He who didn’t know how to tell stories had to be on his own…

Lagartija

My brother-in-law and Mr. Escalante were those who told more stories, and also my dad; but my dad was somewhat reluctant to tell stories. At night, when all had eaten and washed their clothes, and were lying on the raised floor, they started chatting, and each one told his stories, but they would not always let you just stay there, listening, because those that didn’t know stories had to be on their own, because they wouldn’t accept them. As for me, being a boy they would laugh, ‘ you just stay’, they would say, and in this way I learnt many stories from the huantino people, and also stories from the chunchos (Indians), about damned souls, the viscachas (a species of large rodent), the sun, the mice, and so on. These stories were not all made-up, but things that had happened to them or to people they knew; in such cases they would say: ‘Mr. So-and-so, rest in peace, said…’. You couldn’t go outside to gossip about what was talked about there during those nights. Everybody, before starting, would say: ‘This is not to be retold, you must not repeat it’, if they were delicate matters. Then the names of the people, or of the place, would be changed, so that nobody was upset.

The stories of the chunchos were very beautiful and strange, because for them everything in the jungle talks. And the chunchos my brother-in-law knew were shy as the partridge, that gets sick and ashamed when you look at it.

Jesús Urbano Rojas and Pablo Macera, Santero y Caminante: Santoruraj-Ñampurej,  Lima: Editorial Apoyo, 1992, p.148. Jesús Urbano Rojas is an sculptor of religious images from the Ayucucho region in Peru; his mother-tongue is Quechua.
Illustration inspired by a drawing made on a pumpkin found in Dahomey, now Benin.
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