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Andean Lives

Andean Lives
Gregorio Condori Mamani and Asunta Quispe Huamán
Translated from the Quechua with Annotations and a Revised Glossary by Paul H. Gelles and Gabriela Martínez Escobar; introduction by Paul H. Gelles; photographs by Eulogio Nishiyama

The life stories of two Peruvian indigenous people.

April 1996
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213 pages | 6 x 9 | 16 b&w photos |

Gregorio Condori Mamani and Asunta Quispe Huamán were runakuna, a Quechua word that means "people" and refers to the millions of indigenous inhabitants neglected, reviled, and silenced by the dominant society in Peru and other Andean countries. For Gregorio and Asunta, however, that silence was broken when Peruvian anthropologists Ricardo Valderrama Fernández and Carmen Escalante Gutiérrez recorded their life stories. The resulting Spanish-Quechua narrative, published in the mid-1970s and since translated into many languages, has become a classic introduction to the lives and struggles of the "people" of the Andes.

Andean Lives is the first English translation of this important book. Working directly from the Quechua, Paul H. Gelles and Gabriela Martínez Escobar have produced an English version that will be easily accessible to general readers and students, while retaining the poetic intensity of the original Quechua. It brings to vivid life the words of Gregorio and Asunta, giving readers fascinating and sometimes troubling glimpses of life among Cuzco's urban poor, with reflections on rural village life, factory work, haciendas, indigenous religion, and marriage and family relationships.

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Paul H. Gelles
  • Preliminary Note to the Original Edition: Ricardo Valderrama Fernández and Carmen Escalante Gutiérrez
  • Gregorio Condori Mamani
    • 1. Beginnings
    • 2. Aeroplanes and Other Beasts
    • 3. Military Tricks
    • 4. Earth Mother, Cropkeeper, and the Three Brothers
    • 5. The Barracks
    • 6. "The Army Isn't Christian"
    • 7. Inkas and Spaniards
    • 8. Stories from Jail
    • 9. Rosa, Josefa, and Miracle Shrines
    • 10. Life with Asunta
    • 11. The Factory
    • 12. We Strappers
  • Asunta Quispe Huamán
    • 13. Running Away from the Hacienda
    • 14. Eusebio
    • 15. "I Stopped Bearing That Cross"
    • 16. Life with Gregorio
  • Postscript: Paul H. Gelles and Gabriela Martinez Escobar
  • Notes
  • Glossary
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Paul H. Gelles is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Riverside. Gabriela Martínez Escobar is a professional ethnographic filmmaker in Berkeley, California.



In the early 1970s, Gregorio Condori Mamani and Asunta Quispe Huamán developed an enduring friendship with young anthropologists Ricardo Valderrama and Carmen Escalante. The two couples were neighbors in a shanty town, Coripata, on the outskirts of the highland city of Cuzco, Peru. The creation of the narratives that follow grew out of their friendship, and also out of Valderrama's ethnographic research on "strappers"—the burdened-down porters who, like human pack animals, transport goods through the streets of highland cities.'

These two testimonial narratives illustrate a wide range of the rural and urban experiences lived by indigenous peoples in the Andean highlands of Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. Although their words and life worlds are mediated by the transcription, editing, and translation processes, the narrators nevertheless provide a rare insider's view of Andean history and society, an alternative and complement to histories, ethnographies, and novels about the highlands. Told with stoicism, humor, and anger, Gregorio's and Asunta's accounts are vivid testimonies to the beauty and the brutality of everyday life in the Andes.

Gabriela Martínez and I have tried to provide a readable and inviting translation, and the following introductory material is not essential reading. It does, however, supply background information on the history and social context of the narratives, on several concepts and institutions presented therein, and on some of our translation goals and decisions. Supplementary material is provided in the Glossary and notes.

Language of the Narratives

Gregorio and Asunta, monolingual Quechua speakers, told their stories in a language that is spoken today by over ten million people in Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, and Argentina. The lingua franca of the Inka Empire, Quechua was a hegemonic tool used to help consolidate the largest indigenous political system ever to develop in the Americas. After their invasion in 1532, the Spanish attempted to colonize the hearts, minds, and tongues of the native inhabitants. While the Spanish were successful in many regards, the Andean highlanders forged a unique synthesis out of their own concepts and institutions and those foisted upon them by the invaders. Although highland peoples were repressed in many ways during the colonial period, the colonizing practices of the Spaniards also helped to spread Quechua.

