Today´s poem, from Los heraldos negros, is a very good description of the Santiago de Chuco area. It is especially interesting now that we know May is the best time to be there – just after the rains end, when everything is in flower. If you do not read Spanish, skip to the next section, as this post says much more and contains travel information that is very hard to get.
Vierte el humo doméstico en la aurora
su sabor a rastrojo;
y canta, haciendo leña, la pastora
un salvaje aleluya!
Sepia y rojo. Humo de la cocina, aperitivo
de gesta en este bravo amanecer.
El último lucero fugitivo
lo bebe, y, ebrio ya de su dulzor,
¡oh celeste zagal trasnochador!
se duerme entre un jirón de rosicler.
Hay ciertas ganas lindas de almorzar,
y beber del arroyo, y chivatear!
Aletear con el humo allá, en la altura;
o entregarse a los vientos otoñales
en pos de alguna Ruth sagrada, pura,
que nos brinde una espiga de ternura
bajo la hebraica unción de los trigales!
Hoz al hombro calmoso,
acre el gesto brioso,
va un joven labrador a Irichugo.
Y en cada brazo que parece yugo
se encrespa el férreo jugo palpitante
que en creador esfuerzo cuotidiano
chispea, como trágico diamante,
a través de los poros de la mano
que no ha bizantinado aún el guante.
Bajo un arco que forma verde aliso,
¡oh cruzada fecunda del andrajo!
La zagala que llora
su yaraví a la aurora,
recoge ¡oh Venus pobre!
frescos leños fragantes
en sus desnudos brazos arrogantes
esculpidos en cobre.
En tanto que un becerro,
perseguido del perro,
por la cuesta bravía
corre, ofrendando al floreciente día
un himno de Virgilio en su cencerro!
Delante de la choza
el indio abuelo fuma;
y el serrano crepúsculo de rosa,
el ara primitiva se sahúma
en el gas del tabaco.
Tal surge de la entraña fabulosa
de epopéyico huaco,
mítico aroma de broncíneos lotos,
el hilo azul de los alientos rotos!
1. The bus which overturned on the road from Santiago de Chuco to Shorey today was not mine. I was already at the police post in Shorey, waiting for my connection to Huamachuco, when news of the accident was radioed in. There were dead and wounded. The policeman, who had just been transferred to this post (in fact, he had only been on the job for two hours), took the report and then asked, “Which of us should go up there?” The answer was that nobody should, because there was not enough gas in the motorcycle to get there.
2. In the chicken place where I was eating tonight because of having missed lunch, the lights went out all of a sudden. People kept coming in, nevertheless, and kept being seated. In the past I would have had a candle, a flashlight, or both, and so would at least one other person (most likely a foreigner or an Indian), but nobody did. Soon, however, each table was lighted by the glow of a cell phone. (Note: broasted chicken has been getting popular here for quite a while and now it has basically taken over. At night, not a popular time to eat, it is often all you can get.)
3. There is Google in Quechua.
On Mondays there is a direct bus from Cachicadán, where I was staying, to Huamachuco, where I now am. It avoids both Santiago de Chuco and Shorey, and goes along a road that approximates fairly closely the trail Vallejo would have taken by horse to travel to secondary school. I wanted to take this bus, but I was told it left at 11:30 – only to discover that in fact it left at 11.
This meant that I had to convince a colectivo to leave soon, soon for Santiago so that I could make the 1 PM bus to Shorey. This was difficult, but I made it, only to discover that the bus driver would not let me on. No room, said he. I do not expect to sit down, said I and he said, talk to the manager. The manager said to get right on. I told the bus driver this and he said, only if the manager will sell you a ticket. The manager said it is too late, you know that at the last minute it is customary to pay the assistant, especially when you are riding a relatively short distance, as you are. I told the bus driver this and he said no, at which point the passengers started shouting, he has no authority, get right on! And there was even an empty seat.
