“The pope’s document gives us much to reflect on. It is beautiful, illuminating and full of hope in humanity. Beloved Amazon, so loved and suffering” (Ana Varela Tafur)
It was the custom for popes not to mention contemporary authors in their official documents. Francis has done so since the beginning of his pontificate. In the apostolic exhortation Querida Amazonia (QA) he draws on 16 Latin American poets, women and men. “Francis’ decision to include the poetic and symbolic logos as an integral part of his magisterial text is stronger than may appear.”
Francis does not quote poets to give examples, but he listens to them and enters into resonance with what poetry gives. The “four dreams” he shares about the Amazon are enriched by being nourished by the cultures of its peoples and attest that “only poetry, with its humble voice, will be able to save this world” (QA 46).
In “The Prophecy of Contemplation” (QA 53-57) the Holy Father proposes an itinerary that reverses the path followed by the extractive paradigm and enters into the heart of the Amazon. He invites us to adopt courageous attitudes in order not to leave this portion of our planet at the mercy of those who have already made contrary attitudes their own: “From the original peoples, we can learn to contemplate the Amazon region and not simply analyze it, and thus appreciate this precious mystery that transcends us. We can love it, not simply use it, with the result that love can awaken a deep and sincere interest. Even more, we can feel intimately a part of it and not only defend it; then the Amazon region will once more become like a mother to us” (QA 55).
The image of the Amazon River – on which “streams alight like birds” (QA 44) – is the image of an apostolic exhortation in which poems cited are like tributaries that can be explored.
This article-interview on Ana Varela Tafur and her poetry tries to follow Francis’ suggestion to let ourselves be guided so that Querida Amazonia becomes for us “like a mother” within our great Mother Earth. For “we do not look at the world from without but from within, conscious of the bonds with which the Father has linked us to all beings” (QA 55).
Resonances: it is time to speak out
Together with Ana Varela Tafur we read the pope’s text: “Popular poets, enamored of its immense beauty, have tried to express the feelings this river evokes and the life that it bestows as it passes amid a dance of dolphins, anacondas, trees and canoes. Yet they also lament the dangers that menace it. Those poets, contemplatives and prophets, help free us from the technocratic and consumerist paradigm that destroys nature and robs us of a truly dignified existence” (QA 46).
I ask how these words resonate with her.
Ana Varela answers: “The men and women poets who write about or for the Amazon not only have a personal poetic voice, but are lending themselves, offering and creating verse for the silent voice of all those who live and suffer the dramatic and rapid changes that are taking place. The gaze stops being exotic or totally focused on nature and its unquestionable beauty. We poets cannot limit ourselves to this. Today we talk about the suffering of people, animals, plants, rivers, fields, the mothers of trees, the most vulnerable and least protected beings. We know that mining activities are not recent. They date back more than a century, to the time of the extraction of ‘caucho,’ rubber, when terror dominated as a weapon to subjugate the original populations and coastal regions. There were human rights violations, and thousands of trees were also cut down, people were mutilated, debt was used to impose an unsustainable system of perpetual credit. The benefits of the newborn extractivist capitalism went to a local bourgeoisie (Iquitos, Manaus, Belém do Pará, etc.) and to the vast American and European economies. Consequently, the consumerist paradigm favored a social class that lived off rubber wealth. Then this consumerist and predator-extractivist model fell into decline. However, the model has survived until today, with rubber replaced by other materials, while indigenous people continue to die of abandonment, exclusion, abuse, and with them as their territory is disappearing, so is their knowledge, and their pain is great. Now the word, the collective voice, stops contemplating and the time has come to speak out, to prophesy a greater holocaust, that of environmental destruction.”
Ana Varela Tafur is a writer to whom one can well apply the term “social poet”, a term coined by the pope. She was born in Iquitos (Peru) in 1963. She graduated in Literature from the University of California, Davis. She currently lives in Berkeley, California. “Her literary production is thematic, but important,” says Paco Bardales, a scholar who has studied her poetry. Her book Lo que no veo en visiones (What I cannot see in visions; 1992) won first prize at the V Bienal de Poesía Copé, and we should be aware how important it is for her fellow citizens that a person from Iquitos, and moreover a woman, won an award in Lima. As Tafur’s poet friend Percy Vílchez says: “The mere fact that in the Amazon, in the ‘backyard of Peru,’ a woman dedicates herself to writing poetry changes things.”