Today, the variant of Quechua that Gregorio and Asunta used, Southern Peruvian Quechua, is spoken by 90 percent of the population of Cuzco and five other departments in the south-central Peruvian Andes area of Peru (Mannheim 1991:27) and is mutually intelligible with the Quechua spoken in Bolivia and Chile. Yet, while Quechua is one of the few growing indigenous languages in the Americas today, it remains very much an "oppressed" and "fenced-in" language . Despite the fact that the current Peruvian constitution recognizes the country as a bilingual nation, the native language is starved of institutional support. Indeed, Quechua remains a spoken and generally unwritten language. This condition prevails in spite of its increased diffusion through radio and despite the fact that a good many of its speakers live in urban areas and speak, read, and write Spanish. With a few important exceptions, lengthy works are rarely published.

As such, the original 1977 bilingual Quechua-Spanish edition of these narratives, and the many subsequent editions and translations of this work, are noteworthy in several respects. First, these narratives are some of the only indigenous testimonials to be published in Quechua and are among the most widely diffused written texts in the native language. Subsequent bilingual editions of both narratives (1982a, 1992), as well as a recent bilingual edition of just Asunta's narrative (1994), make this work a forerunner in efforts to promote written Quechua and indigenous literacy in the native language.

Second, in terms of literature from or about the Andes, the Spanish translation of the original edition benefited from Valderrama's and Escalante's intimate knowledge of Quechua and Andean lifeways and their sensitivity to the peculiarities of the Andean Spanish spoken by bilinguals in the highlands. The original bilingual edition presented voices seldom heard in Spanish-language publications, in either Peru or abroad . Indeed, after the original publisher issued a second, less expensive, monolingual edition of the Spanish translation in Cuzco (1979), other Spanish editions were issued in Spain (1983a) and Cuba (1987). The two narratives have also been translated into Norwegian (1981), German (1982b), and Dutch (1985), and Asunta's narrative appeared in a German compendium on Latin American women (1983b). The narratives, though never previously translated into English, have also been referred to and excerpted in many English-language publications regarding Quechua language and culture (e.g., Allen 1988, Harrison 1989, Mannheim 1991, Sallnow 1987). The text, then, is one of the most widely diffused pieces of Quechua literature in either the native language or in translation.

Testimonial Narratives and the Process of Authorship

Gregorio's and Asunta's voices, while relatively "authentic," do not come to us unmediated. Testimonial narratives such as theirs and autobiography are hardly native genres in Quechua culture. While there is some prefiguration of the former in the highland cultural experience, autobiography, that is, a written genre concerned with a specific notion of selfhood—the unique individual developing over time—is a Western literary form (see, e.g., Watson and Smith 1992). The testimonial mode is not native to the Andes either; yet it at least offers the possibility for a different notion of self than that found in autobiography.

Testimonial narrative, or testimonio, is a form of collective autobiographical witnessing that gives voice to oppressed peoples. As such, it has played an important role in developing and supporting international human rights and solidarity movements. Testimonio can be defined as "a novel or novella-length written narrative ... told in the first person by a narrator who is also the real protagonist or witness of the events he or she recounts, and whose unit of narration is usually a 'life' or a significant life experience" (Beverley 1992:92). Yet, while testimonio is an affirmation of the individual subject and even of its growth and transformation through time, such a narrative is always linked to marginalized and oppressed social groups. If the narrative loses this connection, it is no longer testimonio but becomes autobiography, that is, "an account of, and also a means of access to, middle and upper class status, a sort of documentary Bildungsroman.... [Testimonio] always signifies the need for a general social change in which the stability of the reader's world must be brought into question" (1992:103).

