Words that heal: Aniceto and Célimo Nejedeka

Abuelo Aire Aliento Vida de Centro “Grandfather Air Breath Life of the Center” © Hernan Gomez De castro (chona)
Mixed technique; Ambil (Tobacco paste with salts),  and graphite and color pencils, on 300 gr Canson paper (medium grain)

Selection and introduction* by Camilo A. Vargas Pardo

In memoriam, elder Aniceto Nejedeka

Translated from Spanish by Sophie Lavoie

Illustrations by Hernan Gomez De castro (chona)

In these times of global panic caused by the pandemic, modern industrialized societies have had to alter the relentless pace that has marked the rhythm of urban centres. In this climate of anxiety, we ask ourselves about health and ways to fight illnesses. The recent publication of the book Cultivando la ciencia del árbol de la salud (Nurturing the science of the tree of health, 2019) by Célimo Ramón Nejedeka Jifichíu / Imi Jooi opens the field up to reflection when it asks: How do we nurture the science tree of life to live well?

This publication has been supported by the efforts of the editors and the illustrator: Micarelli, Ortiz and Gómez, who, during the presentation of the book, explained the minutiae of the process of writing and publication. Among other factors, they discussed the decision to use the term “science” in the title to “unsettle the established hierarchy between Western science and other ways of knowing, and, at the same time, to elicit a reflection on the end goals of knowledge” (p. 16, my translation).

The Gente de Centro [People from the Centre] is a cultural grouping made up of various ethnic groups (Murui, Okaina, Nonuya, Bora, Miranha, Muinane, Resígaro and Andoque) whose original territory is found in the Caquetá-Putumayo watershed. These groups identify themselves as the children of the tobacco, the coca and the sweet yuca plant. Grounded in the traditions of the Gente del Centro, the author shows a conception of health that is based on their origin stories. This contrasts with the general reaction we see in mass media: news insisting on horrific statistics that emphasize a system of care that is vulnerable because it is based on palliative treatments that only work to lessen symptoms. This book proposes a totally different direction since it stresses the complex interweaving of relations between health and language, wellbeing and words, the good life and the origin stories.

Célimo Ramón Nejedeka Jifichíu / Imi Jooi belongs to the Fééneminaa (Muinane) ethnic group, specifically the Ijimi Négégaimijo (Shade of Cumare) lineage of the Cumare clan. His mother is elder Aurelia Jifichiu, who has laboured in the area of language revitalization of the Bora, her ethnic group, as can be seen in the two publications she has authored: Iijumujelle akyéjtso uguááboju. Despertando la educación indígena Umijijte – Bora- por una abuela del clan oso hormiguero (Rekindling Indigenous Umijijte -Bora- Education by an Elder of the Anteater Clan, 2016) and Talleu iijimujelle uuballehi uuballejuune kuguatsojuune majchijuune / La abuela del clan oso hormiguero enseña cuentos, arrullos y cuentos del pueblo Piinemunaa – Bora (An Elder of the Anteater Clan Teaches Stories, Lullabies, and Tales of the Piinemunaa people, 2019).

Célimo’s father, elder Aniceto Nejedeka, received national recognition from the Colombian Ministry of Culture in 2017 for his dedication to the enrichment of ancestral culture of the Indigenous peoples of Colombia. As part of his efforts to strengthen the Fééneminaa (Muinane) culture and their traditions, he published Historia de los dos hermanos Boa / Taagai Buuamisi jiibegeeji (Story of the Two Boa Brothers, ICANH, 2012) and La ciencia de vida escrita en las aves (The science of life inscribed by birds), a work that was published in a series of articles in the magazine Mundo Amazónico (numbers 2, 3, 4 and 5).

These publications are tied to an oral tradition that has been looked down upon because of unfortunate historical circumstances, coupled with colonial processes and extractivism. The wisdom of these authors is supported, not by the bibliographical erudition of lettered societies, but in the practical knowledge gleaned from oral traditions. Thus, these books are the fruit of arduous labour in which different systems of knowing converge, leading to a cultural translation exercise that quantifies its epistemological value on written texts that attempt to reproduce the echoes of orality. These works are a true testament to the capacity for adaptation and the search for alternatives to sustain the cultural heritage of the peoples carried out by these authors.

The writing is thus woven into a type of larger basket (“canasto”) in which knowledge is found: knowledge about the chagras (polyculture crops), the traditional dances, the songs, the traditional cures, and all the other cultural practices that are still in use. This is a wisdom that, in the case of the Nejedeka family, finds its foundations in the Amooka ritual career in their maloca (ancestral long houses) in the outskirts of Leticia.

* Fragment from the book review “Palabras que sanan,” published in Mundo Amazónico 11 (2020): 122-125.

El bien y el mal “The good and the bad” © Hernan Gomez De castro (chona) 
Mixed technique; Ambil (Tobacco paste with salts),  and graphite and color pencils, on 300 gr Canson paper (medium grain)

Evolution of Knowledge of Life and its transmission to the Shade of the Cumare Lineage of the Cumare Clan of the Muinane ethnic group

By Aniceto Ramón Negedeka “Numeyi” (“Small Elder”) 

and Célimo Ramón Nejedeka JIFICHÍU “IMI JOOI” (“Pretty Bird”)

Fragment from the book: Cultivando la ciencia del árbol de la salud: conocimiento tradicional para el buen vivir. Celimo Ramón Nejedeka Jifichíu. Editorial curatorship Giovanna Micarelli, Nelson Ortiz y Hernán Gómez, (Eds.) Bogotá: Editorial Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, 2019.

In the beginning, there is the origin of Our Father (no one knows about that). Everything else is created from His breath-air.

He, Our Father, Breath of Life, became (a little later) Breath-Air of Word, and thus created the World and Humankind of the Beginning. The latter tried to destroy the Father’s Wisdom and mislead the World about its own origin. For that, He cursed Humankind and cast it away.

A long time later, Our Father directed his wisdom -using an inaudible word- to the spiritual and material (sweet, cold and solid) creation of the Planet. After creating it, He purified it, anointed it, blessed it and widened it.

After that, while in this comfortable, pure and secure place, He -using the same word- created all the fruit that are the richness of his creation: the ones that need to be sown (cultivated ones) and those that germinate themselves (wild ones). He baptized each one of these, purified them with the Water of Life and Growth that He created. With this Water of Live and Growth, He washed them, made them germinate, made them grow and made them multiply.

Then, He, Our Creator, through this Water, filled them with Breath of Creation, mixed them up and, just like that, scattered the seeds on all of the Earth.

He created everything that exists on Earth, as well as night and day and, once created, He blessed them, gave them the power to multiply and also granted them a place on the Earth.

Later on, He “humanized his image,” thus creating the Son of the Centre. Once created, He sat Son of the Centre down, gave him advice and entrusted him with the care of everything Our Creator had created on this Earth.

Then, Our Father Elder Tobacco Centre of Life returned to his world, the World of Breath, where He sat on the Bench of Life (cold and sweet bench of creation) and there he sat Our Mother down, to strengthen Himself from Her Breath of Life, to “humanize her image” and, thus, to create the Woman of the Centre, who would come to be the companion of the Son of the Centre.

Abuela Cuna de Vida, madre de todas las hierbas frías y los frutos cultivables y silvestres “Grandmother Cradle of Life, mother of all cold herbs and cultivable and wild fruits” © Hernan Gomez De castro (chona)
Mixed technique; Ambil (Tobacco paste with salts),  and graphite and color pencils, on 300 gr Canson paper (medium grain)

While He, Our Creator, dedicated himself to the creation of the Woman of the Centre, the World of the Beginning again took power over this planet: misled it, tarnished it, filled it with all sorts of wrongs, including tarnishing the Son of the Centre. Seeing this, He, Our Creator, interrupted his work and, without even anointing her, without purifying her, without blessing her or baptizing her, He made the Woman of the Centre descend to this Earth, and He sat her in the Centre.

So, during a long time, the Earth was under the responsibility of Our Mother Life of Centre, and Our Grandfather Creator, upset that his creation had gone astray, tried to end the World of the Beginning, crushing it against this planet. But She impeded this, She didn’t let it be crushed.

For that reason, both the World of the Beginning and this Earth stayed under her stewardship for a long time.

A long time later, through Her and using Her power, Our Creator generated insects and birds. There, He separated the cycles of the day and of the night and fixed the cardinal points, producing in this way temporality and spatiality in this world.

Then, He created, purified and consecrated the Woman of the Centre’s Cradle of Birth, using the medicinal plants He had sown: basil, sweet yuca and all the good and cold herbs (symbol of Our Mother).

Later on, Our Creator made the Son Life of the Centre descend in order to “humanize his word.” From then on, this planet stayed under the stewardship of the knowledge and wisdom of the Son Life of the Centre. Then, the myths and the stories came to an end.

In this step, the Son Life of the Centre created the True Plant of Tobacco (symbol of his thoughts) and that of the Coca (symbol of his word) to reorder the world. Through this creation, the Son Life of the Centre reformed, rejuvenated and reorganized the Man of the Centre.

For us, those who belong to the Muinane ethnic group, from the Coco (Cumare) Clan and the Shade of the Cumare lineage, our knowledge about the learning and teaching of the Myth of Origin and Creation of the Universe comes from this. This wisdom is shared so that it will be applied practically on good thoughts, the true word, the true action and the good life, in order to be in harmony with nature, with ourselves and with the Being that created us, according to the learnings transmitted by the Son Life of the Centre to the Orphan Grandson of the Centre. The People of the Cumare Clan, of the Shade of Cumare lineage received the knowledge from their ancestors, descendants of the Orphan Grandson of the Centre. The True Word of Life came to be known only in this way, and he gave it to us, who are his descendants, through our ancestors and grandfathers.

The ancestors of the People of Cumare and the elders that know of each other (and that I listened to) were:

Neje daagui: Perico de Cumare (Parakeet of Cumare), who gave birth to

Tifai-iji: Boca Roja (Red Mouth), who then gave birth to

Atiiba-yi: Pepa Verde (Green Potato), who gave birth to

Neje-deeka: Flor de la Palma de Cumare (Flower of Cumare Palm), and he gave birth to

Nume-yi: Pepa Pequeña (Small Seed), that is who I am and I bear this name and I am presently alive and my name in Spanish is Aniceto Ramón Nejedeka. I gave birth to, well, various children. After my first born died, the one that follows and is here, bears the name

Imi Jooi: “Pájaro Bonito,” (Beautiful Bird) whose name in Spanish is Célimo Ramón Nejedeka Jifichíu “Imi Jooi”.

We are the ones who are here right now!

About Camilo A. Vargas Pardo

Poet, researcher of literatures and oraliteratures of the Amazon. PhD in Spanish Romance Studies (CRIMIC, Sorbonne University) and Amazon Studies (National University of Colombia, Amazonia Campus), through international co-supervision.

About Hernan Gomez De castro (chona)

As part of an exchange of cultural practices facilitated by the Andrés Bello Institute, I arrived at the “Usko Ayar” School of Amazonian Painting, directed by the Ayahuasca visions painter Pablo Amaringo, in Pucallpa, Peru. In the two years that I spent in the school, I realized, not without a certain degree of uncertainty, the mess of being faced to the blank page. Empty space is an aesthetic challenge and, in many cases, a spiritual adventure. I used to teach theater, but when I started to illustrate… a story, a myth, a landscape; I turned illustration into one of those art forms that allows me to capture in an image that skein of fluctuations that arise from language. Célimo, the author of the book Nurturing the Science of the Tree of Health, and I have talked for hours, or rather, I have listened and asked. This exercise that comes from thinking the word is an exciting and visionary creative act. The same thing happened with Amaringo, and the mess of facing a blank page ... disappears.