Ana Varela Tafur has published Voces desde la orilla (Voices from the Shore; 2000) and Dama en el scenario (Lady on Stage; 2001). A selection of her poems has been inserted in the anthology ¡Más aplausos para la lluvia! (More Applause for the Rain; 2010) and En tierras del cóndor (In the Land of the Condor; 2013).
We can depict her childhood and adolescence with two brushstrokes. Ana tells us in a letter that her house was four blocks away from the Amazon River, which forms 100 kilometers upstream of the city where she lived with the fusion of the Marañón and Ucayali rivers. At the age of 14 she began to write in her personal diary everything that happened to her each day, until she realized that she preferred to express her feelings rather than report events. That is how she began to write her poems.
Tafur spent her adolescence and youth in Peru, in a context of extreme violence, the so-called “Twenty Years of Terror” that began in 1980 with the birth of the guerrilla group Sendero Luminoso. In the clashes between the guerrillas and the government, both sides used very violent methods, and even the farmers organized militias to defend themselves, the so-called Rondas campesinas.
Literary aspects and characteristics
Roland Forgues, an expert on Amazonian poetry, proposes three different characteristics to define the writing of Peruvian women poets: aesthetic, social and erotic. He believes that Ana Varela identifies mainly with the social category, since she “criticizes social inequalities, denounces unjust human addictions and unmasks real cultural manifestations. At the same time, she contributes to consolidating the basis for claiming and generating new goals in everyday life, bearing in mind the needs of the Peruvian Amazonian people.”
According to Alberto Valdivia Baselli, another scholar who has studied her, Ana Varela is “a most skillful poetess” in her ability to build, through her emotions and testimonial perception, a poetic space where the collective memory (ecological and feminine) reaches the stature of myth.”
Ana Molina Campodónico, in her thesis on Amazonian poets, states: “In Varela’s poetry the great themes of Amazonian literature (rural and urban, mythical and social) are articulated in a dynamic and creative way to affirm her Loreto identity.” And in the poetic context of social criticism, Ana Varela inserts what Molina calls “mythical ecofeminism.” She celebrates “the feminine as the source of life, in the claim of the Amazonian universe as the construction of the wild mother, and in the discovery of the hallucinatory power of Ayahuasca as the primordial mother, as the matrix of Amazonian culture.”
Ideas: ‘Poetry is a planet of living trees’
In 1983 the young poets Carlos Reyes Ramírez, Percy Vílchez Vela and Ana Varela Tafur, three students at the Universidad Nacional de la Amazonía Peruana (UNAP), were invited to join the Urcututu Group (onomatopoeic word from the call of an owl, the bird of wisdom) by its founder, theater director Manuel Luna Mendoza.
Urcututu wanted to distance itself from folklorism as an instrument of representation of Amazonian reality, to “create and recreate a literature inclusive of indigenous identity merged with other cultures, reinventing the oral word of the people who inhabit that multicultural and diverse universe called Amazonia.”
I ask Ana Varela to tell us something about the thought of the Urcututu Group.
She replies: “It is not only found in our poetry. We also appealed to the group’s manifesto and the language of criticism targeted at the policies of failure and the ‘officialist’ discourse that still considers the Amazon region an extractivist paradise that can support the national economy. The myth of El Dorado persists, even within the variations of the current era. That legendary treasure today is counted in oil, gold, coca and so on.”
She goes on to quote some passages from Poetry is a Planet of Living Trees, the Urcututu Manifesto of August 2019: “The Amazon is a transnational space shared by nine countries that have geographical and cultural ties, and where the inhabitants share natural resources, desires, aspirations and, above all, a worldview. However, in recent decades we have witnessed the agony of the Amazon and the entire planet. […] Apparently there is no future, nothing to look forward to, and everything seems doomed to failure. For this reason, today more than ever, it is urgent to expand the dimension of hope and utopia in order to sustain life in an atmosphere of mutual respect that challenges the present. Then it becomes possible, starting from this deplorable state of affairs today, from the bottom of the variegated deficiencies, to present the future, where poetry has a role of denunciation of abuses and proclamation of beauty and justice. In fact, the poetic verb, the oral word or the one written in poetry, is a source of revelation and salvation, which lets us imagine a possible world freed from its wounds. In this context we demand a radical change in the political behavior of society and respect for life in all its manifestations. Consequently, the smaller ecosystem must be preserved, cared for and treated with environmental responsibility. Poetry is a planet of living trees that does not want to die.”