Moreover, and as seen in the transcription and editorial processes described below, testimonio is a multiauthored text, one that "replaces the 'author' with two aspects of an authorial function: the `speaker' who tells the story and 'listener' who compiles and writes the narrative that is published" (Kaplan 1992:123). Indeed, because the narrator of a testimonio is often a person who is illiterate or, if literate, not a professional writer, the production of a testimonio usually involves the tape-recording, transcription, and editing of an oral account by an interlocutor, often an anthropologist, journalist, or a writer. This relationship is potentially fraught with the contradictions of "high and low culture, dominant and emergent social formations, dominant and subaltern languages" (Beverley 1992:99). Because of its collaborative and intersubjective nature, "testimonio is difficult to classify according to standard bibliographic categories. To what section of a library or a bookstore does testimonio belong? Under whose name is a testimonio to be listed in a card catalog or data base?" (1992:111). Authenticity and artifice combine in complex ways in such works, and the present text is no exception.

Gregorio's and Asunta's spoken words were first mediated by a tape recorder and by their relationship with their interlocutors, Ricardo Valderrama and Carmen Escalante, with whom they clearly enjoyed great trust. Indeed, there is an intimacy between the narrators and their interviewers not often found in the production of indigenous literature or testimonials." Carmen, who met Asunta and Gregorio in the early 1970s, explains this relationship in the following words:

About the interviews with Gregorio and Asunta. The most important thing was a long and disinterested friendship between Ricardo and them, which dates from 1968. Ricardo was a university student and had gone to live on a lot in Coripata that his father had bought so that his children could live in Cuzco, since traveling from San Jerónimo to Cuzco used to take much longer in the past. A sincere and affectionate friendship developed, and Ricardo also helped them with a few of their problems. We developed a solid relationship with them because life had given us the opportunity to meet, to become friends, and to help each other; we never gave a thought to, or even dreamed of, editing their autobiographies.

The interviews in themselves went in two stages. In 1970, Ricardo was an anthropological assistant of Luis Figueroa in the short film The Strapper, and he interviewed a number of strappers, among them Gregorio. To the questions asked of the strappers, Gregorio responds with great lucidity and poetic beauty, providing us with tremendously tragic situations as well as comical anecdotes. We put those tapes to one side, and our friendship with Gregorio and Asunta continued. That short film was successful, and Gregorio and Ricardo appear in it as actors, playing the same roles as they do in real life: Gregorio, a humble strapper exploited by the system, and Ricardo, a poor, provincial student who, instead of using a car or a tricycle cart to move his furniture (a bed and strips of wood for a bookshelf, that is, the few things that a poor student has), hires a strapper, and they talk as they walk the ancient streets of Cuzco. Both are carrying things: Ricardo, his own possessions, and Gregorio, of course, the possessions of someone else. This is the scene in which they appear, but the short feature shows many other scenes of strappers in the imperial city. The short film won the Oberhausen prize in Germany (from a workers' union). Luis Figueroa received a monetary prize that he shared with all who participated, and that's why Gregorio received a sum of money, which Eulogio Nishiyama (a famous Cuzqueiio photographer) administered. Nishiyama is such a kind person that even when this money ran out, he kept giving Gregorio small amounts from his own pocket.

In 1974 we went to Cotabambas, to some cattle-rustling communities, with the goal of collecting several life histories. Ricardo had finished his B.A. degree in anthropology by then and was working as a third-level school teacher with a very low salary (I took my degree in 1975). So, in 1975, while I was taking my final exams and needed to be in Cuzco, Ricardo dedicated himself to his thesis on the ideology of the strappers. He renewed his interviews with Gregorio—and for the first time began interviewing Asunta as well—with the urgent necessity of doing their autobiographies; this time the interviews were oriented to reconstructing their life histories. After some weeks of doing nothing but interviews, we began the translation in June 1975. We did more interviews while, at the same time, advancing with the transcription and translation. In the interviews, it helped that we had them provide more detail on certain passages, amplify certain themes, return to others that they had quickly passed over, or further explain those things that runas understand but which people from an urban habitat do not, and who have to have it explained to them.

Carmen and Ricardo then edited some forty hours of interviews with Gregorio and fourteen with Asunta to produce the present text. The narratives were first transcribed textually, after which the interviewers' questions and many repetitions were excised from the text; it was then edited to present two chronologically ordered narratives. Sentence and phrase boundaries, as well as the paragraphs, were made at the moment of transcription according to the narrators' pauses and the units of meaning discerned by the editors. Paragraphs often mark places where a question previously existed in the tape-recorded originals.