About the translator

Sophie M. Lavoie is a professor in the University of New Brunswick (Canada). She conducts research in the areas of women’s writing and social change in Central America and the Caribbean. Her studies focus on women in contemporary Nicaragua during the first Sandinista era (1970-1990), but she is also interested in other revolutionary movements in the area, such as Cuba and El Salvador and in women’s writing in Latin America. Her current research project focuses on the link between women’s writing, empowerment, and revolutionary action during the Sandinista era in Nicaragua. Dr. Lavoie is also an associate faculty member in the International Development Studies program, the Women's Studies program, and the Film Studies Program at UNB.

 More about People of the Centre

Cultivating the science of the tree of health: traditional knowledge for good living. Nejedeka Jifichíu, Célimo Ramón
“The Murui people fight for their recognition as an ethnic group of the Colombian Amazon, they have survived through time marked with the scars of the rubber plants and the imposition of the Catholic mission at the beginning of the century. This documentary is not the pristine and exotic vision of the Amazonian indigenous peoples, nor of the Amazon rainforest as the exotic place by definition, it is about the vision of themselves and the reality of an indigenous community, in a country where oblivion predominates. ” -Murui Jafaiki
Juan Alvaro Echeverri
Universidad Nacional de Colombia

Alba Eiragi: Dew, fog, and water

Introduction, selection and translation from Spanish by Elisa Taber

Alba Eiragi Duarte Portillo is an Indigenous leader, teacher, and cultural promoter born in Curuguaty, Paraguay, in 1960. She is an Aché descendant, raised in an Avá-Guaraní community in Colonia Fortuna, Canindeyú Department. She holds a BA in Social Work and Communication, and a diploma in Intercultural Education. Her books include the poetry collection Ñe’ẽ yvoty: Ñe’ẽ poty and the short story collection Ayvu tee avá guaraní. In 2017, she became the first Indigenous female member of the Society of Writers of Paraguay. In 2018, she presented her work at the 28th International Poetry Festival of Medellín, dedicated to the voices and visions of the native peoples of the Americas. Her poems and stories have been anthologized in several national and international publications.

Ayvu tee avá guaraní is a collection of Avá Guaraní sacred stories written in Avá Guaraní, self-translated into Jopara and Spanish, and illustrated by Alba Eiragi Duarte Portillo.

The pieces in this collection can be divided into sacred instructions and origin myths. What is ordinary is rendered mysterious and vice versa. The instructions explain how to make food and beverages, as well as artifacts, including jewelry, hammocks, and maracas. The ordinary is made sacred by the protocol for seemingly separate and superfluous acts. For example, the directions for preparing kaguyjy, chicha, detail the necessary—cereals, vegetables, and honey ferment for three days—and the “unnecessary”—a cedar bowl, a clean home, and songs of joy, blessing, and generosity. The myths describe the origin of the regional flora and fauna, as well as the three Tupí Guaraní classical elements: dew, fog, and water. The mysterious is made explainable by fiction. For example, the genesis of water becomes the story of how the sun and the moon created a river to drown the evil spirits that persecuted them.

The aforementioned sky bodies proceeded to name every being in the mythical Land Without Evil. Care with language is intrinsic to the Tupí-Guaraní family, as ñe’ẽ means both word and soul; thus, animating by naming. However, Doña Alba’s vocabulary is particular because she alternates between abstract and concrete terms, a duality that formally reflects the content. Her subject matter is split between rendering the material and the spiritual world. The simplicity with which she explains complex concepts is accomplished through colloquial word choice and succinct narratives. These sacred instructions and origin myths are best understood as teachings. She describes how the past molded the present and predicts how the present will affect the future. The way she writes posits the moral principle that one can tap into language’s potential for kindness, rather than cruelty. The author leaves the reader with a question: What is holy? Perhaps it is a life led in a way that fosters other beings’ existence in another space and time.

                   Pira pytã ñemongaru
Pira re mongarutarõ ype remoῖ vaʼerã irundy avati apesa ypy. Upea ouymarõ, koʼẽ ñavoma rera a vaʼerã emoguaetee aḡua era varaity avi avati kai tata peguare emombo mombo vaʼerã ypy avati rayi iichi.

Aa oguaeymarõ reeja jyyrae vaʼerã peteῖ ary.

Mokõi jyy oguae aapy katu eraa vaʼerã pinda aati yvyrare rejopia vaʼerã aaisa vaʼerã mbokaja ryvigui ỹro katu karaguata ryvigui oiporã ymarõ renoese aarima renoeta. Pira pytã jeʼu reko: ikangue eembiʼukue ndovivaʼerã jagua, tajasuai aa, ype. Uguia oourõ na ñarua moavei. Renoe ypype reʼupi vaʼerã ijarypy rema ata endy vaʼerã.

                   Pira pytã ñemongaru

Pira emongarútarõ ýpe emoῖvaʼerã irundy avati apesã ýpe. Upéva hoʼu rire rerahavaʼerã avati mbichy okáiva emoḡuahẽ porã haḡua emombo mombo vaʼerã ýpe avati ra’ỹi michῖva.

Oḡuahẽ rire ehejavaʼerã peteῖ ary oḡuahẽ jey haḡua pe pira ha upéi erahavaʼerã nde pinda isãvaʼerã mbokaja ryvipe térã katu karaguata ryvi vaʼerã.

Pira pytã jeʼu reko: ikangue ndoʼuivaʼerã jagua, kure, ype umía hoʼúrõ nerenohevéima, pira pytã renohẽ rire remyataindyvaʼerã.

                   Golden Dorado

Feed the fish below water, place husks on the surface daily, to draw and accustom them to this place.

Char the corn and drop in some kernels. When the fish arrive, wait a day or two. Once the water is tame, hook a ball of corn dough and lower your bait carefully. The nylon cord used to be made of pindo[1] or caraguatá[2]thread. Notice the quantity and varying sizes of the fish that firmly grasp your pinda.[3]

Eat the pira pytã[4] . . . it is skin and bones. The fish, dogs, pigs, ducks, and chickens have nothing to eat. The Golden Dorado will disappear from the water. Place what you caught on the altar and light a beeswax candle—it brings luck.

 [1] Queen palm tree.
 [2] Heart of flame bromeliad.
 [3] Fishhook.
 [4] Golden dorado fish.


Yguasu ae peteῖ y ijapyra yvae oiny. Peva rovaire oῖ avakuery ypyru. Upeare oῖ avá kuery rekoa ayuu kuerenda. 
Upegui avá kuery oreko temimbota oikuaa agua mbaemo ko yvyre. Y ae peteῖ mbaʼe ypyru, yry juʼi, yvy y ae kuaray a jasy rembiapokue, tuvy kuery remimbota ae kuery omboery pavete oῖ vaguive ipype.
Ayvu ypyru y, yaka, ñu, kaʼaguy. Y ojapo okuapy ojeepy a agua añaykuery gui a opyta agua ae kuery ojovai yre vovore. A upeicha ojukapa añay kuerype, oitypa chupe kuery ypy, upegui osea oery noῖ ikuai, jaguarete a amboae mbaemo ñarovae mboi. Ojapopa rire tembiapo oo jyy tuvy renda py a upepy eichupe kuery Ñande Ru eete peepeota aguyjema peesape ñane rembiejakue etare. A ombo eko chupekuery guembiapora kuery. 

                     Y guasu

Y guasu ha y ijapyra’ỹva hína. Upéva rováire oῖ Avakuéra, iñepyrũ oῖ avei hekohakuéra, iñe’ẽkuéra renda, upégui Avakuéra oguereko.

Ñemoarandu oikuaa haḡua mbaʼépa oiko yvýre. Y haʼe peteῖ mbaʼe ñepyrῦ, yryjúi, yvy, y haʼe kuarahy ha jasy rembiapokue, ituvakuéra rupive haʼekuéra omboherapaite oῖva guive ipype. Ñeʼẽ ñepyrũete ha y, yakã, ñu, kaʼaguy. Y ojapo hikuái, añete, hapete ohundipa haḡua añakuérape opyta yrembe’ýre ojovái hikuái.

Ha upéicha ojukapa añakuérape, upégui osẽ, ápe heñói hikuái, ombohéra jaguarete, umi mymba iñarõva, mboi avei.

              The Great Body of Water

It is truly endless. The life of the Avá man began by the great body of water.

The first name was y, water. That is why riverside communities add this letter to several words: rice, fields, jungle.
Avá predictions—knowledge of how we will behave here, on earth—originate there. Water, like foam, is the source of the world. It is life, the commandments are part of life. Ñande Rueete[1] created the sun and the moon, and commanded them to name every being in yvymaray.”[2]
The planets created the great streams to save themselves from the aña kueragui.[3] All the devils were caught between shores and drowned. The tiger, named in the forest, emerged from the great body of water; he is cruel. When their work was done, they felt hunger and went to Ñande Ru Tupa.[4] Their father instructed: “Leave but forever illuminate those that remain on earth, there are many. Do what is necessary to guide them.”

 [1] Our True Father.
 [2] The Land Without Evil.
 [3] Devils.
 [4] Our Father, god of the rain, lightning, and thunder. 


Tata endy ypegua voity jerokyatypy oῖ vaʼerãity kurusu imboeetepy jera kaeity ñane ramoi oñangareko katu koʼaa ejapyrere ñandevy ko yvypy.
Kurusu jary tee oiko kaʼaruare umi mamoraete.
Jaikua yaagotyo. Y ary gui oñembokatu Kurusu yvyra imboʼeetepy yary ae ñane ramoi rakaeity oiko ichugui yvyra yary. Iporivete sapyʼa rakaʼe ñane ramoi uguiriro guareity Ñande Ru oguerea mamoraity ichupe. Upeiry oaejy uguitene yvyraroity yary yvyra jary kueryro oae ko yvypy. Koay peve opoo epy agua ipirekue poʼatee oparingua mbaʼasypy guaraity.
Kagui ryrura yvyra ñae uusu yvyra ñeʼẽ miri avi tataendyy chugui oñembokatu avi ykarai ryrura avi. Pyrenda mitã mongaraia opy omoῖ guapya iichi aro yaryguigua vaʼerãity pyrenda.


Haʼe oῖva Avakuéra oñemboʼehápe, tuicha mbaʼe péva, ñande taita oñangareko hese. Koʼãva ojehejarakaʼe ñandéve ko yvy ári ḡuarã.
Kurusu: ijára oῖ kuarahy reikére mombyryeterei ndajaikuaái ñande umíva.
Ygarýgui ojejapo kurusu, ygary haʼe yvyrakuéra ruvicha.
Haʼe ñande taita oho rakaʼe peichaite yvágape, oraha chupe Ñande Rutee ha omboúje ichupe yvyraro ha ygary oiko ichugui. Ikangýje peteῖ koʼẽme ñande taita ha uperõguare Ñande Ru ogueraha ichupe ha upéi ombou chupe yvyraro ko yvy ári ḡuarã.
Koʼáḡa peve omeʼẽ tesãi, ipirekue haʼe pohã porã opa mbaʼépe.
Chícha ryrurã avei ojejapo ichugui, vatéa tuicháva ha michῖva, kurusu ykarai ryrurã, avei pyrenda mitã omongaraívape ḡuarã, koʼãva ojejapovaʼerã ygarýgui memete.