Memory of what is not recorded
The first poetic quote we find in Querida Amazonia refers to these “living trees that do not want to die.” These are some verses of the poem Timareo (1950) included in Ana Varela’s Lo que no veo en visiones. The quote is contained in the first of the pope’s four dreams (“A social dream”) and expresses the cry to heaven of the indigenous peoples of African origin on the coast, who were expelled from their land and crushed by the interests of the colonizers: “There are many trees / where torture lived / and vast forests / bought among a thousand killings” (QA 9).
The whole poem goes like this: At Timareo we don’t know the alphabet and its writings / and no one registers us in the pages of the official books. / My grandfather gets excited by the candor of his birth / and recites a chronology wrapped in punishments. / There are many trees where torture lived / and vast forests / bought among a thousand killings. / What distant days, what remote escapes! / Our relations left for a sea / of possibilities distant from ancestral efforts. / But we don’t know the alphabet and their destinations and / we recognize ourselves in the coming of a time of joyful Sundays. / The city is far away and from the port I call all the children / soldiers who don’t come back, girls dragged to cinemas and bars / of poor repute. / (History does not record / our exoduses, the last journeys / intrepid by tumultuous rivers).
It is significant the author of the apostolic exhortation chose this poem that opens and ends with the denunciation of the “non-registration” of the life and culture of many peoples by official history. What history does not record, the poet instead gives with detailed documentation. Here she gives us the image of her grandfather who “is moved by the candor of his birth and recites a chronology wrapped in punishments.”
Ana Varela tells us that she is proud to belong through her ancestors to the ethnic Uitoto. The book Voces desde la orilla is dedicated “to my grandmother Ana, who survived the infamous rubber years. To you, grandmother, in your impenetrable sky.”
The relationship with her grandmother is an excellent way to delve into her thinking about the Amazon: “My grandmother was a Uitoto. She fled as a teenager from the terror of rubber slavery in Putumayo where she lived with her family. She was the only one who survived and was almost a child. Her whole family was murdered. I am the product of this situation. I am Uitoto from my grandmother and I feel proud to belong to this lineage. I do not know the circumstances, because in fact no one has ever known how she left her home to reach Iquitos. Her story marked me even though I did not know her. She died before I was born. She is buried in Cementerio General close to my grandfather, Esteban Varela, a Spaniard from Valladolid. Nearby is buried the “cauchero” Carlos Fermín Fitzcarrald. My indigenous grandmother bought her place in the cemetery with her savings. I grew up with her in my memory, in vague stories, even though my father spoke of her with great affection, because he said that she had sent him to school.”
For Ana Varela the stories of her Uitoto grandmother and of a thousand others can and must be made visible, celebrated as an epic that deserves a prominent place in memory.
Oral tradition and the indestructible power of memory
We re-read with Ana Varela the text of Querida Amazonia that says: “Poetry helps give voice to a painful sensation shared by many of us today. The inescapable truth is that, as things stand, this way of treating the Amazon territory spells the end for so much life, for so much beauty, even though people would like to keep thinking that nothing is happening” (QA 47).
I continue in interviewing Ana Varela: “In your poetry this loss is felt. What moves me in your book Lo que no veo en visiones is how you place yourself in times, places and things, to create memory, to record what books do not record and keep alive the stories of your people, of good memories like your grandparents. Your poetry brings back to life what those who strip and destroy ‘don’t see’ or ‘don’t want to see,’ those who don’t consider at all the people you recover. You write, as one of your poems says, ‘like those who come back to see what happens’ to these humble inhabitants, for ‘we do not take away from anyone the harvest and the catch,’ and yet ‘the nights of the earth are not ours as any creature of the Lord.’”