Clearly, then, Gregorio's and Asunta's accounts were summoned forth, mediated, and in a sense "authored" by the interview and transcription process and the editorial decisions—which range from punctuation to the selection of themes and passages for inclusion—made by Valderrama and Escalante. The production of testimonials such as those presented here is thus a complex, heavily mediated, collaborative process. And yet, the stories, words, and witnessing are those of the narrators themselves.

Translation Goals and Glosses

The translation of the narratives into English is a further and perhaps more drastic mediation and refiguration, given the cultural distance between the Quechua-speaking narrators of peasant origin and a North American and European readership. Gabriela and I had as our principal goal an idiomatic translation of the narratives, one that is accessible to a general public and at the same time useful to specialists in Andean and Latin American studies. To this end, we have kept to a minimum the number of untranslated words in the narratives themselves, while at the same time providing supplementary information on the text in the Glossary and notes.

Another translation goal was to capture in English, at least to some extent, a taste of Quechua verbal art (see Beyersdorff 1986, Harrison 1989, Mannheim 1991, Salomon 1991), that is, the "ethnopoetic" dimension of their spoken words (see Tedlock 1983). To achieve this, we have generally—but not always—respected sentence boundaries, as well as parallelisms and other linguistic conventions, found in the Quechua transcription. Strict adherence to this was suppressed, however, when attempts to ensure fidelity made for a more cumbersome and less accessible, more literal and less idiomatic, translation. Again, our main goal has been to provide a text that flows and that communicates in English the ease and naturalness with which the narrators imparted their lives to their interlocutors. In sum, the text effects a compromise between a strict ethnopoetic standard and a relatively "free" translation.

A further objective was to translate as much as possible and to find English equivalents wherever they did not completely distort the meaning of the original. Here again we compromised, leaving certain words in Quechua and explaining these in the Glossary. This was especially true with those terms that refer to institutions (e.g., ayni), foodstuffs (e.g., oca and chuño), and social categories (wiraqucha, runa, and misti) that are unique to the Andean region. A number of notes that provide greater detail on both translated and untranslated concepts and institutions appear at the end of the text. A few of these concepts and institutions invite further discussion.

Running throughout both Gregorio's and Asunta's narratives is the social dynamic between "Indians" (indios) and mestizos, that is, relations between runas and mistis (the Quechua terms). As Allen, in a sensitive ethnography about the Cuzco region, puts it, "Indian-Mestizo interactions are stylized, with language and demeanor emphasizing the power and superiority of the Mestizo and the subservience of the Indian. The Mestizo, for example, calls the Indian 'Hijito,' equivalent to `Sonny' or `Boy'; whereas the Indian, head bowed and shoulders bent, addresses the Mestizo as 'Patrón,' 'Señor,' or 'Wiraqucha' ('Sir')" (1988: a8). The narratives presented here graphically illustrate these kinds of utterances and status distinctions, as well as the racism and asymmetrical nature of social relations that prevail in much of the highlands.

For example, the term wiraqucha, as used by Asunta and Gregorio, could be glossed as "good sir," "mister," "master," "higher-up," "gentleman," "Lord," "mighty," or "wellborn," depending on the context and whether it appears as adjective or noun. These would be poor translations, however, if the reader did not take into account that they must be read in terms of the runa-misti hierarchy and the images of power, dominance, wealth, and whiteness that wiraqucha calls up. Because of this, and because of the different valences of wiraqucha in the narratives—as well as the need to differentiate this term from others such as "master" (patrón) and "mister" (señor or don)—we retain wiraqucha in the text (see Glossary) and in the notes elaborate upon some of its different meanings.

Perhaps even more problematic than those terms left untranslated are those that we have translated for the sake of readability. Mannheim, who discusses the problems of "exuberances" and "deficiencies" when translating Quechua texts, explains that a "deficient translation" is one in which "the categories of the interpreter's language fail to account for significant patterning in the original" (1991:129). And although "exuberances and deficiencies of one kind or another are inherent in any cross-linguistic interpretation" (ibid.), a few of our more "deficient" glosses require further explanation, in particular, those terms repeated throughout the text that carry more meaning than conveyed by their English translations, such as "village", "villager", and "town".