              The Sacred Cross
The Avá pray to the cross above the altar. It is sacred. Our ancestors care for it in their spiritual home. Those from the beyond left this cultural artifact to us on earth.
There—far away, where the sun sets—is the owner. The cross is made of cedar, a holy wood, a leader among trees.
The cedar was a man that visited the beyond. He awoke feeling weak and was taken. Our Great Father guided him: he rose to the sky and descended to earth as a sacred tree. 
He remains benevolent, of use to the sick—his bark is a powerful drug.
A big or small bowl of chicha, the cross, the baptismal font for mitã karai,[1] and the kneeler grandparents rest on during prayer and communion are all made of yary.[2]

 [1] Rite of passage.
 [2] Cedar wood. 

About the translator

Elisa Taber is a PhD candidate at McGill University. Her writing and translations are troubled into being, even when that trouble is a kind of joy. An Archipelago in a Landlocked Country is her first book.

More about Alba Eiragi

Sayari Campo: The Tapukus and the Origin of Water

Translated from Spanish by Anya Skye Tucker

In Sayari Campo Burbano’s words:

“Art for me is the capacity to transform fear into hope, it is the innate creativity that all beings have to express and share who we are. Movement, words, gestures, songs: what we create with our being is art. Art is what allows us to dream and build our world, it allows us to be bridges of memory and knowledge, sharing with others our way of being, thinking, and existing. For me, art is the expression of the spirit, it is that which saves us from fear and destruction, it is healing in times of darkness.”

In the following video that the artist Sayari Campo Burbano (Yanakuna Mitmak nation) has shared with Siwar Mayu, voice-over and scenography are crafted by Sayari, while the script is an adaptation of “Relatos y pensamiento yanakuna” (“Yanakuna Stories and Thought”) by poet Fredy Chikangana / Wiñay Malki. Following the video, we have included the translation of the original text. 

TAPUKU AND THE ORIGIN OF WATER– Sayari Campo, Fredy Chikangana

The uterus ~ Yanakuna Story. By Fredy Chikangana / Wiñay Malki (2012) 

The first beings that populated this land came in the form of steam and were called Tapukus because they arose from the bottom of the earth and when they came to the surface, some made the sound tapuk…tapuk…tapuk… and others responded ku…ku…ku…. So they kept jumping and trying to fly. 

The Great Father Waira, who was the wind, took them by the hand and carried them to his realms, and soon they were brightening the earth. 

However, some tapuk and other ku did not want to follow the Great Father Waira and they came together, forming a great shadow, from which arose a mass that formed the first body, who had the sounds and the traits of both Tapuk and ku. 

Father Waira, feeling rejected, blew strongly over this mass which gradually caught the form of a big drop, and then took on the shape of a woman. Father Waira continued blowing and threw it through the air, but the mass already had the body of a woman. 

With the force of the wind, the shadow was making both sounds of tapuk ku, tapuk ku. 

So the Great Father, observing that it was a woman, decided to call her tapuku and accompany her in her flight to form with her body the bellybuttons of water: the lagoons, the rivers, and the streams. 

She was singing, brushing her body against the darkness, with her sound and breath the warm and cold waters were forming, the Great Father Waira blew gently and thus the waters bursted and began to flow through the universe. 

This is why the Yanakuna grandparents say that the first mother is a Tapuku, and her territory is the uterus, where life germinates to be watered by the universe. 

The Great Father Waira takes them by the hand; Sayari Campo, Fredy Chikangana

Sayari Campo Burbano is a descendant of the Andean Yanakuna culture. She was born on September 4th, 1991 in the territory of the Colombian Massif. From an early age, she was interested in dance and movement, something that later led her towards being part of native dance and music groups. Art has always accompanied her, since her parents and relatives have instilled in her this knowledge from a very young age.

Sayari grew up in the indigenous community of Río blanco (Sotará, Cauca) and studied in the city of Bogotá. She has a degree in biology from the National Pedagogical University and today is a midwife apprentice, dancer, and pedagogical facilitator in her territory.

She is also a guardian of the Munayki –Uma House in San Agustín (Huila), a space dedicated to the investigation and the exchange of ancestral knowledge, where she has been developing work from art and ancestral medicine. Sayari collaborates in pedagogical processes aimed at strengthening the art and language of her community.

She is the creator of the Warmi Samay project (spirit of woman), a pedagogical initiative around issues that involve the feminine body, the cycles of life, and caring for the territory. 

More about the Warmi Samay project and the Yanakuna Territory

“Heal and take care of your first territory, your body.” © 2021 Warmi Samay https://warmisamay.org/
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Ritual Yanakuna. ‘Thus began mobilization “El Río de la Vida”‘ (The River of Life) Subregion newspaper USCO

Sumak Komunikaciones Collective

About the translator:

Anya Skye is from the Ashe end of the New River, the second oldest in the world. She likes getting to know bellybuttons of water and the other beings of the earth.

Cristian Cayupán: “We are fire and earth still”

Selection and introduction by Mabel García Barrera

© Translation by Lorrie Jayne and Juan G. Sánchez Martínez

Bilingual Cristian Cayupán is recognized as the poet with the most potential in the area of Mapuche and Indo-american Literature Studies. He lives in Southern Chile, in the city of Temuco, in the José Cayupán community of the Mequewe area. Cayupán has published several collections which include Poemas Prohibidos (prohibited poems) (2007), Reprimida Ausencia (repressed absence) (2009), Usuarios del silencio (users of the silence) (2012), Tratado de Piedras (treaty of rocks) (2014),Terruño (homeland) (2014), El hombre y su piedra (the man and his rock) (2016), Apología del barro. Fotra ñi llellipun (clay’s apology) (2017). In collaboration with Ana Ñanculef, Cayupán has also co-authored a book of ethnographic research entitled  KuifikeZugu. Discursos, relatos y oraciones rituales en mapuzugun (discourses, stories and ritual prayers in Mapuzugun)(2016).

He is the manager and editor of the Magazine Comarcas. Literatura sin Fronteras. (borderlines, literature without borders) which has been in continuous publication since 2011. Above, Cayupán brings together the unedited poem Piedra Humana, an ontological project that continues the path of the poet’s previous works and is immersed in an “aesthetic of the sacred”  that brings traditional Mapuche knowledge and types of speech into the present. He includes epew (mythical tales) and other ancestral canonical forms in which beings are one with the cosmos dissolving and fusing in the energies which they inhabit. This perspective is part of the art and literature of present day Mapuche, whether as a challenge to preserve and represent this mode of inhabiting the cosmos as a vital experience, or as cultural revitalization and/or political stand of cultural resistance.

Throughout his texts, Cayupán achieves a challenging and complex project, that writes into its core a cosmogenic narrative from the rakizuam Mapuche –ancestral traditional thinking– which creates a transformative reality that expands from the rüme fütra kuifi, the time of origins, until it returns to itself in the events of the fantepu mew- the present. Between these axes, Cayupán maintains a constant movement without end. In this cosmic happening the poetic voice seeks to express how life transforms and how humankind goes through the world, establishing the immeasurable as a measure and border of all beings. 



It first dwelt in caves

where the myth emerged

it was the fire of every foundation

domesticated heat

Cloistered shadows

danced naturally

chasing away darkness


It was a pillar of every fire pit

rite of all mortals

Indissoluble matter

primary tool

natural conjure

Absolute clarity


It deserted from silence

It stripped its old garments off

It paraphrased within a breath

the first thing it said:

– here is water 

flour and yeast

(In other words: The Word)


Then the stone spoke harshly

Filtered voices through wind

strained its design

Presage of becoming

immortal light


Was the word perhaps

continuation of fire

and mediator of stones?

Wherever you go

you will find the word within you

Sacred ceremony

divine worship


We are fire and earth still 

carved stone

Word – People

pilgrim of empty fields

the earth our room

The night finally became day

transparency of all words

light of future

Path of humanity.

Things… Its meanings

A person was just a single handful of rocks thrown to the ground

that mystery of always being in the world

searching for a meaning in things

as if things give meaning to people

The four seasons of life

give a specific use for objects

which become part of people with time

expanding their way of conceiving the universe

The newly made figures

always look like the first light

described by a prophet

They began to name objects in a different way

languages were born and thus crafts

All things originated in the shadows

The saddlemaker, for example, learned to write knife with his blood

thus the craftsman sculpted the sad heart of the forest

the blacksmith crushed his noble fists in the forge

because shadow is the soul of things, ones own marrow

I withdraw from time

and I start a new one

with my own way of interpreting things

If destiny was to go back to the beginning

naming things with the forefinger

Then, people take

what a life on earth takes

in sprouting their seeds.

People are garments of ancient gods

Shadows that are pushed to the ground

with that bestiality that we do not comprehend

they are not a premonition of another creation

but auspice of our own existence

Who do we stop being when we are born

lighting up that mysterious hand?

The gods, on their behalf, hid their shadows

on immovable rocks

The one who manages to move the mother rock

also find the secrets of that species

But gods extinguished when people emerged

their deities were deposited in clay tombs

Then the written word came

next to the text of the forbidden fruit

The fear of snakes were developed in remote memory

in the first letter of the family tree

that is why today people seek something that they have never lost

but have been led to believe that they’ve misplaced it. 

The Tree of Life

The  first path was a handful of rocks

emerging from the earth

where Man depended upon himself

to give direction to his steps

seeking the valley of life

Upon discovering language

he traced a map in the soil

and in the same clay he wrote his history

The tree of life

is a path carved in the memory of Man

where its wood shavings celebrate

as they reunite with the early memory

A tree founded upon the root of the Word

where its trunk rises to the height of being

A strappy well-built tree rising up to the universe

Man is a path with no way out

seeking his days without end

On that same crossing

the way grows longer and burns out within

like a dull hand seeking the origin of the paternal light

The tree that we seek each day is within us

in the most intimate realm of our being.

The ceremony of each day

The boy swallows his father as usual

and it seems that every day

the father comes out from the depths of that child

to help knead the bread that the mother leaves in the oven

because she wants to see that someone eats that ancient food

placed on the recently set table 

That is the purest rite of passage from child to man

Be swallowed from the guts

and allow the father live inside his own son

so that the past that remains in his memory is alleviated

which is the origin of all family communion

When one makes a pact blood trembles

how the spell reenacts 

because in the end each ceremony has its own time

where people last as long as their family tree endures on Earth.

I Am Not Here Yet

I am a wounded word

lacking in language and space

An unspeakable word

without dictionary

or homeland

A word

that did not find a human group

to be spoken by

A word unsuspected by any mouth

In which era did we cease to be plants

to incarnate  the word

matter and spirit

naked, docile, humans?

The House in the Rock

If I made this rock my home

it was merely to discover the light that is born within her

for in every home there is a lamp made of words

that lights up with the beginning of each season

I stopped to observe the light that emerges from the stone

for in the eve of a man

things are valued in a different way

Upon speaking it, the light becomes more ancient

for there is something within her that makes us susceptible

upon seeing her through Man

I see myself in the stone when I see her foundations

because her light courses through the hands of the stonemason

and transcends the efforts of those who raised her up

with just one word written upon the earth

This rock is the shadow of a place that does not exist 

a half closed door that illuminates the craggy knob

in a manner that precedes the light

When one looks at the beams with the eyes of another

it is to make his household sturdy

for from the roots of the rock is a roof sheltering clarity

I walk around its outskirts seeking an answer

that sign that we recognize from before birth

and one feels some footsteps within

such ancient tracks within himself

it was as though he knew them by heart 

for those footsteps were made by his ancestors

Someone calls to me through a mirror

and this voice seems to approach

but as it moves, it moves away within me

When the mirror that was permanently in our house cracks

the mystery that lies within it breaks apart as well

for it is a cave of glass now living within the human genus

Who but time rebuilds its walls?

deepening it each time

The time that scarcely passes is nothing more than a delayed present

and the past that begins there is another layer of ash in the memory of Man

because the house goes back to the origins of being.