Ana Varela replies: “Yes, as Pope Francis says, perhaps poetry involves a personal, collective and ecological catharsis. We live an environmental cataclysm, but there are few of us who see it or suffer from it in our own flesh. Poets have this voice when confronted with the deterioration of beauty in the Amazon. Bodies are increasingly weakened and exposed to environmental diseases. The feeling you express can be felt in my poetry, perhaps since my childhood and adolescence. In my childhood I heard many stories of mythical beings. Now, for example, the yacumama, the mother snake of the river, is struggling to survive and defend itself from oil spills. Its body is as wounded as that of thousands of inhabitants who suffer from drinking polluted water. Before this the mother of water lived quietly, on its back grew moss and small algae. Now she is suffocating, cannot breathe and dies because of hydrocarbons and chemical residues. The same happens to thousands of children. This legacy of knowledge transmitted has been and remains a strategic resource to remember family and community grief, grief that remains as a chronic wound, an archive of personal stories and epics of survival that official records have not included.”
For Roland Forgues, Ana Varela expresses “the orality of a culture that has managed to withstand the ravages of time and history and which is the foundation of its identity, a culture that finds legitimacy in the indestructible vitality of memory and its strength in the rebirth of the word, oppressed and reduced to silence since the distant times of conquest and colonization.”
It is a memory in which bodily metaphors are important as a mechanism for understanding the world: Our archives held in memory / were truly intense paths of stages and days. / All similar to the serenity of the sun / and to the lights that decipher shadows in the dark. / Our feet, like deer, / agile among the mountains, / ran on paths limed by lightning. /[…] We call all this wisdom stored / in the archives / of the moon.
Poems claim the memory of the original peoples of the Amazon and their ancestral traditions, but at the same time “there is an awareness of the fact that this recovery of oral memory cannot be separated from writing, which defines the experience of modernity. In that sense it is an effort to use writing for the most effective preservation and transmission of oral and community traditions. The bureaucratic elements of writing, in its turn instruments of extractive capitalism, are transformed into means to claim the indigenous and what is recognized as typically Amazonian. That is to say, poetry uses the written dimension in a subversive way.”
In fact, as the poem Historia de la liana says: “You have to remember everything, absolutely everything,” because “A story is recorded in the waters of the Marañón / sometimes it remains naked in the ‘gramalotales’ / or in the marginal voices of the anonymous stories.”
In turn, Francis says: “Although there is a growing risk that this cultural richness will be lost; thanks be to God, in recent years some peoples have taken to writing down their stories and describing the meaning of their customs” (QA 35).
Belonging: the ‘we’ as feeling and search for interlocutors
I ask Ana Varela: “In your poems there are hundreds of faces and voices evoked with few nouns and many first person plural verbs. The protagonist of the poems is a collective ‘we.’ We who clean paths, we open roads, we who no one sees rise to the top, the unregistered, relatives, grandparents, mothers and grandmothers, soldiers who do not return, girls… and we who recognize ourselves in the coming of a time of joyful Sundays. What can you say about this we that includes the reader as one of the family, with the typical welcome of the people?”
She answers: “This ‘we’ is a feeling, a search for interlocutors. I want to reach those who have lived and live between pain and the search for a utopia, joyful Sundays of communion, life, hope and redemption.”
The search for interlocutors implies various things. First of all, the memory of common ancestors: “The grandparents who sowed and sow the future,” those who “crossed the divide before us,” “those who opened the way for us to arrive without effort” at the place where “I have always lived,” as one of her poems says, which speaks so as “not to forget stories of whipping.”
The search for interlocutors also implies faith in a national community older and stronger than the conflicts that divide it, such as the contrast between mountain and coast. And it involves, finally, the vision of a common project, toward which “all citizens must work.”
Roots: ‘These places / where my poetry has roots / want to last’
I say to Ana Varela: “In Lo que no veo en visiones the preposition of place ‘in’ appears 98 times. There are hundreds of ‘places’ where you position the readers so that they can ‘see’ what you ‘see (and do not see)’ in visions. I list some of them: in the place of my footsteps, in visions, in abandoned fields, in suffering fields where the century dies out, in the orchards where it sows its days, in these roads and detours that lengthen my paths, in nearby places where one hears about wars, in the coming of a time of joyful Sundays in which we recognize ourselves… Your poems have roots; they are a place you can put your feet – this is a recurring theme of yours – and sink them in the mud; they are a river where you can lower your canoe and sail. Beyond rational discourse, we attune ourselves to what you narrate, because we find words and actions that allow us to step on the ground that you step on and put ourselves ‘in’ the places that you visit: those who stand with their feet on the ground feel and record everything. This rootedness and this ‘we’ are certainly gifts of the Amazon, where everything is connected (see QA 41) to the root and furrowed by the tributaries that go to the Rio…”
In reply she tells us: “Yes, the Amazon is the most biodiverse region of the planet. And everything is connected in its infinitely small forms of life, but in that vital dimension it has the gift or the capacity to become immense, and perhaps this is the best expression of God. The Amazon has conducted wars of resistance, but has not succumbed to aggression. We are the men and women of whom the pope speaks. But it is also a universal, planetary we. We are part of a universal community and we all need everyone to face the injustices that are committed in the name of a developmental discourse that excludes and destroys. Those places – where my poetry takes root – want to last, to stay alive, to celebrate their epic deeds, their Sundays and harvests, their oral literature, their moonlit nights around a fire, their traditional knowledge of how to treat the environment.”
