Tayta Jose Maria and the Indian aspect of the Peruvian Revolution.
Arguedas, like Vallejo, is polemical. And it could not be otherwise, considering the many facets of these complex
Argueda's personality cannot be resolved into a matter of party membership, literary style, or even his great
knowledge of folklore and ethnology. Nevertheless, one would have to be blind--willfully blind, and blind in very bad faith--not
to see, or to misconstrue, his very being, his essence. Arguedas, above and before all, is an Indian. He is Indian in the
most militant sense of the word.
It is somewhat paradoxical but my tayta did not like to use the word Indian because it is the
whip that the mestizos use to beat us, and for that reason among ourselves we say Runa. He was certainly astonished
when I used the term Indian. I tell him, yes, that it is precisely the whip, the whip we have wrenched from the landlord's
hands to brandish before his very eyes. For the landlord didn't like it either when we spoke our Quechua, that we have raised
ourselves up and trampled on them; and in the same way we have used the poncho, the bare feet, and the smell of coca.
The landlords have been brought to their knees trembling, and they will kneel down again. For, although we are
opposed to coca and bare feet, we are in that state now, and it is in that state that we are raising ourselves up, and in
that state we will crush them.
As the tayta Jose Maria says, yes, we are liberators for everyone. We, who have been more humble than
burros; we, who have been whipped worse than dogs; we, who have been spat upon. Yes, tayta, in a word then, we, the
[. . . .]
The simple act of exalting something Indian is already revolutionary. It means showing the world, and the Indian
himself, that Indians are people, although they don't want to believe it.
The huayno, the quena, the Quechua language, the poncho, the legends, the customs; simply by showing
them with pride is already to fight, is already to shout the war cry. It shows the Indian himself and it shows everyone that
we are a people with a personality and that we have the intention of seeing that that personality is respected.
That is why we revolutionary Indians regard our native tradition with so much respect, with so much fervor.
In all its forms, in all its aspects, in all its vigor: Ciro Alegria, Luis E. Valcarcel, Jose Sabogal, Alvina, J. C. Tello,
and so many other beloved names.
Contradictory figures? Yes, doubtless; but all native to this soil, and therefore our forefathers, the revolutionary
Indians. Because without them we could never have been. Because we start from the point they reached, from the point to which
they led us by the hand.
In the drama Ollantay it is not the imperial court that makes an impact. It is the clenched fist of Quechua
that jolts us.
And Arguedas is head and shoulders above all of this, as I told my tayta in the letter he left half-read.
He is no longer only a native; he is the Indian himself, who speaks in his own way, shows his own feelings. He is not Clorinda
Matto who takes pity on the Indian's suffering and protests; he is the Indian himself who is rebelling.
And how the tayta rebels! With what force! How the passion rises up in the Yawar Fiesta, with
all the Indians to demand that the fiesta be carried out the way they want. Barbarous? Perhaps, but it was done the way the
Indians wanted it to be done, damn it, because the Indians wanted it that way.
And in Los Rios Profundos, it is the Indians of the hacienda who, triumphing bare-handed over machine
guns, impose their will.
Of course, the well-informed people do not see that this is the whole purpose of that work.
I am not a man of letters, nor am I a literary critic. The literary critics did not see that Arguedas made the
great revolutionary potential of the Indian people the central thrust of his work. Only one commented on this subsequently.
Distinguished people will tell me that since I am not a literary critic, I should keep my mouth shut and not try to "take
over" Arguedas and give his work a forced political interpretation. With all modesty, I have done no more than to repeat literally
what was written on the subject by my tayta in the week before the bullet.
As he says, he wanted to make the fighters, the
political ones, see--so that they would encourage this potential. To be sure, they didn't see! . . . Or they saw too well
that it didn't suit them. Because this great revolutionary potential really exists in our people. Because this energy, once
freed, tends to look for his own goals and not for compromises and negotiations. Because when the Indian says Manan
[absolutely no], then the mistis [non-Indians] know that it's manan! Now the distinguished gentlemen are not
organizing the montoneros, the bands of mountain guerrillas . . . it is not appropriate; that time is past. They know
well the outcome of a montonero made up of "them" would be!
Something more: Arguedas does not look for the leader with charisma, even among the Indians themselves. He knows
that the strength is not in a leader's power of attraction, in his magnetism, but in the centuries of oppression, and that
the leader attracts to the extent that he represents the needs and moods of the people.
The strength is in the Indian's re-discovery of
himself, in the Indian's awareness of his potential, in the Indian's development; in his breaking out of the oppressive, anti-Indian,
material and mental bondage.
He may begin gropingly, to be sure, as in the
novels of Arguedas. But, above all, he is discovering his power! His potential! He brings it to light, he finds it. And that
is the beginning.
To whoever may believe that this Indian way of
seeing the struggle is chauvinist, regionalist, racist, and opposed to internationalism and even
the unity of Peru, we reply that the only way we Indians can become part of humanity is as Indians; it is our way of being
people. We have to join the world of peoples as people, not as a caricature; with a personality, dot depersonalized. It is
not by accident that the same government that gives the shantytowns the pretty name of "young towns" wants to dissolve us
into the general category of "peasants", as if we don't suffer a thousand humiliations precisely because we are Indians.
The Indian problem is the problem of the land, as Mariategui said. It is certainly
true, because we know that we have fought, even with guns in our hands, under the slogan "Land
or Death!" But our oppression is not simply economic. As a sequel to economic oppression, they abuse the Indians of all our
countries in many ways. They destroy our culture, our Quechua, our Aymara, our Guarani, our Yaravi, our aesthetic values.
They spit on us, as the tayta says.
[. . . .]
We understand the unity of our Indian character with our internationalism in the revolutionary way that the
universal cholo Cesar Vallejo understood it, when he mentions that most Spanish characteristics of love even to the
point of treason; and in the same poem in which he speaks of the universality of the Spanish revolution, he does not contradict
those who label it a "Spanish affair;" he agrees and then shows them the sharp internal "Spanish" contradictions of that people
in some verses that are models of dialectics.
The Indian struggle is breaking out on all fronts,
and that is why we are so grieved by the bullet that shot our tayta, for he was a powerful fighter. But if he died
in pain, it was with the pain of an Indian who sees the approach of dawn. And, as he said, to suffer with this pain is not
to suffer; to die with this pain is not to die.
Indian struggle, continuing on all fronts, renders a fighter's homage to Jose Maria Arguedas. We who fight directly for the
land, like the hacienda Indians and the freeholders of Pasco, Yauyos, Ayacucho, Cuzco, we are not alone. We are accompanied by the huaynos of Manuel Acosta Ojeda, of the Pastorita, of Jilgero del Huascaran, of "La
Surenita" Lucia Sanchez, and of so many more of our brothers and sisters who fight hard and do not sell out. They
do not sell out although they know that the Indian who plays the clown and caricatures his mother and father to make the white
man laugh is well paid by his master.
And also fighting at our side are the people who know that the Indian was born when the light had turned to
shadow, and who, like Alicia Maguina, without being Indians themselves, are waiting to hear our laughter in order to be happy.
But the Indian struggle, with all its richness, is only one part of the entire Peruvian revolution. .
The Indian Arguedas understood all this very well; for that reason he was with the university students against
the gorilla [militarists] law; for that reason he was with the worker's struggles; for that reason he was with Vietnam.
Yes, tayta Jose Maria, you are right in
saying that it will cost much blood, this coming of the dawn, but it is near.
Land or Death! We Will Win!
1969 [Emphasis, mine]