The words "village" and "town" (we also use "family village" and "hometown") are our translations for the Quechua terms ayllu and llaqta, respectively. The meaning of these problematic terms varies over time and space, and as Allen explains in the case of ayllu, "different usages can co-occur in a single community, and any given use of the word seems to make sense only in a limited context" (1988:104). While the original editors, in their Spanish translation, translated llaqta as "town" (pueblo), they left ayllu untranslated and defined it in their glossary as follows: "Andean socio-economic unit constituted by a group of people joined by kinship and occupying a common territory" (Valderrama and Escalante 1977:119).

Salomon, in his introduction to the Huarochiri Manuscript (Salomon and Urioste 1991), a Quechua document that dates from the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century, defines ayllu for that period as a "named, landholding collectivity, self-defined in kinship terms, including lineages but not globally defined as unilineal, and frequently forming part of a multi-ayllu settlement" (Salomon 1991:21). He adds, however, that "ayllu is the name of a concept of relatedness and not an entity with any specific dimensions. It has no inherent limits of scale" (1991:22). The same is true for contemporary ayllus. While ayllu is often used in the literature to describe a bilateral kindred, ayllus are spatially localized in many communities and must be understood in terms of "the personal and intimate relationship that bonds the people and the place into a single unit" (Allen 1988:106).

Moreover, while there are often several "neighborhood ayllus" that make up a highland town or village, the latter can also be thought of as an ayllu; indeed, Allen's glossary definition of this term is an "indigenous community or other social group whose members share a common focus" (1988:257) Whether speaking of a village in Cuzco or of its constituent "neighborhood ayllus," Allen finds that what is key is that "ayllu-mates derive their well-being from the same locality, and through this shared relationship they are set apart as a distinct social unit" (1988:107). Thus, the term ayllu has a strong connotation of affinity and membership and signifies for the individual ayllu member deep emotional ties to the collective. It may help the reader to think about the Andean "village"—our translation of ayllu—as having a "clannish" quality, in the colloquial sense of clan defined by Webster's dictionary: "a group united by a common interest or common characteristics." In sum, the term ayllu describes a relationship between people that can be expressed through locality, descent, or political factionalism."

Llaqta is also a fluid concept. While in everyday speech it can refer to a hamlet, village, town, city, people, or country, llaqta is generally used in the narratives to mean a "town characterized by nucleated rather than dispersed settlement" (1988:260). Salomon shows how the use of the term in the early colonial period expressed a strong bond between what he calls a "place-deity" or "deity-locale," the territory it was imagined as controlling, and the group of people that depended on this territory and who were favored by the local deity. Fuenzalida (1970) has shown how such an identity was reconfigured through the colonial period and through the fusion of Andean and Iberian beliefs, practices, and institutions. The way in which the Roman Catholic saints were incorporated into this communal dynamic is important: today, towns are represented by a patron saint and other lesser saints, and these play an important role in defining personal and communal identities in the highlands.

In terms of the glosses that we have chosen, we believe that when Gregorio uses the word ayllu, which is absent from Asunta's account, he is generally referring to a village type of ayllu, rather than a neighborhood-based ayllu, and we have translated it accordingly ("village"). When it is clear that he is talking about a family unit or neighborhood ayllu, we have translated it as "family" and have provided a note. When the narrators use llaqta, they are generally talking about a strongly nucleated settlement, and we have translated this as "town." While these glosses are, in the terms reviewed above, "deficient," we have been consistent throughout the text in distinguishing the terms ayllu and llaqta by translating them as "village" and "town," respectively.

The reader needs to keep in mind that implicit in the narrators' use of these terms is a sense of kinship, belonging, and participation in terms of the place itself, a spiritual connection that bonds together a people, the town they live in, the surrounding landscape, and the deities that reside there. Andean towns and villages, like their subunits (e.g., "neighborhood ayllus"), provide a strong local sense of identity for their members and are often closely identified with particular saints, as well as with ancestral spirits, mountain deities, and the earth, which are viewed as having both benevolent and malevolent qualities. As providers of fertility and life as well as of disease, death, and destruction, these different protector spirits and emblems of communal identity must be placated by ritual offerings, libations, and religious celebrations. Indeed, the prosperity of each family, village, and community is to a large degree seen as depending on these frequent "gifts." This dynamic, then, is a key feature of ritual practice, social life, and ethnic identity in the Andes.

