rainbow colors; few if any windows.
The ravages of time have sadly, seen the looting of the detailed:
elaborate funerary architecture of the Chachapoya race—; Once decorated in rainbow shades, zigzag friezes, in cliff like caves.
#1287 3/20/2006 [Written before my trip to the Amazonas]
Introduction to Chachapoya
(The following is taken from notes on my trip; only slightly modified for spelling errors, etc.)
It is funny how one thing leads into another. Someone gives you a poster; you hang it in your home; remember what he had to say about such historical sites as Kuelap, dating back to about 700 AD, with walls as thick as Troy’s, and legends as potent. Then you look a little deeper into this area the person has mentioned briefly, but enthusiastically, and find other sites that open your eyes to the bountiful, and most beautiful region known as the Amazonas of Peru, and find Carajia [also spelled with a ‘K’], dating back to the 13th Century. And on the journey you find much, much more. In Chapter #3, and the following chapters, we shall take a quick trip to the region, with some poetic verse to help us drift along its watery roads, up its banks, through its small towns, and so forth and on, I am writing this on pieces of paper, in my pocket, and my wife has a pad of paper she bought a few days ago, I’ll use it when I get back to the hotel.
(Talking to my friend the Archeologist) Kuelap, is called, The Forgotten City, discovered only forty-years ago, in the Amazonas of Northern Peru. The area is wide open for and to new discoveries; I am sure there will be many also. (Added later on in the following evening: in villages you can still find mummies in homes, and local mud built museums, and see them within caves on ledges of mountains. It is an archeological paradise, and one of the last frontiers for such discoveries in the world.)
Kuelap is cuddled in an odd way, cuddled over looking the Kuelap Valley, cuddled I say by the mist that surrounds her, as if she didn’t exist, and all of a sudden: there she is. The mist drifts and descends into the valley fully allowing Kuelap to be seen then, and once on top of her great walls, you can see on a clear afternoon, you can see a hundred-miles in all directions, East, West, and North South.
Kuelap is a sacred city to many in the region, a temple of or for the dead; yet some sprits still live there and are restless about the excavations going on here, I talked to two of them, one in particular who wanted to know what I wanted. And I asked him what bothered him? And he said: desecration (defilement); so there is fear in the shadowy corners of these cyclopean stones walls I do believe. In addition to being a temple of sorts, Kuelap is also a fortress, and surely at one time used as a city, for it has 400-stone houses in its small hilltop complex. The Inca Empire did dominate it, at its very end, by request of the Conquistadors, because Spain couldn’t.
Thus, the white cotton canopy that descends, also ascends above the luscious multi shaded green valley; above the wild berries my friend and leader of this group: Maria, loved to eat; and there must exist every kind of plant a person can think of in this Amazonas’ Valley. (From notes on the trip: 3/30/06; #1295)
Julio Rodriguez, our Archeologist: while driving around the city, on a city tour, we talked about Carajia, had some coffee in the small city of Chachapoya; tomorrow we’d go to see Carajia; anyhow, when we got talking about the Inca Empire then, and he got talking about Huayna Capac, he called him the Last Inca, the Father to Atahualpa, the Inca king that is so well known; he was killed by the Conquistadors for not becoming a Christian; I have a statue of him in my library. Carajia is where the six sarcophagi are entrenched into a mountain cave.
After lunch and coffee, I quickly jotted down the information he gave me in a poem, I call:
“The Last Inca” (Huayna Capac)
Tall and handsome, built like a bull,
A warrior among warriors with long blond hair
Eyes like emeralds, tears of gold,
He was the King’s son—
(Atahualpa) now ruler of all Northern Peru;
And so it was, when the last Inca King died,
The kingdom was split, like Alexander’s,
Between two half brothers…!
[Walking around Chachapoyas] While looking for a place to have coffee, and a light lunch, we [Maria, Rosa, myself, and Julio] walked past a church, there was a lady sitting there on the steps, head lowered, her daughter along side of her, dirty faced, flowers laying along side of her. It was a hot day, a moist day, and we walked past her, and after a hundred feet or so I asked my wife to go back and buy the flowers, all of them, then I joined her. Now writing this out, it is evening in our Spanish hotel (three Stars***: La Casona), and here is my poem:
The Flower Lady of Chachapoyas