Parawayraq Chawpinpi / Entre la lluvia y el viento. Washington Córdova Huamán. Lima: Pakarina. 2019. 314 pages.
In his collection of poems Katatay, José Maria Arguedas speaks of the way that poetry written in Quechua uses language to highlight an intense connection between man and nature. The individual words that are used, suggests Arguedas, are laden with life: experiences and sensations, memories and ideals, suffering and vindication. Parawayraq chawpinpi / Entre la lluvia y el viento [Between the rain and the wind] (2019) by Washington Córdova Huamán evokes this same Quechua world described by Arguedas. The text takes the form of a vast, lyrical song, situated between the rain and the wind; it is a vital expression not only of human existence, but also of “legendary peoples” and an ongoing search for freedom.
Córdova is immersed in a battle between Quechua and Spanish, a dynamic that is clear throughout the book: both languages appear in the dedication, though Spanish predominates in the “First Epitaph.” Bilingual songs follow in the collection. It is the very first utterance, however, that constructs the rules for the work as a whole: the dedication is offered to the characters that populate the text, the peoples “vanquished” by “heinous” invaders. The principal voice in the collection is an intermediary, whose intellectual power allows him to closely approach the long-denied hope of the indigenous nations. This voice comes from a low, deep, and earthy place, launching a scream of protest from the sacred land: “And in those corners of oblivion/ the people lift up/ chanting the hymns of morning.” As Córdova explains, Quechua poetry expresses the pain of an Earth in continual contact with man: “You have hurt Pachamama/ extracting her veins.” The peoples lifted up by the text don’t only consist of farmers, workers, and teachers—the proletariat members of an idyllic future, reclaiming of the once defeated—but also watchful Gods, the rivers, the sky and the hummingbird. In this way, Córdova proposes a radical divergence between the hegemonic bourgeoise, wretched and full of betrayal, and the peoples that share their ancestral ideals and wisdoms.
The Quechua poetry of Parawayraq chawpinpi articulates an alliance with the vanquished. The author reaffirms his social class from a perspective that is both aesthetic and critical, as in the poem “Abyecto”: “You defend the imperial bourgeoise/ and with your stained hands/ continue to spill blood.” The alliance formed by the author and the indigenous nations seeks to combat diverse forms of oppression. For example, the local indigenous groups were forced to stay silent and comply with the conquerors’ orders: “They silenced our voices/ and tried to suffocate our breath,/ drowning our song in blood.” But the silence is not permanent and fails to diminish indigenous power. The peoples’ voice looks for ways to escape, alive and resurgent: through the melodies of the wind, shouting, banging, roaring, my song. The result is a “genuine expression of silence” that looks to reclaim “everything, everything that’s been taken from us.” The silence/voice of the vanquished is the hope for justice constructed in accordance with the knowledge of these Andean peoples: “In this shaded afternoon/ when the apathy grows/ and my song grows indignant.” It’s a song drowned in blood, a song of voices silenced and suffocated. Because of this, the crickets, the lightning, the rainbow, and the Amaru join in the fight of the Quechua, of the “legendary peoples.”
The rupture of this silence is one way to revive Quechua. In the book, the indigenous language interrupts and isolates the hegemonic Spanish. The writing in Quechua comes from an autonomous voice; nevertheless, it has to coexist with the structure of a book written in Spanish. In spite of that, the poet translates himself, just as Arguedas did, so that his voice isn’t subject to other intermediaries, just as Julio Calvo argues at the end of the collection. The bilingualism of Parawayraq chawpinpi or Entre la lluvia y el viento has two separate aims: the call to others (in the case, Spanish-speakers), and an affirmation of the power of Quechua-speakers: “The courage of the vanquished / aligned decisions.” “Eaqchakunaq kallpanmi/ ruwaykunata ñawincharqa.” Moreover, the languages serve as a dialogue in the literary tradition between socialist and indigenous causes. Verses with mentions of Vallejo, Arguedas, Scorza, Neruda, Mariátegui, Fico Garcia and Victor Jara form part of the collection’s universe. These references are not fleeting; rather they strengthen the message of redemption. The characters created by these writers—El Misitu and Paco Yunque, for example—live within the pages of Parawayraq chawpinpi and coexist with el Qorilazo, the snake and the plants, and their stories.
After publishing Parawayraq chawpinpi in the Colleción Tlakatlpacha Poesía from Pakarina Ediciones, Washington Córdova won the Peruvian government’s 2020 National Literature Award. This is not a trivial detail: it demonstrates an idea put forward by Ulises Juan Zevallos Aguilar in his scholarship on Quechua literature. Poetry permits indigenous authors to intervene in the public sphere and fight for their rights. Parawayraq chawpinpi is a book that seeks not to be ornamental with its language, but rather fight for the construction of an indigenous culture within the hostile environment of Peruvian society. Córdova’s work, sung in two voices, defeats silence and reminds us that we are children of the wind: “llaqtaq wawan kaqtiykun.”
Alex Hurtado Lazo
Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos
Translated by Travis Price