More about Cristian Cayupán

“The Proyecto Diálogo (Dialogue Project) is the only bank of images dedicated exclusively to registering and putting in circulation portraits of contemporary Mapuche writers present in Chile.” © 2018-2020 EscritoresIndigenas.cl

About Mabel García Barrera

She is an academic at the Universidad de la Frontera (“the University of the Border”), located in the city Temuco, Mapuche territory, in Chile. She is a State professor of Spanish, with a masters in literature and a degree in applied political sciences. She has investigated, written, and edited books and numerous articles about Mapuche literature and art in mainstream magazines. 

About the translators

Lorrie Jayne, a collaborator in Siwar Mayu, teaches Spanish, Portuguese, and Personal Narrative in the Languages and Literatures Department at University of North Carolina Asheville (USA).  She lives with her husband and daughters in the Appalachian Mountains where she enjoys plants, people, and poetry.

Juan G. Sánchez Martínez grew up in Bakatá, Colombian Andes. He dedicates both his creative and scholarly writing to indigenous cultural expressions from Abiayala (the Americas.) His book of poetry, Altamar, was awarded in 2016 with the National Prize Universidad de Antioquia, Colombia. He collaborates and translates for Siwar Mayu. Recent work: Muyurina y el presente profundo (Pakarina/Hawansuyo, 2019); and Cinema, Literature and Art Against Extractivism in Latin America. Dialogo 22.1 (DePaul University, 2019.)

Francisco Vargas Huaiquimilla: The Insistence of Complaint

© Photography The Clinic

By Mabel García Barrera

Translated by Anya Skye Tucker

Visual modern art in the Mapuche cultures emerges strongly in the early 1990’s. Linked with the processes of cultural resistance and the recovery of identity, this art establishes a symbolic border with the cultural and political production that has been imposed by the Chilean State. Nevertheless, like all modern art from this community, it adopts materials, techniques and canons from outside cultures, particularly those which interweave with those from the ancestral symbolic realm. Within this process, Francisco Vargas Huaiquimilla (Calbuco 1989), under the pseudonym Kütral (fire), manifests himself as a multifaceted creator who, within a short career, has contributed a solid and disruptive project to the Mapuche artistic scene that problematizes the ethical, sociocultural, and political dimensions and neoliberal version of colonial culture. 

Vargas’ proposal highlights a constant search to break canonized forms and settle on the borders of artistic genres, generating a bridge between literature, the visual, and performance. Operating from the insistence of complaint, Vargas aims to recreate multiple versions of feeling and meaning in his work.

In the literary field, Vargas has three books: the poetic “book object” Factory (2016), the collection of poems Troya es tu Nombre (“Troya is your Name” 2019), and the narrative text or “book-script-installation” La Edad de los árboles (“The Age of the trees” 2017). In the field of the visual, his installations and photographic works expose the violence of a State that marginalizes and endangers the existence of the Mapuche peoples. Conscious of the process of the invisibilization of these events, Vargas constructs  a viewer-oriented visual narrative, through a textual strategy that anchors details of the context in a composition of realistic images poetically stitched together. 

The images we have selected here evidence the conflict between the Chilean State and Mapuche nation: original peoples whose territory has been invaded and stripped, later privatized, enclosed with wire, and, through an economistic logic of production and land depredation, has been seen for its market value alone. This perspective opposes the community vision of the Mapuche cultures, whose worth is found in subsistence and a sacred connection to and respect for the natural environment. 

The aesthetic device of Francisco Vargas’ images emphasizes the neoliberal imprint of Chilean culture on Earth Mother (Ñuke Mapu) and the Mapuche. The artist accentuates this imprinting process with irony, through the resources of corporeality and advertising. He gives rise to a visual strategy that operates through inversion, by reiterating how superficial ethics proceed. The reinterpretation of the symbols of merchandise stands out in his work, for instance, when he transforms the logo of the multinational business Nike to Ñuke (Mother Earth), or of Puma to Pangui (puma, in Mapudungun, the Mapuche language); thereby alluding to the invasion of the radiata pine and eucalyptus monocultures that are carried out by the transnational forestry companies established in the territory, monocultures that progressively push back the native forest, dry the soils, and consequently strip wildlife and Mapuche communities from their native land. 

In the words of Francisco Vargas Huaiquimilla:

“The performative exercise Cosecha (“Harvest”) is an investigative work about the Mapuche Huilliche body and movement in closed spaces, the structures of the trees, timber, forests, and systems of mass production: a study of the breaking of the body, memory, and their movements” (Dossier Notes 2020).

This provocative work impacts the public space through its stark realism, insofar as it seeks to affect the senses and through them shock spectators, making present the memory of an everyday violence which is quickly consumed in the news, but does not transform cultural relationships. The work opens with signs that mobilize the synesthetic associated with the physical and psychological pain of the victims and offers testimony to this particular historical relationship. An example of this artistic proposal is the work La edad de los árboles (“The Age of the Trees”), a video-script text that exposes repression on the part of the police. The work alludes to a Mapuche minor, who despite being subdued by the police, is shot with 180 pellets from a distance of fifty centimeters (one and a half feet). This event is one the artist prints as a tattoo on his own back, denouncing the territorial conflict that has been maintained since the founding of the Chilean State. 

About Mabel García Barrera

Mabel García Barrera is an academic at the Universidad de la Frontera (“the University of the Border”), located in the city Temuco, Mapuche territory, in Chile. She is a State professor of Spanish, a master of literature, with a degree in applied political sciences. She has investigated, written, and edited books and numerous articles about Mapuche literature and art in mainstream magazines.


About the translator

From the Appalchian mountains, some of the most ancient in the world, Anya Skye Tucker has studied at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, and the University of North Carolina at Asheville. Usually, you can find her scooping ice cream and learning from the beings of the world. 

More about Francisco Vargas Huaiquimilla

An interview with Francisco Vargas Huaiquimilla, with The Clinic (2019)
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_20190623_182305.jpg

“Chaikonibo”, by Chonon Bensho and Pedro Favaron

  El sueño del mar dietador (The dream of the fasting sea) © Chonon Bensho

Advice and copy-editing in Spanish and Shipibo-Konibo by Manuel Gonzales (Menin Bari) and Eli Sánchez (Pakan Meni) 

Chaikonibo © Translation from Spanish to English by Lorrie Jayne 

Introduction by Juan G. Sánchez Martínez

Inin Niwe (Pedro Favaron) and Chonon Bensho (Astrith Gonzales) are spouses and enrolled members of the Native Community of Santa Clara of Yarinacocha, Shipibo-Konibo nation (Peruvian Amazon), where they founded the Nishi Nete Traditional Medicine Clinic, and an ethnobotanical garden. In recent years, through community work, Chonon and Pedro have shared their oraliture, documentaries, paintings, embroidery and conversations, with those who believe that creativity and clear words can heal the environmental and social imbalance in the Amazon and the world. As a response to the difficulty of making the Shipibo-Konibo ways-of-being intelligible, Chonon and Pedro have chosen a myth-poetic vocabulary to build an intercultural bridge: “the visionary doctors”, “the keepers of the medicines”, “the world of the Inka”, “the liquid wisdom”, “the kené designs”, “the perfumed people”. In constant learning with the Onanya –the community doctors/healers–, Chonon’s images and Pedro’s words/songs seem to be forged in a “vegetal time”. 

Today, with the permission of the Ibo –the Keepers of the medicinal plants–, we present the poem “Chaikonibo” (translated into English by our dear Lorrie Jayne), where Chonon and Pedro translate into a “clear language” a complex experience of purging and reverie. In times of neo-shamanism, cultural appropriations, and migrations of the plants themselves, Pedro and Chonon remind us of traditional understandings of fasting and the link with the forest, as well as the responsibility of the legitimate doctors with the healing of the world. In this poem, the roots are not planted on ethnic, racial, national or religious identities, but on the Earth Mother and memory. Whoever forgets the territory, the river, the community, is at risk, because how can the forgetful-one use the visionary plants? 

Thanks to Chonon Bensho and Inin Niwe (Pedro Favaron) for sharing this poem with Siwar Mayu. Inin Niwe (Pedro Favaron) has published Caminando sobre el abismo: vida y poesía en César Moro (Lima 2003); the novel Puka Allpa (Lima 2015); the poetry collections Movimiento (Buenos Aires 2005), Oeste oriental (Lima 2008) and Manantial Transparente (Mexico 2016); and the research Las visiones y los mundos: sendas visionarias de la Amazonía occidental (Amazon Center for Anthropology and Practical Application, 2017). 

To read Chaikonibo as a PDF,



Moatian jonibo
koshi shinayabo ikana iki,
ani shinayabo,
metsá shinayabo.

Jatibi jaton koshi,
jaton onan shinan,
joa iki Nete Iboibakeax
jainoaxribi rao meranoax.

Jaboan onana iki yoyo iti
ani jiwibobetan, 
isabobetan, parobetan,
ianbobetan, baribetan.

Jatona iká iki koshi joi.
Tsoabi yoyo ibiresyamakatiai
Moatian ikatikanai yoyo iosmabo,
tsokas shinan-omabo.

Non yosibaon
noa yoikatiai 
nete benatian.
Nai iká iki
mai ochoma;
jonibo yoyo ikatikanai
baribetan, wishtinbetan.

Jatibi ikatikanai jaskara joiyabires.

ninkapaokatikanai noa yoyo ikai.
Jaboribi yoyo ipaonike.

Ani ianmeran
Inka japaonike
noa ochoma.

Jakon Inkan
jonibo axea iki
jakoni jati,
jakon akin shinanax,
jatibi menianani,
jaton mai oroti,
yoá banati,
yoá aki,
jakon akin chopa saweti,
jawetianbi sinakanantima,
jatikaxbi teti.

Moatian jonibo
ikatikanai yoitibo, 
raro shinayabo.
Jabo japaonike jaon rarokanai
Papa Baribetan,

Jaskara iitibi
Ikana iki
yoshina bakebokeska.
Jakon akin shinayamakana iki.
Ikana iki yoitimabo,
jakonmai yoyo iki.

Jaskatax Inka pikota iki,
Kaa iki janbiribi jai 
wetsa neteoribiribi,
jakon netenko,
metsá netenko.

Kakin boa iki
ainboyabi benbobo
jakon shinanyabo,
jakoni jaabo,
jan jato axeakeskati jakanabo.

The ancient ones 
had strong thoughts 
grand thoughts 
beautiful thoughts. 

The unfathomable strength 
of their wise thoughts 
came from the Great Spirit 
and the influence of medicinal plants. 

They knew how to speak 
with the greatest of trees 
with the forest, 
with the birds and the river, 
with the lakes and the sun. 

For them, the word was strong. 
No one spoke just to speak. 
The ancient ones were silent 
neither anxious nor restless.
Our grandparents 
told us of the time 
when the world was new. 
The sky was not 
far from the earth, 
mankind could speak 
with the sun and the stars. 

Everyone spoke the same language. 

The fish, 
the beings that walk upon the land, 
the beings that fly 
and the trees 
listened to our word. 
They spoke too.