In much the same way as "village," our translation of the Spanish loanword paisano as "villager", "fellow villager," or "country villager" (and alternatively, where appropriate, as "comrade" and "one of our people") should be read as expressing a kind of cultural, ethnic, class, linguistic, and geographic affinity between the speaker and the person he or she describes. Paisano, as used by the narrators, is in many respects synonymous with runa, that is, a Quechua-speaking indigenous person of peasant origin, except that in general paisano refers to a runa who lives in, or comes from, a rural town or village.

While not all runas live in ayllus, the only people who live in ayllus are runas. As Allen (1988) has shown, only runas have the special sense of place and connection to the land that ayllu connotes: only they—not mistis—are constantly involved in ritual exchanges with the earth and mountain spirits. Here, then, is the correspondence that we are making between our use of "village" and "villager": villagers (paisanos) are rural-based runas who generally live in villages (ayllus) or in the neighborhood family ayllus that make up villages and towns. Yet, what this correspondence glosses over is that some villagers in the narratives live on haciendas (see Glossary), some live in towns (llaqtas) with no ayllu affiliation, and some, like Gregorio, have moved to and reside in large cities. Indeed, a runa, or a "villager," can have several of these affiliations at the same time. What is important for the reader to remember is that, implicit in the narrators' use of the word "villager," is an intimate sense of relatedness with their fellow runas.

As mentioned above and as Asunta's and Gregorio's narratives richly illustrate, "land is experienced as animate, powerful, and imbued with consciousness—a parallel society of Earth Persons with whom one is in constant interaction" (Allen 1988:24). Our glosses for particular deities and religious concepts from native Andean religion are usually explained in the notes. Here it bears mentioning that, while the earth and mountain gods that the narrators speak of are an everyday part of their existence, we have put these Andean deities in capital letters (e.g., Earth Mother, Earth Shade, Sun Father, etc.) to accord them the same status as the Christian God and saints.

Another translation decision concerned the terms qhari and warmi, which mean "man" and "woman," respectively, but which are also used to signify "husband" and "wife" in the sense of common-law marriages. The issue was how to differentiate the status that inheres in these terms from that of formalized, church-consecrated marriages. To this purpose, we have translated qhari and warmi as "husband" and "wife" where appropriate and have translated the status conferred by church-consecrated marriages as "lawfully wedded" wife or husband or as those people "married by the church." The reader should keep in mind that Gregorio and Asunta were each legally married by the church just once—to one another—and that mention of their other "husbands" or "wives" in the text should not be taken as legal, church-sanctioned marriages, but rather as common-law marriages. The same is generally true when they speak of other people's husbands or wives.

Finally, it is important for the reader to keep in mind the topography and environment of the highlands. The city of Cuzco is nearly 11,000 feet above sea level, and Gregorio and Asunta, like millions of other highlanders, live out their lives between altitudes of 7,000 and 15,000 feet. From the small herd steads of the "high reaches" (puna), often flanked by snow-capped peaks reaching 20,000 feet, descending past the agricultural towns and villages at half that altitude in the "warm valleys" (qhiswa), and further down the eastern slopes of the Andes to the tropical rain forests of the "jungle valleys" (yunka), the vertical environment of south-central Peru provides many contrasts. In their travels, Gregorio and Asunta traverse this precipitous landscape under the watchful eyes of Sun Father (Inti Tayta) and Mother Moon (Mama Killa), passing lakes (quchas) and crossing plains (pampas), treading in the shadows of the mountain lords (apus), and paying their respects to the earth shrines that mark the high passes (apachitas). Theirs is a sacred landscape.

The reader can find additional information on these and other glosses, as well as on other concepts and institutions, in the notes. The latter, however, by no means represent a complete inventory of our translation decisions. Nor do we pretend to be exhaustive in our explanations of different terms or in citing relevant bibliographical sources. Rather, the notes are meant to signal—and provide some "thick description" about—a limited number of concepts, institutions, and themes presented in the narratives, as well as to suggest where the interested reader can find more information.