In 2014 a DePaul University journal published three poems by Ana Varela related to the place: “Iquitos,” the prehistoric Amazon – when it was a blue sea – her home.
Iquitos… / Or a riot of intensely occupied shores? / Or a rain island surrounded by expectations? / I can’t define you. Perennial frontier and memory of majolica / always on the brink of a fever / and a golden promise. / […] Iquitos, you always make me think of Peru. / And you’ve never had roads to the coast or the Andes. / From you one arrives by river or in flight over marshy woods. / […] You are the voice of my blurred childhood in a non-existent house. / I sail on Itaya, the river of death, and I miss your silence.
You cannot get to Iquitos by land, but only by going up the Amazon River or, nowadays, by air. In 1757 it was founded as a Jesuit mission, which was given the name of San Pablo de los Napeanos. In 1842 it had 200 inhabitants. Rubber Fever (1880-1915) attracted considerable commercial attention to the city, making it one of the richest centers of the continent thanks to the exploitation and abuse of the Amazonian natives. In 1905 an electrical network was installed and an urban railway commenced in Iquitos sooner than in many Peruvian and European cities. Charles Goodyear’s vulcanization of rubber for use in automobile tires brought the city to its high point of prosperity, which was lost after Briton Henry Wickham stole 70,000 seeds of the precious tree for British plantations in Malaya and the Dutch Indies, where they grew “neatly,” bringing an end to Iquitos’ opulence.
Listening: respect the ancestral knowledge of the original peoples
I share with Ana Varela another part of the papal text: “If the care of people and the care of ecosystems are inseparable, this becomes especially important in places where ‘the forest is not a resource to be exploited; it is a being, or various beings, with which we have to relate’” (QA 42). I ask her what these words suggest.
Her answer: “Our ancestral Amazonian thought feeds on a fundamental concept: people, animals, trees, forests, farms, ponds, rivers, etc. have the dimensions of any living being. They are living beings and have their place in the universe. They have spirit, mother, feelings and desires. That is why the pope’s words not only confirm that we must take care of ecosystems, but in some way they warn us that if we do not listen and respect the ancestral knowledge of the original peoples, we will have destroyed life, the most human expression that embodies God on the planet.”
A culture of the word
Fernando Urbina Rangel, whose reflections I broadly continue here, splendidly introduces us to a particularity of the culture of the Uitoto to which Ana Varela Tafur refers: it is a culture of the word. The mythologies of the Amazonian peoples are extraordinarily rich and complex, and they are still lived deeply in their feasts, ceremonies and ritual dances. This gives their daily life a multiformity that contrasts with the simplifying and indifferent form in which ordinary people conceive their relations with the social and natural environment. Amazonian cultures cultivate a word that is story and myth and that is not only told, but danced.
Next to the bákaki, the legend, story or myth that the elders tell in the evening in preparation for a party, the Uitoto use another word that alludes to a dimension within which the stories take on fullness of meaning. It is the term ráfue, whose etymology comes from ra, thing, and fúe, mouth, that is: “The thing that came out of the mouth,” “words of advice,” “tradition.” “The ráfue is a way of life, an existential path in which everything is part of a whole that gives reason to each of the parts and activities. It is something cosmological. This profound interrelation between the word and life, as a total warp, is perceived by the uneducated indigenous person, who makes their existence overflow with meaning, for each of their actions refers to this total context that fills it with meaning. It is the totalizing, deeply systematizing, though always open, work of myth.” “The ráfue is not only a sapiential system that structures the entire cultural experience: it is also an immediate pragmatic exercise, including especially the rituals (dances) that orient everyday life.”