When we got to the desolate Shorey there was an hour and a half wait at the police station for a bus going on to Huamachuco. I bought a bizcocho from the same traveling bizcocho seller who had sold me one in Quiruvilca, when I was on my way to Santiago. She is very beautiful. Passengers who had not taken this route before were nervous and tried to convince a taxi to take five of us. He wanted $50, that is, $10 apiece, but the group only wanted to pay $35, because that would be, per person, twice the price of the bus, which was as high as they were willing to go. He said no. I could have easily kicked in the other $15 but decided this much magnificence was unnecessary since I was sure a bus was coming. It did and all passengers boarded in great relief.
The bus played happy huaynos all the way across the puna, and the man next to me was holding a 15 day old lamb. I do not like riding with sheep, as they smell, but this lamb was very new and still clean. It was nervous, though, and kept trying to get away, which was problematic because it was so strong. I thought I might be able to entertain, interest and calm it as one would a dog or cat, but it was not bright enough to understand my efforts. The owner decided that the best thing to do was cover its eyes with his jacket and hug it tightly. This calmed it down.
There were many road workers on the road and amazingly, they had managed to pave a lot of it in the three days I had been gone. They had leveled even more of it, and they had put gutters and even guard rails on some of it. They looked very invigorated and I think they were enjoying working on a big project like that. I also think they were making more than minimum wage. On the regular (unpaved) parts of the road we drove at 30 km per hour, but on the finished parts we went faster. We got to Huamachuco half an hour early. Since the days are getting longer as we move toward spring, it was still light.
Because I had been to Huamachuco before and knew where I was staying, I realized I should not ride to the terminal but get off earlier, near the entrance to the town at a place known as the Bridge. This is where most people get off and in my excitement at being able to join them, and my concern to get all my things off the bus at this quick stop without dropping anything irreplaceable, I left on the bus my Huamachuco shawl. This is all right because I only bought it for the warmth – it is black and I do not want any more black clothes, and I do not like the embroidery on the one I had, and it is very touristy to be a white person wearing Indian clothes, it is among other things like holding a sign saying “I am carrying U.S. dollars” – and whoever finds it will need it much more than I do. If I miss it I can buy a better one tomorrow for $9.
It is very difficult to find information on travel to the Santiago de Chuco area and I should write a whole, very visible post about this as a public service. Notes toward that are:
1. There has been bus service to Santiago since 1956, so it is not true that I could not have gone before. However, despite the fact that the following information is designed primarily for bus riders, my very strong recommendation is to rent a 4×4 vehicle in Trujillo so that you are not dependent upon capricous bus service, and so that you can get to interesting natural sites in the area(s) you will be visiting. There are many remote places that are VERY hard to get to by public transportation, and there are VERY FEW CABS OR ANYTHING TO TAKE YOU TO NEARBY TRAILHEADS. You can negotiate rides but it takes time. For these reasons, and because of the precarious lodging situation, I recommend a 4×4 vehicle and some camping equipment. This would enable you to go to places like Angasmarca, and to drive from this general area down to Ancash without having to go out to the coast. There are many advantages to taking this route, which I can explain if you are interested. And an additional reason to drive your own vehicle is that you can control its maintenance. Poorly maintained vehicles riding on these precarious roads do have accidents. In particular, buses fall down ravines. (You want something high off the ground, but with a low center of gravity. Buses used to be smaller and I think safer for that reason, but these tall buses they use now are NOT entirely stable.) Also (to cite an example), in Huamachuco you cannot get to the famous baths of Yanasara except by taxi (there are no colectivos). If it is to be cheap, you have to split the cost among a group, which means you need to have a group, which is not easy to do unless you have brought friends and family with you. The cost of a taxi is the cost of a rental car, and with the rental car you do not have to deal with the taxista (usually this is a great advantage, que los taxistas son muy vivos).