In a great lake 
lived the Inka 
near to human beings. 

The kind-hearted Inka 
taught the ancient ones 
to live well, 
thinking well, 
sharing everything, 
without stinginess, 
tending the land, 
planting food, 
dressing well 
without ever quarreling, 
working together. 

The ancient ones 
were obedient, 
with happy thoughts. 
They lived with gratitude 
toward Father Sun 
and with the Inka as well. 

But after some time 
they began to behave 
like bedevilled children. 
They no longer thought well. 
They were disobedient 
and they spoke in an improper way. 

So the Inka left, 
and went to live 
in a different world, 
a good world, 
a beautiful world. 

He took with him 
the humble and generous 
men and women, 
those who had lived well, 
as he had taught them. 


Eara bewai yakake
Inka mai masene
nete xaman paniax
nai neten paniax

paniake kainax
nai nete xamanbi
jakon nete kepenkin
inka nete kepenkin.

Ea bewa bewai
mato non ninkakin
nato bewa bewai
nato metsá bewakan

nato jakon bewakan
koshi shinan bitaana
ani shinan bitaana
non Inka netenxon

non bari papaka
koshi Inka meraya
rao ibo meraya
jakon Inka meraya.

Ea riki Onanya
jakon xawen Onanya
Inka bake Meraya.

Nokon metsá maiti
inkan metsá maiti
nete maitishoko
keneyaki maiti

Jaton neten yakaxon
bewa bewabainkin
metsá bewabano
bewa bewashamani.

I am seated and singing 
in the perfect land of the Inka, 
in the depths of the heavens, 
suspended in the sky world, 

hanging in the most high, 
in the depths of the firmament, 
opening with my words 
the perfect world of the Inka 

I am singing a song 
To the health of the sensitive beings 
Intoning a profound song, 
a song of unfathomable beauty, 

a compassionate song that heals 
that carries the strength and spirit 
and infinite thoughts 
from the world of the Inka,
from the soul of our Father Sun, 
and the great and wise Inka. 
from the spiritual Keeper of the medicine 
from the wise and generous Inka.
I am a great healer 
as were the Inka 
a wise and good man, 
a son of the enlightened Inka. 

I wear a beautiful crown, 
a beautiful Inka crown, 
that holds the whole world 
in its lovely designs. 

In that good world I am seated 
while my soul journeys 
with the force of my beautiful song, 
with the depth of my song.

Nato neten
Banekana iki non papabo
kikini teti
ja jawekiatikopi
jawen awinbo, jawen bakebo 
waiai, xoboai.
Jaskatax jatikopi
non papabo
kikini tetaibo ikatikanai.
Jabo oxas oxayamakatikanai
bari pikotamabi.
Moatian ainbobo
tsinkikatikanai karo jan yoa ati aki,
wai oroi,
xobo matsoti,
mapó akí,
yoman timai,
Moatian jonibaon
akatikanai nonti akin,
yomerakatikanai yoinabo, yapabo.
Paro, niibo
Ikatiai jainoa jawekiatibo
jawebi maxkayamakatikanai.
Moatian jonibo
Ikatiai rao jaweki onanbo
chikish raonti onanbo.
Janin bichin
Benakatikanai janin jiwi
janbi wenen-ai.
Tsekakatikanai ja bichi
nete beamabi.
Ja xeakatikanai
jaixon samakatikanai
bariapan kaman.
Bakeranonbaon xeakatikanai
rayá inoxon.
manxaman kawati
taxbakan xoxoai.
Ininshaman jiwi
chitari ininkeska
jaonmea onantiribi.
Jawen bichi
iki kinanti
janra poró chokai,
yora jishtiai
rayá itikopi,
ja iki nato jiwi ibo
nama meran noa axeai.
Jaskarakopi non yosibo
ipaonike mechabo.
Jiwibaon raomepaokanike.
Nii raobo ikatia jan raomekanaibo.
Jawetianki ja bichi tsekakanai
wetsa jiwimea
yoyo ikatikanai ja jiwibetan,
jakon akin yoikin
onanmabo ixon:
“Ea mecha imawe,
ea rayá imawe,
jakon shinaya ea inon,
koshi shinaya,
nokon kaibobo jawebi mashkatimakopi”
Ja jiwi ibon
jawen jointi oinxon;
jakon shinayarin ixon
koshi  meninoxon,
jawen ani onan shinan.
Jiwi taponbora
boai maixamaori
jainoaxribi jene xamaori.
Jawen poyanbo aniai
bari papa neteorikeabo,
jainoaribi ochaoma Nete Ibora
joai jawen jakon raoboya
jawen onan shinani
niimea raobo.
Moatian jakatikanai
nii ochoma.
Ikatikanai onanbo.
Westiora yakatibo jakatiai
jatonbiri jakoni jaabo.
Jawin kaiboboiba merati
Bokatikanai nontin.
Paro ikatiai moatianbi
jaton bai
jaskatax jaton kaiboboiba merati.
Jonibaon shinan,
jaton jointi
ikatiai rarobires 
paro oinax,
wetsa kaibobo shinantaanan.
Yoikatikanai non yosibaon
nete benatian
moatian onayamakatikanai
Iikinbi westiora ainbaon
meraa iki parokexakea
metsashoko jene ainbo oxaa
iká iki jawen yora
kewekanbi rakota
kikin metsá.
Jainoax ainbo jawen xobon karibaa iki,
nokoxon tanaa iki ja oina kewebo.
Jainxon peokana iki
chopa keweakin.
Parokeska iki kené
Ja iki ianki tekitabo
Jatiribibo iki mayakené,
mayá mayabaini
Jatibi jawen metsabo,
jawen raobo,
jatibi jakonbo,
jake jawen mestá kenebo.
Noa riki paromea jonibo.
noa jati atipanyamake
paro ochó.
Yosiboan yoikatitai
paro xaman
jake wetsa jonibo
ani shinaya.
Moatian Merayabo
jeneori bokatikanai
jain jakatikanai
ja paro jonibobetan
jatonmea onani.

In this world 
our parents remained 
like orphans 
suffering greatly, 
to feed 
their wives and children, 
building homes, planting gardens. 

In order to live 
our parents 
were hard workers. 
They woke 
before dawn, 
before the sun had risen. 

Women of old 
gathered kindling to cook, 
tended the gardens, 
swept the house , 
moulded the clay, 
wove their clothes 
and embroidered them with designs. 

Men of old 
built canoes, 
hunted and fished. 
The river and forests 
gave them all that they needed, 
they lacked nothing.
The old ones 
knew the medicinal plants 
that cured laziness. 
The bark of the Tangarana kaspi 
made them hard-workers anew. 

They searched for a Tangarana tree 
tended well 
by its own ants.
Cut the bark 
and soaked it 
before dawn. 
This is what they drank 
and later they fasted 
until noon. 
The youth drank as well 
(the bark of the Tangarana) 
so they could be hard workers. 

They also knew 
the Sarcha Garza tree 
that grows on the edges of lakes. 
A fragrant tree 
that smells of cinnamon 
and holds great knowledge. 
A purgative is prepared 
with it´s bark 
that cleans the stomach 
and wakes the body 
and makes a good worker 
and makes a good fisherman 
like the heron, 
who is the Keeper of that tree 
who transmits his skills and knowledge to us 
through dreams. 

This is why the old ones 
were good fishermen. 
The trees cured them. 
The old ones healed themselves with the land. 

When they stripped the bark 
of a medicinal tree 
they talked with the tree, 
they spoke with respect 
and asked to be taught: 

“Make me a good fisherman, 
Make me a hard-working man, 
a man of good thought, 
strong thought, 
so that my family may lack nothing.¨

The spiritual Keeper of the tree, 
listened to them, 
looked into their hearts: 
if they had good thoughts 
he transmitted his strength to them, 
and his great wisdom. 

The tree roots 
bury themselves in the water 
and beneath the water as well. 
Their branches reach to the sky.
From the earth, 
from the rain, 
from the light of Father Sun, 
from the depth of the sky 
and from the Great Spirit 

come the good medicines 
and understandings 
of the plants of the forest. 

The old ones lived 
close to the forest. 
They knew it well. 
Each family lived 
a peaceful life 
far-removed from the others. 
They traveled in canoes 
to visit relatives. 
For the old ones, the rivers 
were the paths 
that united families. 

In their thoughts, 
in their hearts, 
they felt happiness 
contemplating the river, 
remembering their relatives.

Our grandparents told 
that in the beginning of the world 
the ancient ones were not familiar 
with the kené designs. 
Until a woman 
found a gorgeous siren sleeping, 
on the river’s shore. 
Her body embroidered 
with designs of great beauty.

The woman returned to her home; 
upon arrival she drew the designs. 
From that time forward 
the ancient ones began 
to embroider their clothes with designs. 

The kené designs are like rivers 
that unite the lakes 
to the people. 
Some are circular, 
turning and flowing 
like rivers.
All that is beautiful, 
all that is medicinal, 
all that is good 
is covered with kené designs.
We are people of the river. 
The Shipibo konibo 
we cannot live 
far from the rivers.
The grandparents used to tell 
that in the depths of the river 
live other humans 
great wise ones. 
The ancient Meraya 
sunk in the water 
and they went to live 
with the spirits of the river 
so to learn from them.

Paro xaman kanoxon
kanoshaman abano
jene xamankoniax
ani paro xamanbi.
Nokon bewa bainkin
jene xaman kanoni.
Metsá jene ainbo
jawen yora keweya
metsá yorashamanbi
metsá keweshamanbi.
Nonbira yoinon
noabira meninon
jawen ani shinanbo
jawen koshi shinanbo
jene nete meninon
jene nete kepenxon
jawen koshi bitaanan
jawen metsá bewakan
nonribi onanon
jene metsá netenxon
jawen kewé netenxon
paro xama netenxon.
Jawen akoroninbi
jawen koshi biboi
jainbira jonini
jene neten jonini
jene koshi jonini
ja jene koiranti
jene nete xamanbi.

Jene ibo meraya
merayashama riki
jene rokotorobi
jawen roninbobetan.
Jawen noi roninbo
jaton kewé neteo
jaton metsá neteo
jawen paro xamanbi.
Binding myself to the depths of the river 
forming a deep connection 
with the depths of the water, 
with the deepest depths of the great river. 

My song finds its way 
toward the depths of the water.
Beautiful woman of the waters 
with a body embroidered with designs 
of indescribable beauty, 
embroidered with lovely and deep designs.
We speak to her (the woman of the water) 
that she might grant us 
her infinite knowledges 
her strong thoughts 

that she might welcome us in the world of water, 
open the wisdom of the liquid world 
that we might receive its strength 
and its beautiful medicinal songs.
Beside her we learn 
the wisdom of the water world 
of the world of embroidered designs, 
the depths of the river world. 