Urbina Rangel mentions the sayings of two elders, Belisario Jichamón, Uitoto – an exponent of “El Encanto,” place of the diaspora – and don José García, Muinane. “Every time I questioned them about the meaning of the ráfue, they answered: ‘It is about dancing.’”
Today there is a marked decline in the preparation and performance of these ceremonies; it could not be otherwise given the ongoing social fragmentation that is undermining community life. However, the strength of the ráfue pulsates and dances at the feet of Ana Varela Tafur’s poetry.
Long before the moon and its flickering sun / the dancers of the night and their whole days / those who never trafficked in other waterways / said “Enough!” to the massacres of the century, / because they were ancestors of distant stars and stars / and rivers and perishable plants and animals / and broom blooming in the grove.
I asked Ana Varela if she had an electronic copy of her book Voces desde la orilla, unobtainable. She sent it to me in Word: “I have just copied the book Voces desde la orilla that I enclose here. While I was transcribing it, I thought about many images of my travels. The book is twenty years old and remains young in my heart.”
I asked her: “Did you transcribe it by hand? Borges says that reading is rewriting, and rewriting a poem is recreating it. I’m very happy that it allowed you to relive travels, faces and beloved places.”
She answers: “Yes, I typed it key after key. And by chance I ran into Borges again. To rewrite is to recreate. And all the better with images of the river.”
Only a Uitoto – of which her grandmother will be proud – can do and appreciate such a thing.
DOI: La Civiltà Cattolica, En. Ed. Vol. 4, no. 10 art. 1, 1020: 10.32009/22072446.1020.1
. Cf. A. Spadaro, “Querida Amazonia: Commentary on Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation”, in Civ. Catt. En., February, 2020, https://www.laciviltacattolica.com/querida-amazonia-commentary-on-pope-francis-apostolic-exhortation/
. V. de Moraes, Para vivir un gran amor, Buenos Aires, Ediciones de la Flor, 2013, 166.
. P. Neruda, “Amazonas”, in Id., Canto general (1938), I, IV.
. “They (the original peoples) are our principal dialogue partners, from whom we have the most to learn […] What is their idea of ‘good living’ for themselves and for those who will come after them?” (QA 26).
. Francis, Letter to the popular movements, April 12, 2020.
. P. Bardales, Los discursos amazónicos, sociales y de género en el proceso creativo de la poesía de Ana Varela. Un río interminable de palabras. Expresión literaria en la Amazonía peruana, Lima, Ediciones del Congreso, 2013, 121-141.
. A. Varela Tafur, Lo que no veo en visiones, Iquitos, Tierra Nueva, 2010.
 . See the video Literatura amazónica, Tierra nueva (see youtu.be/e2TAnMrPzCA).
 . A. Varela Tafur, Voces desde la orilla, Iquitos, Urcututu ediciones, 2000.
. Id. Dama en el escenario, Iquitos, Editora regional, 2001.
. J. G. Larochelle (ed.), ¡Más aplausos para la lluvia!: antología de poesía amazónica reciente, Iquitos, Tierra Nueva, 2010
. En tierras del cóndor: muestra de poesía Colombia – Perú, Bogotá, Taller de edición Rocca, 2013.
. R. Forgues, Plumas de Afrodita: una mirada a la poeta peruana del siglo XX, Lima, San Marcos, 2004, 76. The quote is taken from A. Molina Campodónico, La búsqueda de la voz propia en la lírica loretana a partir de tres hitos sucesivos: los primeros cantores de la Amazonia; Germán Lequerica y el Grupo Urcututu, Lima, PUCP, 2015, 70.
. Cf. A. Valdivia Baselli, “Las aristas del género: discursos de género y poesía en la mujer peruana contemporánea y finisecular (1989-2004)”, in Ajos y Zafiros 6 (2004) 86.
. A. Molina Campodónico, La búsqueda de la voz propia…, op. cit., 83.
. Ibid., 91.
. A. Varela Tafur, “Urcututu, olvido y memoria desde la Amazonía. La poesía de Carlos Reyes”, in El Hablador, No. 18, 2010 (cf. www.elhablador.com/dossier18_varela1.html).
. The myth of El Dorado pushed the Spanish conquerors to penetrate to the heart of America and to create an empire that extended into the interior, unlike other nations that colonized only the coasts.
