Tata Noah: A Peruvian Family Tale
He was not very tall, but he was considered more Indigenous that other people from our country. His skin was almost white, like a Creole’s, and his eyes were the color of the sky. Some of his children took the same eye color. He was my Tata Noah, the grandfather of my father, chief of Indigenous communities of Mollepata and Mollebamba. He was always working, whether in the fields that the villagers had dedicated to him, or at home using our machine to make ice cream with fruit. It was what I liked best as a child; the frozen fruit was so diverse and delicious. I always remember my grandfather Noah in the largest room of the house, with his ice cream maker.
The favorite of all Tata Noah’s children was my grandfather, his eldest son, who followed the tradition of our ancestors and married his first cousin, who gave birth to my father. I became his favorite when I was born.
I heard my Mamacona Herlinda say that Tata Noah cried when I was born because I was bleeding in the eye. He went into the hills for several weeks to conduct a ceremony to the ancestors and to ask our Apus (spiritual leaders) to heal me of what I was born with. He was gone for a month, and when he returned, he was very emaciated by fasting for his beloved grandson, but he was happy because the coca leaf had indicated to him that it was a sign: it was the beginning of the era of the condor, and this knowledge is a legacy, known only to the elect people of panakas, transmitted from generation to generation as a duty.
My friend was named Yume, which means, "He who keeps the sacred." I gave him another name: Tachito, because of his stooped and silent gait, and he always called me "Child." I do not know why. After that, all the people called me "the Child." Why could they not call me by my name, like everyone else? When we went down to the communities where my Mamacona Herlinda had her fields, all the people there called me "The Child." Every morning a man named Eulalia brought me milk from alpacas, and I would drink it still warm. He would say, "My daughter Herlinda, I brought this milk for the Child." And then she took us to the kitchen, where we were invited to eat the cushalito, a potato soup with spices.
My Tata Noah was old, but was always was traveling to the Apus of the Cordillera Blanca to bring ice from the glacier make the ice cream. He would leave the town of Santiago with his herd of llamas, donkeys, and horses to bring the ice down. It was a beautiful sight: my Tata with his particular attire, his poncho brown with gold edging out, hurrying toward the snowcapped mountains. All the people from the town would face toward Cabracay to see him off, waving.
My grandfather walked with a very long stick adorned with many allegories. Tata Noah told me long ago that it represented our true nation, which was all unknown, because many of those living in the village had given in to the viciousness of the white people and did not follow the customs of our fathers. That hurt my Tata, so when I arrived, he ever and ever told me many things and stories of our nation, which was not recognized by the whites. He made me grab the big stick of authority as chief Apu, symbolizing the only legacy we had for our nations, and he told me that I had to realize their dreams because his body would turn to dust again.
The day he left this world is a painful memory. His body had the smell of flowers and he had a big smile. I did not get the big stick of our nations, because I thought at the time that it should remain in the hands of my great grandfather, because our nations were still slaves in the Western world. I only said, “Goodbye, Tata Noah.”
Juan Esteban Yupanqui Villalobos is a direct descendant of the Inca’s Panaca of Tupac Yupanqui, ruler of Tawantisuyu. He was arrested and jailed as belonging to armed rebel groups for helping Indigenous communities in Jaén and San Ignacio defend their forests from international logging concessions, but was eventually released when the charges could not be proved. His poetry has been published in several languages, and he maintains his own website at http://juanestebanyupanqui.blogspot.com/
Our website houses close to five decades of content and publishing. Any content older than 10 years is archival and Cultural Survival does not necessarily agree with the content and word choice today.