Over the spiritual boat 
(of the woman of the world of water) 
I am walking 
receiving strength 
from the hidden territory 
in which she became a human being,

where the spirit of the water world was born, 
the strong spirit of water, 
who cares for the rivers and lakes, 
the depths of the aquatic world.
The wise water woman 
is an enlightened being, 
with extraordinary gifts 
who rules over the dragons,
Those colossal serpents 
live in the world of designs, 
in the lovely landscape, 
in the depths of the river.
  Jene Ainbo © Chonon Bensho
Jawetianki moatian jonibo
bokatikanai ochó
niimeran  peotashoko akax.
Tsekakatikanai jiwi bichibo,
koshi jiwibo,
ani onanyati jiwibo,
Jakoni yoyo ikatikanai
ja rao ibobobetan:
“Ea ani shinan meniwe,
min panati ea meniwe,
maton bewá ea onanmawe,
isinaibo en jato benxoanon,
nokon kaibobo akinon,
Maton neterao ea kepenxonkanwe,
eara raomis ikasai
moatian jonibokeska”.
Rao jene xeakatikanai
jainoaxribi peibaon nashikatikanai.
jaweti netebo
jainxon samakatikanai
oxebo winoti
tashioma pii,
bata piamai,
jaskati noibatiti
koshi shinaya ikasi
“Eara ikai ani Onanya joni,
Kikin koshi Onanya,
Jakon Onanya,
Nete Ibon bake”.

Jawetianki jawen yoraxama
moa kerasma iketian,
jawen shinan jakon-ira
rao jonibo
Jawen namameran axeai,
jaton koshi menii,
jaton onan shinan menii.
Jaweratoboki Onanya ikasai
iti atipanke jakon shinanya
jato raonkasai
jawen kaibobo
jaton rao bewakan.
Jawetianki samatai
non kayara kai
jatibi netenko:
mai xaman kai
rao taponbomeran;
onanti jawetio chichorin ixon
jawen jene neteoribi;
jainoariibi mananmeran,
shanka neteo,
nai xamao.
Ja samataikaya
kai jemabotiibi 
rao nete ibobo,
Chaikonibaon jeman.
Nokokatikanai joni
ja basi samata jonibo,
inin peiraon
Ja joné jonibo
kenyamai non jakonma  itsa.
Xeteti jake raopei inin
jaskaaraxon chaikonibo 
Jatonra biai
jakon shinaya jonibo,
jakoni jaa jonibo,
jakon joe Netemeran
jawen jointiabi .
Ja joné jonibo
jawetianbi ramianayamakanai.
Kikin raro shinayabo jakanke,
Rao inin poataibo
Nii xamameran
ani jema ochó
Jatibitian raota.
Akanai jatonribi ani xeatiakin
metsonananax ransai,
mashá bewai.
Jawetianki westiora Onanya
Chaikoniboiba meratai
aribakanai jaton bake bimakin.
Jabaon jawetianbi potayamai,
isinaibo benxoatikopi .
Kikin metsashoko ainbobo
Joxo  tena yorayabo.
Jawen rayos Onanya
meniai jawen koshi,
jawen onan shinan,
raonai itikopi

When the ancient ones 
wanted to be healers and wise on 
they would go live far away (from their families) 
in small retreats in the forest. 

They cut the bark from the trees 
which had spiritual force 
and from the trees with great knowledge 
like the ayahuma and the catahua. 
They spoke with them respectfully, 

with the Keepers of the medicine 
(to ask them to give them their strength, 
their knowledge): 

“Give me a grand thought, 
give me your protection, 
teach me your songs 
to cure the sick, 
to help my family. 
Open the medicinal world, 
I want to be a healer 
a wise one like the ancient ones.” 

They drank the medicinal water 
(in which the bark chips had been soaked) 
or they bathed with the leaves. 
They ate nothing 
for many days 
and then fasted 
for some months 
without salt, 
without sweets, 
without sexual relations, 
in this way they suffered 
with the strong thought 
“I am going to be a great healer, 
a strong healer, 
a good healer, 
son of the Great Spirit.”
When the depths of his body 
were clean 
and his thoughts were peaceful 
the medicinal spirits 
In dreams they taught, 
they gave him strength; 
they gave him wisdom. 

Those who wanted to be healers, 
had to have a strong mind 
and want to cure 
their family 
with the medicinal songs.
During the fast 
our spirit travels 
through diverse worlds: 
sinks below the earth 
with the roots of the medicine; 
knows the deepest depths 
of the world of waters; 
as well as the mountains 
the world of rocks 
and the depths of the sky.
The spirit of the faster 
travels through spiritual territories 
of the Keepers of the medicinal world, 
and visits the village of the Chaikonibo.
Where only those 
who have fasted a long time, 
who have bathed 
with perfumed leaves may arrive.

The hidden spirits 
don’t like bad smells. 
One must wear the scent of a perfumed plant 
to approach 
the Chaikonibo.
They welcome only 
those who think well, 
who live in harmony 
with the light of the Great Spirit 
in their heart’s thoughts.
The hidden beings (Chaikonibo) 
never argue among themselves. 
They live contentedly, 
emanating their aroma of plants, 
in the deep forest, 
in the creeks 
far from cities. 
Their clothes are adorned. 
They hold celebrations 
and dance hand in hand. 
singing mashá.
When a healer 
comes across the Chaikonibo 
they give him their daughters to marry. 
They will never abandon him 
and will help him 
to heal the sick.
They are beautiful women 
with very white skin, that gleams.
His wise father-in-law 
gives him his strength, 
gives him his knowledge, 
to cure with compassion 
all who ask help. 

Nokon bewashamanbi
bewashaman kanoni
rao bewashamabi
metsá bewabanon
Maya maya bainkin
bewá keneabanon
metsá keneshamanbi
metsá keweabanon.
Ea riki Onanya
jakon joni Onanya
rai rokotoroshamani
nokon metsá maiti
Nokon maitishamanbi
biri biri mabokin
inin bires maiti
metsá keneshamanbi.
Nokon metsá tari
metsá tarishamanbi
joxo tarishamanbi
metsá keweshamanbi
nokon pino tari keweya.
Eakaya keyanon
nai xaman panixon
rao nete kepenkin
rao neteshamanbi
ani nete kepenkin
metsá nete kepenkin
jakon nete kepenkin
inin nete kepenkin.
Inin jema kanoni
chaikonibaon jemakaya
metsá jemashamanbi
jaton metsá xobonbi
raro inin nomabo
mayá mashá itikaya.
Nato metsá netenko
ea riki awinya
soi noma metsashoko
ja riki nete biriai 
nokon papashokobo
raro bewashamanxon.
Rao nete ibobo
mayá mayashamani
nonra isinbo benxoai
non metsá bewakan.
Ea riki Meraya
moatian jonibokeska
nato xawan benxoai
nato noma benxoai
nokon rao bewashamaxon
nete bewa shamaxon
Nete Ibo jakon joi
Nete Ibo rao joi.

With the depth of my song 
with the deep connection of the song, 
with the profound medicine 
of the beautiful song 

I open the path singing 
I go forth twirling and twirling 
forming a song with designs, 
with deep and lovely designs.
I am a traditional healer 
a good and healing man, 
an Onanya of great wisdom, 
with a beautiful crown.
I have a profound crown 
that vibrates resplendently 
perfumed and brilliant 
with a design of indescribable beauty.
I have a tunic as well, 
a beautiful tunic, 
a white tunic, 
with lovely embroidered designs. 
It is my embroidered tunic 
that the hummingbird gave to me.
My soul rises up 
and hangs in the boundless sky 
opening the deepest depths 
of the medicinal world.
I open the limitless world, 
the beautiful, inexpressible world. 
the world without evil, the world of good, 
the world of medicinal aroma.

I link myself with the perfumed people, 
with the soul of the Chaikonibo, 
with the profoundness of this village 
with its beautiful houses;
happy and fragrant women 
twirl and twirl, dancing the mashá.
In that beautiful world 
I have my wife 
she is a lovely bird 
everything in this world shimmers.
And my dear grandparents 
sing with great happiness. 

The spirit Keepers of the medicine 
turn round and round from the deepest depths 
curing sickness 
with the soul of our beautiful songs.
I have the knowledge of the Meraya 
just as the ancient ones had 
and I am curing this man 
and I am curing this woman 

with the depth of my song, 
and the depth of the medicinal world, 
and the good word of the Great Spirit, 
the medicinal word of God.
Moatian jonibo
ikatikanai koshibo onan jonibo.
Jakatikanai Inkan jato axeakeska.
Rama Inka jake
wetsa neteori,
wetsa paroori,
noakeskama netenko,
jakon netenko.
Jabo mawayamai,
keyoisma Inka. 
Noa riki bakebo
moatian Merayabo. 
Noa iti atipanke jatokeskaribi.
Non yosibo
jake non jointiainko;
Non rao onanketian,
non jakon akin samaketian,
yosibaon noa namameran noa benai.
Noa bokanai
non onanyamaa parobaon;
noa onanmakanai icha jawekibo
jatibi raomeranoabo.

Noa koshi menikanai,
jaton onan shinanbo,
jaton ani shinanbo,
jakon joi
tsonbi noa paketimakopi.
Ramara noa jake “moderno” netenko
ikaxbi noa shinabenoti atipayamake
non rekenbo.
Jaskatax jatikopi
jemabotiibi nato ani paron,
jatibitian koshi itikopi,
noa jati iki non rao ochoma,
ani nete namati.
Rome koinman
non atipanke yoshinbo ishtomakin
noa ramiakasaitian.
Non jakon akin samaketian
Chaikonibaon noa axeati atipanke,
jaton koshi menikin,
jaton jakon shinanbo,
noa jakon jatikopi,
ikonshaman jonibokeska itikopi.

The ancient ones 
were strong and wise. 
They lived as the Inka had taught them. 

The Inka now live 
in another world, 
in another river, 
in a world that is different from ours, 
in a good world 
He never dies, 
He is the Inka eternal. 

We are children 
of the ancient healers 
and we can be as they have been. 
Our grandparents 
live in our hearts; 
and continue to sing 
along with the enlightened Inka. 

If we know our plants, 
if we fast well, 
the grandparents will visit us in dreams. 

They journey with us 
to unknown rivers 
and they teach us many things 
about medicinal plants. 
They give us their strength, 
their wise thoughts, 
their infinite thoughts, 
a good word 
so no one can defeat us.
Now we live in the modern world 
but we can never forget 
our ancestors. 
In order to survive 
as a nation of this great river 
we must remain strong, 
close to our medicines,
dreaming of the boundless worlds.

With the smoke of tobacco 
We must dispel the demons 
that would destroy us.
If we fast well 
the Chaikonibo can teach us, 
give us their strength, 
their good thoughts, 
that we may live well 
as true human beings.

About the translator

Lorrie Jayne, a collaborator in Siwar Mayu, teaches Spanish, Portuguese, and Personal Narrative in the Languages and Literatures Department at University of North Carolina Asheville (USA). She lives with her husband and daughters in the Appalachian Mountains where she enjoys plants, people, and poetry.

For more about Chonon Bensho, Pedro Favaron and the Shipibo-Konibo nation

Chonon Bensho’s paintings and embroideries, previously featured on Siwar Mayu

MAYA KENÉ designs are a symbol of identity for the Shipibo people

The Shipibo Manifesto, Red Antisuyo :

“NON JOI: Our word”

An explanation of the ancestral use of Ayahuasca, Red Antisuyo:


Manuel Tzoc Bucup’s Queer Poetry

© Photography by Fabrizio Quemé

Introduction by Rita Palacios

Poems translated from Spanish by Paul Worley

Manuel Tzoc Bucup is a poet, visual, and performance artist from Iximulew (Guatemala). His work is intersectional, using poetic language and visual art to explore social realities, focusing on gender, identity, the body, origins, memory, language, image, object, sexual dissidence, and all possible combinations of these. He is self-taught, having learned through workshops, certificate programs, and readings of contemporary art and literature. In addition to self-published poetic objects, he has published a number of books in alternative presses, and his texts have appeared in literary magazines and anthologies throughout Abya Yala. Further, he has presented his visual art in galleries and contemporary art shows locally and internationally.