. A. Varela Tafur – P. Vílchez Vela – C. Reyes Ramírez, Manifiesto del grupo Urcututu, Iquitos, August 20, 2019.
. The rubber trees (Hevea brasiliensis) are made to “bleed” with V-shaped incisions, under which a container is placed, to catch the latex or rubber drip.
. A. Varela Tafur, “Timareo (1950)”, in Id., Lo que no veo…, op. cit., 8.
. Timareo is an island on the Amazon River in the province of Loreto to which Iquitos belongs, where Ana Varela Tafur was born. At the end of the 19th century, “rubber fever” gave rise to sudden fortunes for landowners and slavery among the natives. Loreto is the most diversified Peruvian region in terms of ethnic groups and indigenous languages.
. “A ‘meticulous’ little girl who read everything and who liked to analyze everything”: this is how her mother Teolina Tafur describes her (see youtu.be/e2TAnMrPzCA).
. The Uitoto, Witoto, Güitoto or Murui-muinane are an ethnic group or indigenous people who speak a language of the Bora-Witoto family. They are scattered in the region known as the Colombian-Peruvian Middle Amazonas. At the time of the exploitation of rubber, starting in 1886, 22 rubber mining colonies were settled in the areas of Caquetá and Putumayo involving conditions of hard slavery. The population was decimated, moved away from its original territory, and its social organization was seriously compromised.
. Carlos Fermín Fitzcarrald López (1862-97), legendary and ruthless rubber merchant and Peruvian explorer.
. A. Varela Tafur, personal letter.
. A. Varela Tafur, “Magdalena”, in Id. Lo que no veo…, op. cit., 16.
. Yacumama means “mother of water” (from the Quechua yaku, water, and mama, mother) and designates a giant serpent living in South America, in Ecuador and Peru to be exact. “The origin of the people is the celestial anaconda / the milky way that came down to earth. / The great snake is divided like the rivers / that embody it in the Amazon” (J. Arocha – N. S. De Friedemann, Herederos del Jaguar y la Anaconda. Amazónicos: gente de ceniza, anaconda y trueno, Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango: cf. babel.banrepcultural.org/cdm/ref/collection/p17054coll10/id/2806).
. R. Forgues, in A. Molina Campodónico, La búsqueda de la voz propia…, op. cit., 82.
. A. Varela Tafur, “Nuestros archivos”, in Id. , Voces…, op. cit., 5.
. R. Forgues, in A. Molina Campodónico, La búsqueda de la voz propia…, op. cit., 84.
. Ayahuasca (Quechua word, from aya, dead and waskha, rope, vine) means “the liana that allows you to reach the place of the dead” and is the name used in Peru and Ecuador of a hallucinogenic drink called different indigenous names in much of the Amazon: natem by the Shuar, caapi in the central Amazon, yagé from Colombia to Orinoco.
. About semi-aquatic plants of the Amazon.
. A. Varela Tafur, “Historia de la liana”, in Id., Voces…, op. cit., 12 f.
. Id., “Habito desde siempre”, en Lo que no veo…, op. cit., 5.
. M. Pérez Reátegui, “Hay un discurso de extracción, es como si se vuelva a repetir la época del caucho”, interview with Ana Varela Tafur, in La región, August 24, 2013 (cf. diariolaregion.com/web/hay-un-durso-de-extraccion-es como-se-volvera-repetir-la-epoca del-caucho).
. From iquita, “people separated from the waters.”
. The majolica tiles brought from Málaga, Spain, for the facade of the old Hotel Palace (1908).
. Like rubber fever…
. F. Urbina Rangel, “Mitos y petroglifos en el río Caquetá”, April 4, 2018 (cfr https://it.scribd.com/document/375529721/Mitos-y-Petroglifos-en-El-Rio-Caqueta-Fernando-Urbina-Rangel).
. “Traditional dance, party. It’s a party. Dani cai: rafue ite. Ie dam danincao ñaticai, which, translated, means: ‘This dance, party (or story) is ours only. Of this we speak, only we’” (Diccionario Huitoto-Murui, I, Pucallpa [Peru], Ministerio de educación, 1983).
. F. Urbina Rangel, “Mitos…,” op. cit.
. A. Varela Tafur, “Varaderos”, in Id., Voces…, op. cit., 35.