Translation Conventions and Critical Apparatus

Many of the problems of translating Quechua—known as runa simi or "the runa tongue" in the native language itself—to English have been outlined by Harrison (1989), Mannheim (1991), and Salomon (1991), among others; for more detailed discussions, the interested reader should consult these works. Here I will just indicate a few of the conventions that we have followed, as well as signal the ways in which the critical apparatus that accompanies the present translation differs from that of the original bilingual edition.

Because a principal goal of the translation was to translate as much as possible, we have produced a new Glossary, one that has one-third the number of terms as that of the original bilingual edition. We have accomplished this by replacing many of that edition's glossary terms with idiomatic expressions in English and by providing notes. When we do keep Quechua terms or Spanish loanwords (e.g., compadre, cargo) in the narratives, they are italicized the first time they appear and defined in the Glossary; an extra word or two is occasionally supplied in the text to evoke the meaning of the term. A full half of our Glossary terms appear in the first chapter.

Notes that expand on important themes and translation decisions are provided at the end of the text. Where we have drawn on the glossary of the original edition for our Glossary and notes, these contributions are cited as "Valderrama and Escalante 1977." Besides the addition of the notes and a new Glossary, we have provided chapter titles, as well as a Postscript.

The Quechua language "requires the speaker to attach suffixes that clarify his or her relationship to the data conveyed" (Salomon 1991:32). These suffixes indicate whether the information being conveyed has "witness validation" or "reportative validation," that is, whether it was learned through direct experience or is hearsay. As Mannheim has put it, "There is no corresponding grammatical distinction in English, even though we can translate it with a phrase like it is said that or they say. But the suffixes that mark these categories are ubiquitous. If they were translated consistently, most declarative sentences would begin with either it is said or I vouch that" (1991:128-129). We have resolved this in the present work by marking only those sentences that have reportative validation, using "I've heard," "it's said," or "they say." In passages that have a great deal of reportative validation, such as when the narrators are recounting stories that they have heard, we usually put the marker ("I've heard," etc.) just once at the beginning.

As these and our other choices make clear, the translation strikes a compromise between fidelity to the original and readability. Thus, in some places we have suppressed repetition by giving different glosses to a single Quechua word. For example, the verb wikch'uy is translated as "dumped," "cast," "flung," and "tossed" in different passages, and in some cases, the same passage may employ more than one of these glosses. In other passages where we feel that it enhances the reading and provides a more ethnopoetic rendering, we repeat a term to evoke the cadence, tone, and emphasis of the original.

We have generally followed the paragraph breaks in the Quechua transcription, and only occasionally have we supplied these or suppressed the ones found in the original. To a large extent, we have supplied the section breaks in each chapter. As already mentioned, we have generally—but not always—respected sentence boundaries, parallelisms, and other linguistic conventions found in the original. While we have not translated place names, we have translated the names of saints, except when these identify churches or towns. Quechua words are spelled according to the 1985 standardized alphabet for Peruvian Quechua, except for towns, villages, personal names, and certain words that are already conventionally known by some other Spanish-based spelling (e.g., Cuzco rather than Qusqu, olluco rather than ulluku). Rather than use the Quechua pluralizer (-kuna) for untranslated words, we use the English method (e.g., runas instead of runakuna).

Occasionally, the narrators switch to a Spanish phrase in the middle of their Quechua, as when they are quoting someone from the dominant culture, be this an army officer, wealthy landowner, or other misti. We signal these language shifts in the text itself by putting the phrase in italics. However, because of the many Spanish loanwords that appear in the narratives, we use italicized phrases only when it is clearly an imitation of a power holder and when the entire utterance is in Spanish. Many of these shifts are also marked by use of the imperative, as they are usually orders from superiors of one kind or another.

Andean Lives

I would like to conclude by returning to the topic of testimonial narratives. Through their accounts, Asunta and Gregorio speak for the oppressed, marginalized, and largely silenced cultural majority of the Andean countries. Their testimonials are distinctly Andean. They take us inside a unique worldview and historical consciousness, transporting us to a society where the colonial experience lingers heavily in both belief and practice, but where the burden of subjugation is constantly subverted by a story, by a memory of resistance, or by a turn of phrase. Different forms of domination and resistance appear again and again in both narratives.