An example of “texts without borders” © Ediciones la Maleta Ilegal

He is one of the founders of Maleta Ilegal, a cartonera editorial, that is a small, independent and handmade publishing outfit that carries out limited print runs. He is well-known for his queer, erotic poetry and his poetic book objects, and recently he spearheaded the publication of one of the first queer poetry collections in Central America, Antología LGBTIQ+ Guatemala (e/X 2018). Tzoc’s overall approach to the edition and publication of his verses is informed by both the practical need to forego censorship and to ensure that his work is also experienced in a sensory manner. This also means that he shortens the distance between creator and public, lending his verses a physicality that they would otherwise lack as mere printed words. For the poet, the feel of the paper, the impact of the images, and the experience of handling the poetic object are all a part of the experience, and the reader is prompted to reflect on the fetishization of the book, and, ultimately, the word.

atómica (atomic) © Manuel Tzoc Bucup

His latest collection, Wuj (December 2019), recreates an epistolary experience of sorts. The poet-maker crafts a mere fifty copies of a loose-leaf poetic object, made out of richly textured paper, with font resembling typewritten text, all enclosed in an envelope that has been sealed. To obtain a copy, one must contact Tzoc directly, and its delivery is done by an international courier (Guatemala has no national postal system) or in-person (it should be noted that getting hold of a copy of Wuj has been impacted by the current global pandemic). The verses therein reflect on our relationship to social media (“Adiós Facebook! Cierro mi cuenta contigo ☹️” Goodbye Facebook! I’m closing my account with you ☹️) and the internet (“San Google cómo se encuentra tu espíritu cyborg en este momento?” Saint Google how is your cyborg spirit at this moment?); to writing and being read (“Ejercicios de escritura” Writing exercises, “A los lectores” To the readers, and “Wuj”); to Maya dress (“Kat Waj” I love you); and to urban life (“Memoriales urbanos” Urban memorials), to name a few. For this edition of Siwar Mayu, Tzoc presents us with unpublished verses that reflect on the current global pandemic: what it means to be alone, to face fear, illness, and death.

Wuj © Manuel Tzoc Bucup, 2019
Polen © Manuel Tzoc Bucup, 2014
Polen © Manuel Tzoc Bucup, 2014

Fresa y fracaso  © Manuel Tzoc Bucup

“Strawberries and Failure” © Paul Worley

A selection of 5 poems from an unpublished collection tentatively entitled, “Strawberries and Failure” by Manuel Tzoc. Written during the COVID-19 global pandemic for the electronic magazine Siwar Mayu, Guatemala 2020.


Looking at the things in my bathroom

I ask myself about the little bullshit in them

those cynical bodies of the future

washing themselves with unscented gel soap

Exactly boy

we are bodies with no future


washing and dirtying our hearts, wanting

to write from the depths of the abyss

Rebuilding the crime of day-to-day life

hugging our favorite book

watering a red poppy

looking out at the oil infested water

hugging a dead body, still warm

caressing stray dogs

finally and at last

this is the bullshit of our happy years

The day’s crime section

full of domestic and work incidents

are we alone or do we feel alone?

the truth is always singular

I can’t speak for you, girl

I’m sorry

even if you hate me

I’ll disappear any minute

to rebuild the cursed history of our lives


Right now

you are the only thing that exists

Star of Loneliness

you’ll keep us company

these nights filled with guns fired into the air

nights of collective isolation

of bodies pursued and forgotten

of radiant and free flamingos

swimming in urban rivers

Nights of solitary mirrors


Note: this was written on the first day of the stay at home order in Guatemala, the 22 of March 2020


Chew on the memory


the ear of corn toasted by the fire

living ash


The world and its mundane dangers

is outside, hypochondriac girl

(it’s even inside)

waiting for you

calling you

you can’t keep traveling through the universe

on that treadmill

germs smile back at you from everything 

you are terrified of opening the door to go out

of touching your friends’ skin 

of penetrating your lovers’ flesh

The sharp corners of things threaten you

you’ve made a cave in your wounded heart

you fear the spores floating in front of your crazed eyes

breathe and feel the pure, infected air

breathe and feel and ask to be calmer

Walk and breathe deeply my hypochondriac friend

and everything will be fine!

Or maybe not

Or maybe not


Everyone in this story will get hurt

with a dead body in tow

with a lover in the middle of the pandemic



the same




bored to death

more alone than ever

more connected than ever

overworking ourselves virtually

or eternally waiting, resume in hand, for a reply

This story

this path



bad or good luck

our daily walks on sidewalks of blood and green grass

films of memories and things we’ve forgotten

and salt water


anxiously awaiting

our defeated bodies

Sad boy’s body, Polen, Wuj, Atomic © Manuel Tzoc Bucup

For more about Manuel Tzoc

Latin American Literature Today: 4 Poems by Manuel Tzoc

Please follow this link, and enjoy four more of Tzoc’s poems. They cover a wide range of topics, written over many years. They speak to the complexity of the human existence, touching on everything from the inner child to medicinal plants and queerness.


For eight more moving poems by Tzoc, each steeped in emotion, please visit Vagabond City, a digital space which features “poetry, art, nonfiction, interviews, and reviews by marginalized creators.” (Vagabond City 2020)

Ediciones la Maleta Ilegal

Explore the galleries of Maleta Ilegal, learn about the philsophies behind “texts without borders,” and get to know the authors and artists. They support creators through their alternative publishing style, allowing for unedited and uncensored content. You can find more of Tzoc’s work there, including De Textos Insanos (From Insane Texts).

Edinson Quiñones: “Intention begins in the seed”


 By Juan G. Sánchez Martínez

Translated from Spanish by Lorrie Jayne

A few weeks ago, we shared words with Edinson Quiñones, an artist of Nasa ancestry, from Cauca Colombia. Edinson spoke with us from his Nasa territory, where he is currently “unlearning” at  the Universidad Autónoma Indígena Intercultural (UAIIN) and leading the trans-indigenous project, “Popayork.” Through the earpiece of my cell phone in Tokiyasdi/Asheville (Cherokee territory, the United States), I can hear the clucking of chickens and the hustle and bustle of the Andean countryside. Edinson holds a degree in Visual Arts from the University of Cauca and a Master’s degree in Integrated Arts with the Environment from the same institution. He has held twelve individual exhibits and participated in more than fifty collective exhibitions. He is a member of the Collective 83 with whom he has curated and maintained the Salón Internacional Indígena Manuel Quintín Lame (2014-2020). Currently, Edinson is studying the series, “The Rehabilitation of Mother Earth,” where his first objective is to unlearn the colonial notions that isolate art from the community and create the false idea of a “select public.”   

An Artist on the Margins © Popayork Residencia Artística

Anyone who has attended his performances and workshops, knows that, since 2003, Edinson has been recovering the steps of his elders through a visceral creative process that includes not only identity, but also the faces of the war.  “I was a spirit without a guide, Brother”, he says to me, “carrying out rebellious projects to heal myself.” In 2012, after multiple trips and exhibitions, Edinson’s grandmother, a midwife and traditional Nasa medicine woman, died. While he and his mother processed this loss, Edinson began to approach, in a deeper way, the coca leaf, and the wounds from narcotraffic in the territory of his own ancestors. His umbilicus and placenta, as is the custom of many of the ancestral peoples of Abya-Yala, were buried by his grandmother, healer and pulse reader in the community. Edison’s art blossoms at the crossroads of coca, death and territory.

If it’s Bayer, it’s Good © Edinson Quiñones. Berlin, 2016. Mario Kreuzberg Gallery. 

For Edinson, using the wood and pigment of coca looks into the poetics of nature. But to do so also means confronting global misinformation regarding the plant, the twisted reality that surrounds the consumption of cocaine (0.5 gm of alkaloid from 100 gm of the leaf), as well as the trafficking, and violence that radiates from this imbalance. Those who have visited the Gold Museum in Bakata/ Bogota (Colombia) or the Casa del Alabado Museum in Quito, are aware that many of the ancient pieces, from more than 2000 years ago, represent the poporo and the zocalo (instruments still used today for the ingestion of coca among the peoples of the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta), and the faces and bodies of the elders seated, cheeks stuffed with coca.

Quimbaya region. Colombia. 

Nariño region, Colombia. 

For Edison, as for millions of native people from the south of Abya- Yala, coca (ayu, mambe, kintu) has been and continues to be the key to composing themselves, in order to find and share the right word, to analyze and weave communally, and to show gratitude for the abundance of the Earth Mother. To call coca, “a drug” is a form of disorienting, uprooting, and distancing ourselves from ourselves. The responsibility of the European pharmaceutical industry in the decontextualization of the ancestral sense of the sacred leaf is revealed in the installation, If it’s Bayer, it’s good. This art teaches the importance of returning to ourselves.

The Wound Heals and the Scar Remains, Scarification God of Coca © Edinson Quiñones.

When I asked Edinson which project he would like for us to highlight in Siwar Mayu, he responded that, curiously, he always returns to the year 2006 at the VI Festival de Performance de Cali (Colombia), where, after tattooing the image of a god jaguar/Spirit Lord of coca on his right shoulder blade, he performed the removal of the image by scarification. It seems that what remains of the performance is a photograph of an event. But what happens to the artist’s body? And what happens in the collective body? Talking with Edison, I learn what happened next: nine months healing and dialoguing with his mother, a painful process through which he had to re-learn every aspect of daily life (how to sleep, how to bathe himself), and later, the constant remembering in his own body of the primary intention. A memory to last a lifetime. Those works around the God of Coca forcefully break into the physical body to destabilize the Western epistemology. “You have to uproot the past from behind in order to see it in front of you,” he tells me, and I think about the Andean nayrapacha, “My mother, also a healer, didn’t understand why I harmed myself.”

This is what’s hard for a public that lacks care and respect to process. How to do a performance with bullets? Quitexa is the name of this work of Edinson’s. It means, “to bloom” in the Nasa Yuwe language. How to do a performance with a “coca” (the word carries a double meaning: it names the leaf, but also a wooden toy) made with the bones of victims of the war? This work is called, Violent Games. Not Everything Is a Game. “The community calls me crazy,” Edinson says laughing. “Mine is an autobiographical work that goes through distinct phases: trauma, healing, and positive transformation.”

Violent Games. Not Everything Is a Game © Edinson Quiñones, 2019. 

Edison believes that this is a strategy for persisting in a society as conservative as Popayán. After centuries of internalized racism in Cauca and throughout Colombia, when words such as ‘Indian’ or ‘paez’ were used to shame those who were native to the place, today is a new day, when Edison can say, laughing, “I was searching in the air and not in the earth.” Now is the time to build from the collective, with the permission of the elders, making offerings before beginning projects, chewing coca and taking the yajé medicine, in order to inquire into the deep questions that arise from the ceremony itself. “From the law of origins there are secrets that should not be taken out of the community; it is the struggle of the artist to understand how they should share,” he explains.

Aliento y suspiro con Taita Misak Lorenzo © Edinson Quiñones, 2019.  

This is why, in this bridge between spirituality, art, and academia, there are pieces that are not for exhibit, and words that are to be shared only at the exact moment, since “the intention begins in the seed,” as he tells me. The richness of the Cauca territory is now in the eye of extractive and private industries. Manuel Quintin Lame was one of the Nasa leaders who put up a fight against the wealthy sugarcane landowners. “Freeing the land”, Edison explains, “is to free her from the monoculture of sugar-to recover sovereignty over our food.”

