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My Tayta Jose Maria and the Indian aspect of the Peruvian Revolution

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My Tayta Jose Maria and the Indian aspect of the Peruvian Revolution.

 By Hugo Blanco.


Arguedas, like Vallejo, is polemical. And it could not be otherwise, considering the many facets of these complex personalities.

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 Indians.

[. . . .]

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.

The 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]

Taken From:
Hugo Blanco, Land or Death: The Peasant Struggle in Peru, New York, 1972, pp. 130-134.

See also:
Livio Maitan
Cuzco: Land and Death
Revolt of the Peruvian Campesino

Critical Analysis
Strategies of Struggle: The Centrality of Peasant Movements in Latin America

By James Petras

A South American revolutionary
Jose Carlos Mariátegui and Peruvian socialism

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