Yet the lives of Asunta and Gregorio also differed in significant ways, and this is also reflected in their testimonials. While Gregorio grew up an orphan and roamed from country village to country village during his youth, Asunta spent hers on the outskirts of a town near the city of Cuzco. Gregorio's early years tending flocks and working the fields of other peasants and mistis contrast with Asunta's indentured servitude on an hacienda and her work as a maid in misti households. And while her life was spent primarily around the large metropolis of Cuzco, it took Gregorio several years to find his way to the imperial city of his ancestors.

The narratives also differ in that Asunta suffers the double burden of being "Indian" and being a woman. It is also clear from her account that this added discrimination is not limited to runa-misti relations, but that women suffer disproportionately and have an added burden within runa society as well. One of the strengths of the text is that it shows different forms of domination along gender, ethnic, and class lines in both rural and urban areas. From the free services provided for misti landowners, authorities, priests, and educators in the country villages, to the abuses committed by state and church officials in and around the city of Cuzco, the narratives vividly illustrate the discrimination and exploitation to which runas are subjected by local power holders. Whether in rural towns, isolated mines, semifeudal haciendas, or in the houses of their powerful misti masters in Cuzco, Asunta's and Gregorio's depictions of life in these places bear witness to the violence of everyday life in Peru.

While the reasons for the dirty war being fought in the Peruvian countryside since 1980 are complex and many, one of these is undoubtedly the brutal living conditions described in these two narratives. The social landscape of the Cuzco area has changed dramatically since Asunta and Gregorio, now deceased, told their stories. Were they to speak to us today, they would probably tell us of their increasing poverty, of mind-numbing inflation and the rocketing cost of goods, of widespread bloodshed and their fellow villagers being victimized by both the armed forces and Shining Path, of brutality in the countryside that surpasses even the most horrific passages in these accounts here. Yet, while the people for whom Gregorio and Asunta speak continue to shoulder much of the social, political, and economic burdens of Peru, the testimonials presented here attest to their tremendous resilience of spirit and their ability to survive and give meaning to the difficult worlds they inhabit.

P.H.G. 1995



“[This book] represents a remarkable achievement and provides an accessible way for English-speaking students to hear the voices of an oppressed people. . . . This translation records the incredibly difficult lives of people like Gregorio and Asunta and thus constitutes a monument to their struggles. 'Through their accounts, Asunta and Gregorio speak for the oppressed, marginalized, and largely silenced cultural majority of the Andean countries.' Highly recommended for undergraduate libraries.”

“It brings to life the words, worldview, and historical consciousness of Gregorio and Asunta, who impart their accounts with stoicism, humor, and anger. Their descriptions of life in rural villages, isolated mines, semifuedal haciendas, and the houses of their powerful Misti masters in Cuzco are eloquent testimonies to the beauty and brutality of everyday life in the Andean highlands.”
Translation Review

“A highly readable book. The testimonies are vivid and intimate accounts of the brutality and exploitation experienced by landless Indians in the Andes. They also reflect the patience, humour, determination and defiance of these people. . . . As they tell their stories, we see the complexity of Andean culture, ethnic and gender relations and Peruvian history. Our understanding of the significance of Gregorio's and Asunta's testimonies are aided by the annotation and glossary provided by Gelles and Martínez. The annotation, which makes reference to many recent works, is particularly useful and would make this book a good starting point for teaching students about the Andes. This book will also be of use to those interested in the writing of ethnography and oral history.”
Bulletin of Latin American Research

Andean Lives is a superb book, highly recommended for readers of all levels of expertise and interest in South America. . . . [It] will serve as a wonderful introduction on the undergraduate level to Andean history and culture, and could also be used in a general Latin American Studies course. The book is completely appropriate for advanced courses such as history or anthropology graduate seminars focused on the modern Andean region, as well as literature or culture classes concerned with problems of translation, cross-cultural relations, or oral history. The work is also entirely suitable for general readers. The smooth and open quality of the translation and its ability to draw the reader into the world and life experiences of the speakers deserves the highest accolades.”
Latin American Indian Literatures Journal

“One of the most beautiful and moving books that I have read on Andean life.”
R. Tom Zuidema, author of Inca Civilization in Cuzco