Popayork Artistic Residences

That’s why Popayork is my dream,” says Edinson, “Five years ago I began this vision and today the fruit trees are flowering, we have 30 chickens, and the bunnies have been born!” Popawork is more than a space for artist’s residencies- it is a life project that became clear to Edinson while taking  yajé medicine. The way Edinson tells it, he intended to take a long trip outside of Colombia, but during the yajé ceremony he saw the place where he is now as if it were already his, that is to say, he saw the need to concentrate upon his own territory and to continue the spiritual processes that he had already been taking. Edinson invites me to reflect upon the figures that underpin the Colombian reality: out of 104.2 million hectares of territory, 48%  is currently devoted to the extensive cattle ranching. That is only one clear example of the socio-economic imbalances brought about by the large landowners and the absence of an agrarian policy that would provide incentives for the farmworkers and Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities.

Performances compilation / compilación © Edinson Quiñones. 

Today, after five years weaving Popayork together, Edinson is in the process of raising the maloca (ceremonial house) and seeding the sacred tulpa (fire pit). “And we must stoke the fire and never let it burn out,” he tells me. The elders come to Popayork and offer their medicines- Yanakuna, Misak, and Nasa communities pass through, and nothing leaves Popayork without permission and guidance. The materials that Edinson has used in the past, such as those in his work, Violent Games have been through a purging process, since bullets and bones need to be cleansed also. Before closing our conversation, he from the Andes (my territory as well), and I from the Appalachian Mountains, I ask Edison about the project he is currently working on. He answers: “seeing a garden in bloom is pure collective magic, Brother. That’s how it goes these days…” At the publication of this text, the indigenous guard of Cauca is leading the national Minga (community work) in Colombia, demanding that the government of Ivan Duque assumes the responsibilities of the state and protect the lives of social leaders besieged by armed outlaw groups.

¡Jayaya Jayaya Jayaya!


For more about Edinson Quiñones

La ventana invisible documentary

For more about the Manuel Quintín Lame Exhibition / Collective 83

Colectivo 83– Curaduría Salón Internacional Manuel Quintín Lame (2014-2020) 

Curators, mingadores (collaborative workers), philosophers, and elders like Taita Lorenzo,  are all welcome in this living, portable exhibition, which includes video, audio, poetry, copy, photography, and conversation. The objective of this effort is not only to make indigenous art visible, but to create a trans-indigenous dialogue that addresses the territory. In 2019,  sixty-seven artists  from twelve indigenous communities participated in the Salon which was held at the Universidad de los Andes (Bogotá, Colombia).

Mikhu Paul. Three poems from 20th Century PowWow Playland

Mikhu Paul (1958-) is a Wolastoq poet who lives in Portland, Maine, USA, where she is an educator, artist and activist. Of mixed ancestry, she is a member of Kingsclear First Nation in New Brunswick, Canada. Her collection 20th Century PowWow Playland was published in 2012 by Bowman Books and poems have been published in various journals. She is also a multi-media artist whose work has been exhibited in museums and galleries, and auctioned off to fundraise for charitable causes.

In both her art, writings and life, she highlights the abuses and consequences of systemic racism of the traditional ways of life of Indigenous peoples. The Indigenous teachings were passed along to her by her grandfather in Penosbscot Indian Island Reservation near Old Town, Maine. Her palimpsestic reflections on the passage of time are sensitive and striking, alluding to assimilation and heritage at the same time. The poems chosen for this selection are exemplary of these characteristics but the most famous poem from Mihku Paul’s collection of 34, “Jefferson Street School” speaks of her personal experience with White education, discrimination, social inequalities and cultural difference.

Mikhu Paul © 20th Century PowWow Playland (Bowman Books, 2012)

Introduction and selection by Sophie M. Lavoie

Mother Tongue

Stolen child, stranger with no name.

Her mouth has been sewn shut.

The songs, on their long flight, 

years upon years, birth upon death, lost.

Mute witness, what silence is this?

Unfortunate demise, flesh and bone,

language we lived by, 

scattered like pollen dust,

the trace of finest powder.

Possessed, our teeth clack and grind,

purpled lips slap and curl, a strangled wailing:

tuberculosis, dysentery, pneumonia.

One thousand ways to kill a thing, and

only one true way to save it.

Our words, shape of sounds no longer familiar, 

buried at Carlisle.

Oh, Grandmother, we are wandering now. 

The map obscured, ripped and bloodied.

We speak a strange tongue.

We are ghosts, haunting ourselves.


These hybrids roam from Mexico to Montreal,

honey-dipped, tea stained. 

Their green eyes draw in light, glitter,

shards of broken mirrors.

Now we got seven years bad luck, 

cousin, at least seven winters penance.

We are, all of us, cast on a burning wind.

Prayer words rise and fall, 

red leaves Split from an ancient tree, 

White feathers torn from a dove’s wing.

No cypher but the beating heart, 

encased in this new-made flesh, 

pounding ancestral rhythms.

In a thousand years, whose captive

face will hover, imprisoned in silvered glass?

What name will you call her, 

whose eyes were your own, staring back,

as the mirror shattered and

the tree bore this new fruit?

20th Century PowWow Playland

In 1920, a centennial celebration, time measured,

commemorating that moment

when everything changed.

A separation, renaming territory, viciously tamed.

Carved and claimed, settled, the state of Maine.

Two faces stare out, children, sepia-toned, museum

quality, pressed to pages.

Boy and girl frown before the camera’s eye,

rigid lens of history, a dangerous weapon.

Thirty years since that last great dance in

the Dakotas, when bullets 

traveled faster than the light 

that traps these two.

Gathering ghosts, supplicants buried their hearts,

died on frozen ground.

Captive light blinds those young eyes, 

lays bare the half-grimaced smiles.

Gone, the birchbark wigwam, 

the buffalo hide tipi. 

Backdropped by a canvas tent, the boy

dimpled cheeks smeared with “war” paint,

stands beside his sister, cousin.

Her banded braids hung with some cheap feather.

Children pose now, 

war replaced by pageantry.

The wolf a legend, wearing

the skin of a leashed dog,

and the cold warrior’s eye, now closed,

steady hand empty, his battle cry

now silent in this fading picture,

this 20th century powwow playland.

More information on Mikhu Paul

Dawnland Voices. Writing of Indigenous New England.

“With Mazatec earth and pigment”, René Alvarado Martínez

Metamorphosis © René Alvarado Martínez.

By René Alvarado Martínez y Juan G. Sánchez Martínez / Translated from Spanish by Lorrie Jayne

René Alvarado Martínez hails from San Andrés Hidalgo, Huautla de Jiménez, in the northeast region of Oaxaca, México.  As he tells it, from the time he was a child, René has created from earthen clay and reproduced images that he saw in free texts and books.  He also remembers being seven and beginning to notice visitors arriving at his house in search of his father, a practitioner of traditional medicine, who guided the community with candles and, on a few rare occasions with the “sacred little ones”: the medicinal Mazatec mushroom.  His mother, born in Rio Santiago, Huatla de Jimenez, the birthplace of the celebrated priestess María Sabina, also plays a part in his work.

Internal Cosmic Trip © René Alvarado Martínez.

Through the course of thousands of years, indigenous peoples throughout the world have kept track of their experiences with visionary plants and mushrooms, and have represented their spiritual knowledge through different codes and mediums. However, in recent years, the use of these medicines has made its way into the imagination of “arts and literature”in mainstream languages and circles. “Mushrooms and visionary plants,” have been referred to as “drugs” (from the Spanish-Arabic root ‘hatruka’ meaning lie), or “hallucinogens” (from the latin ‘alucinari’, to ramble senselessly), as “psychotropics” (from the Greek ‘psyche,’ mind/spirit, and ‘topein,’ an altered state), as “psychedelics” (from the Greek ‘psyche,’ mind/spirit, and ‘delos,’ to manifest oneself), and as “entheogens” (from the Greek ‘en,’ within, ‘theos,’ God, ‘gen,’ to be born) as plants that allow God to flower within- this latest expression has been proposed by Gordon Wasson, Jonathan Ott, and Carl Ruck. René Alvarado Martínez’ work is inspired by the Mazatec practice of ingestion of “the sacred little ones,” the mushrooms/medicines, who René uses the word “entheogens” to name.

René Alvarado Martínez

Once he was in high school, René forayed into techniques such as acrylics, pastels, and stained-glass. Later he migrated to the city of Tecamachalco, in the state of Puebla, where he developed oil painting and other mixed techniques. René has participated in more than fifty collective and individual exhibitions. His work (paintings textured with Mazatec dyes and earth, carvings with obsidian on clay, ritual sculptures, and lamps) can be found in private collections in California, New York, Colombia, Argentina, Japan, Australia, and in multiple cities in Mexico.

Corn that Glimmers: Corn of Gold © René Alvarado Martínez.

In the words of the artist:

“During my career I have painted with colors, watercolors, acrylics, pastels, ink, drypoint, oils, mixed techniques, engravings, and natural dyes from the Mazatec region. I am also currently  sculpting with clay, branches, and corrugated cardboard. Through painting I am planting an awareness of ”Human Being” in every extension of the word. I believe that through art a new world can be built. Art is an expression, a feeling, a language, a spirit of the soul made matter.”

Flowing in the Sacred © René Alvarado Martínez.

His own iconography runs throughout René Alvarado Martínez’ work: beneath the moon, the seeds of corn align with the corners of the universe; the “sacred little ones” and the candles guide the trip and the trance that reveals the spiraling snail, that primordial image that René identifies with unity and flow; beneath the stars, the serpents, wisdom and renovation, interlace man and woman, the last protectress of the “the sacred little ones,” the creative force, the cosmic mother.  Just as it does in María Sabina’s songs and evening ceremonies, Christian iconography and vocabulary sometimes superimposes itself upon the visions of the sacred mushrooms. Today, some of the elders of the community celebrate René’s work.

Trip to the Origin © René Alvarado Martínez.

As in mystic poetry, René’s work captures the ecstasy of the curandero who looks into the abyss of mystery, and brings back with him knowledge of the origin of illness, the root of the cure. But these works also reflect the pillars of Mazatec celebrations that are related to the agricultural calendar- the seven maizes, the offerings to the hills and mountains, and the huehuentones, groups who dress for the Day of the Dead, whose songs and drums travel house to house, carrying advice and awareness, greeting everyone as if they were their ancestors, their family.

Being of Light © René Alvarado Martínez.

René explains:

In my works I give expression to our ancestral knowledge and the elements that are used in a ceremony that includes entheogens: the candle, the sahumerio or copal burner, and the mushrooms. I also bring forth the sacred elements: the moon, the sun, and the stars! I immortalize and share our culture, our roots, our people, our town, our customs and traditions, the connection with our surroundings, nature itself, the supernatural, such as the chikones, guardians of the mountains, the rivers, the caves, the wind- manifesting within as well as outside of ritual, in our history and our cosmovision which contains the Sierra Mazateca. I rescue our mother tongue, since it is the net of communication between the living and the dead,  along with our ancestors, deities and guardians and the knowledge that they emanate. Visionary art.

More regarding “the sacred little ones” and mazatec art

Filogonio Naxín. Woven Beings

The art of Filogonio Naxín bets upon the freedom of shapes. Reaching beyond galleries, museums and art schools, Naxín dislocates definitions of “traditional” and visualizes bridges in oil, acrylic, and watercolor with which he crosses from the Mazatec language to the techniques of Western art.

María Sabina. Spirit Woman  © Nicolás Echeverría, 1979