2. If you are going to Santiago because you are interested in Vallejo you should also visit Huamachuco, which is, furthermore, a place worth visiting for its own sake. However, it is not entirely practical to go there first. You can get direct buses to Santiago and even Cachicadán, where I STRONGLY recommend staying, from Trujillo. (The relevant companies are AGREDA and HORNA. Agreda is more traditional and has better hours, but its buses are also older and more likely to break down or lose tires.) Then, if you leave Cachicadán on a Monday at 11, you can take a direct bus to Huamachuco. Otherwise, the problem is that the road forks at Shorey. The turnoff to Huamachuco is to the left, and to Santiago to the right, so if you visit both places by this route you end up having to retrace a lot of steps and take two or three buses to get to one place.
3. Another advantage of going to Santiago first, and then Huamachuco, is that you can go straight on from there to Cajamarca (by bus), and from there to Chachapoyas (the non-touristy jungle) and/or Chiclayo, where the new Sipán site is. These last are not Vallejo places, but they are places very much worth seeing and which are easily accessible by public transportation – and which have non precarious places to stay.
4. As we have said, May is a good time to go to Santiago, but so is late July/early August. The Feast of the Apostle starts July 25, but it goes on for a week. There is a second big parade August 1 (that being the day of the feast that produced the 1920 events leading to Vallejo´s arrest), and they finally have the ceremony in which they put the Apostle back in his place in the church on August 2. On the other hand, if you go in May and are a Vallejo fan, you could try to hit the annual event around May 15th (or just before) in which academics from Lima and elsewhere come up for a Vallejo festival.
5. Other famous people from Santiago de Chuco include Luis de la Puente Uceda (I think I have that name right) who broke off from the APRA and founded the MIR (if this has been explained right to me, I need to check the facts here). You can see his house, and you can also visit the Santa María-Paredes house, and if you know the life of Vallejo, you know who the Santa Marías are. All of these people were well off, comparatively speaking, and had big houses.
6. I very strongly recommend staying in Cachicadán, at the Aguas Calientes auberge. It has a restaurant and thermal baths right there. It is otherwise very primitive by my standards, but there is still every reason to recommend it, and I can explain in greater detail if you are interested. Furthermore, the house it is in existed in Vallejo´s time, and Vallejo would visit it when he went to take the thermal baths. (He did not sleep there, but he is supposed to have sat on the famous veranda.)
The best room is LOS CARTUCHOS. If it is not available, try to get one of the rooms upstairs. Be careful, though, if staying there and visiting Santiago, not to miss the last bus. It leaves about 5, if not earlier, and if you miss it THERE ARE NO CABS. If you stay in Santiago, I am told that the best hospedaje is the Cristóbal Colón, around the corner from the bus agencies. I have seen it, although not the rooms, and indeed, it looks promising. Down the street on the other side of the plaza there is the Hospedaje Santiago, which from the street looks as though it may be decent, and I saw a blog post saying the place on the plaza is the best in town … but I did not like the look of it from the outside. This blog post, however, said it was the only one that had working plumbing, and from what I observed of plumbing in Santiago houses and restaurants I take this warning very seriously.
7. Places Vallejo lived besides Santiago, Huamachuco, Trujillo, and Lima, all involve jobs he had when he was out of college money. These are the Hacienda Roma, now a part of the city of Trujillo, the mining town of Quiruvilca, near Shorey on the way to Huamachuco, which I have now seen and whose tenebrous look explains a great deal, that Larco Herrera sugar plantation in the Chicama valley (that is, I am pretty sure it was Larco Herrera´s sugar plantation, not his Hacienda Roma), and that hacienda in Huánuco where he was a preceptor. Ideally one would inspect all of these places – and the location of Antenor Orrego´s house near Chan Chan where Vallejo hid out when he was a wanted man.
8. The war against the Sendero Luminoso was very hot in the countryside around Santiago, and Angasmarca was a red zone. On a trail between Santiago and Cachicadán the army would bring down by mule the piles of bodies of those they said were terrorists.