Sons of the Moon: Journey in the Andes Hardcover – 25 Jan 1990
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`The Bruce Chatwin de ces jours'
--Punch --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
`The Bruce Chatwin de ces jours'
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Shukman's main objective in his travels was to seek out traditional Indians. Largely by hitching rides on trucks (the main form of transport for many in the region), as well as by bus, bicycle, and doing a good deal of walking, Shukman visited some extremely remote villages on the plateau, where he spoke with a wide variety of people, witnessed religious ceremonies, participated in fiestas, viewed native dances, sampled regional cuisine, and examined ancient ruins.
The reader learns that most of the Indians of the Bolivian Altiplano are Aymaras. For most of the first millennium AD they held an empire centered on the temples of Tiahuanaco, their empire stretching into northern Peru and into Chile. By 1000 AD their empire had disintegrated into twelve small, squabbling kingdoms and by 1500 had been incorporated into the Inca Empire.
However, the Incas might not have recognized the Aymaras of today, as only the most remote Aymaras continue their traditional lives. Most became what are known as Cholos, which is a class, not a tribe. These are Aymaras who have largely abandoned agricultural life and taken to the towns, towns the Spanish began in the late sixteenth century. Viceroy Toldeo of Upper Peru and his successors instituted policies to create towns for Indian villagers to move into, towns with a plaza, a seven day week, and the perfect conditions for the growth of markets. With both a regular day and a regular place, the weekly markets grew in popularity and importance to such a degree that a class of Indians, the Cholos, arose who made marketing their main economic activity.
Cholos are predominant in this book, as indeed they are the most conspicuous Altiplano Indians. They wear a distinctive dress; the women wear bowlers or derby hats and very colorful sweaters or cardigans and skirts with many layers of petticoats (Shukman described it as "an extraordinary miscarriage of western dress"), while the men wear suits (which are often old and dirty). Most can speak Spanish though many also still speak their native Aymara dialects. Interestingly, the Cholo women are the ones who are the breadwinners in the family, as the men "hover in the dimness;" at best they might cultivate fields or help their wives carry their goods to market.
The only time Cholo men seem prominent is in the planning and running of fiestas, which is male-dominated. Men are part of the cargo system, as it is impossible to rise in the community without sponsoring fiestas, as it is honor to bear the cargo of a fiesta and the goal is to sponsor increasingly bigger, better, and more important fiestas. Men can do this either by saving money or by getting help from friends, friends who lend him money with the understanding that when they have a cargo he will return the favor (forming an aini bond). Once a man climbs the social hierarchy he becomes the jilakata of the village, its headman, and for a year is more or less in charge but for that entire year has to spend it playing host, something that generally bankrupts most men.
The women though are quite the opposite, as they rise in their own social hierarchy, never becoming bankrupt in the end like the men. Rather than a series of bonds to sponsor bigger and better fiestas, theirs are ones of marketing and business contacts to make more money.
Shukman did encounter Indians other than Cholos. He met the Chipayas, the last of the Urus, a "decaying tribe," the oldest Indians of the Altiplano, a group that was an "untouchable caste" in the Aymara kingdoms, regarded as "ugly, dirty, thick," a group that lived along the rivers and lakes of the Altiplano, looked down upon for turning their back on agriculture and fishing instead. The Quechuas by way of contrast form the majority of Peru's Andean Indians, one of the legacies of the Incas. The Quechuas, once a small people from a southern Peruvian valley, became the most widespread group because the Incas adopted the Quechua language and customs as those of the Empire and enforced them on their subjects and sent the loyal Quechuas to the far corners of the Empire as laborers and spies.
The book was well-written and engaging if a bit brief at a 184 pages. His descriptions of the environment of the Altiplano were vivid. He wrote how each day in the Andes was said to contain all four season of the year, as he described freezing at night and getting baked and sunburned during the day. Much of the Altiplano was very arid, some incredibly so (his descriptions of the great salt flats and lakes were quite good). A number of black and white photographs were included as well as a map though no bibliography.