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Sons of the Moon: Journey in the Andes Hardcover – 25 Jan 1990

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Hardcover, 25 Jan 1990
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson; 1st ediiton edition (25 Jan. 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297796291
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297796299
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 15.2 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,454,522 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x96489258) out of 5 stars 2 reviews
HASH(0x97719648) out of 5 stars Henry's Excellent Adventure 23 Oct. 2012
By Bob Newman - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If I had written this book at the age of 19, I would be really proud of myself. The author had a lot of talent and he wrote a book that, especially in its descriptions of the land, deserves great praise. I think I will always remember how he described his trip, by truck, across the salt lake of Uyuni in the Bolivian highlands, "its surface a pale blue mirror as far as I could see. There was a film of brine over the salt and this reflected the sky immaculately." He saw "hundreds of little white pyramids" of salt, "each was reflected perfectly in the brine, so each was a diamond floating in the blue water." Shukman traveled on his own, with camping gear, through northern Argentina, Bolivia and Peru, always sticking to the altiplano, land of thin air and a fast beating heart (for those not born there). Ah, but his was a very existential journey whose stated purpose---to learn how the Indians "untouched by the outside world" lived---seemed a bit vague. I concluded that it was more a journey just to have a journey, which is certainly not to be belittled. Who has not done the same if they could ? He wandered about, spent great efforts trying to reach remote places, only to turn around and leave almost at once. He really didn't find "untouched" peoples. That's because there aren't any except maybe in the densest Amazon jungles of Brazil. He took some nice photos and ran into some interesting festivals and people. I felt that his Spanish, though he said he was fluent, left something to be desired, at least there were a number of simple errors in what he put in the book. This is a youthful book of personal experience. Though the cover notes claim that he was the first travel writer "to seek out this disappearing race", he certainly was not the first. People have been writing about the Andes and its peoples for centuries. And, the Indians of the Altiplano are not disappearing, though some of their ways may be. Then, our ways are constantly disappearing too. Anyway, it might not be the most focussed travel book you'll ever read, but it's certainly worth a go. And remember, he was only 19.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x962fc720) out of 5 stars Interesting travelogue and introduction to Altiplano Indians 18 Feb. 2007
By Tim F. Martin - Published on
Format: Hardcover
_Sons of the Moon_ by Henry Shukman is an account of the author's several months of travel in the region of South America known as the Altiplano, an at times nearly barren plateau that is more than 13,000 feet high, located on the western side of South America, embraced by two arms of the Andes, the Eastern and Western Cordilleras. Roughly three hundred miles across east to west and a thousand miles north to south, this region, though seemingly barren and desolate, has been fertile in other ways; two of the greatest American empires - the Tiahuanaco and the Inca - arose in the region, and for two centuries after the Spanish Conquest it boasted the richest city in the Americas, Potosi, a city founded beside one of the largest silver mines ever recorded. After the wealth of Potosi was exhausted, the region fell into oblivion, an impoverished, backwater plateau home to pure-blooded Indians surviving on potatoes and herds of llamas and alpacas. The book describes the four months the author spent crossing the Altiplano, starting in northern Argentina and heading north to Peru (though he spent the bulk of his journey in Bolivia, as Bolivia owns the largest part of the Altiplano).

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.
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