Peasant Autonomy
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Story 80

A mountain village in Peru – around 1930 (2)

Misitu, the holy bull

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(Photo: Common use)


“Quickly, Kokchi, run to warn Misitu.” The K'oñanis look at Kokchi with tears in their eyes, and then he's gone. He walks behind the farm, and then bent through the bushes in the direction of the gorge of the Negromayo. He has a little bag with coca leaves with him, and a wakawak'ra, a horn to blow. In the distance don Julián is coming up the pampa, on his fiery white horse, together with a whole group of overseers, mestizos, all on horseback. But luckily Kokchi is still in time, and arrives at the gorge unseen.

In the past this was all Indian area, with a lot of Indian villages. Till, all of a sudden mistis, distinguished white men from Lima (the capital of Peru), arrived, drove off all the Indians, and occupied the land to raise livestock. The K'oñanis are the only Indians who still live here, on the border between the pampas and the mountains. They work on the farms of the mistis, they grow there the forage, and herd the animals.
Kokchi is a cowboy on a farm of don Julián. But he is also a layk'a, a sorcerer, who can talk with animals. And that's why he has to warn the wild bull Misitu. For the Indians he is a holy animal, living all alone in the forests of the gorge. A gift to them from the auki, the holy mountain, Ak'chi. Already for years the K'oñanis warn everyone who passes by here to beware of Misitu, because he is ferocious, and attacks everyone.

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Andrea Dunlap)


When the K'oñani heard the rumour that don Julián would come to catch Misitu for the yearly bullfight in his town, they were deeply grieved at the thought of losing their holy bull. Their village, the pampas, would be desolate without their Misitu. But Kokchi knew what to do.
When don Julián and his men are sleeping that night, they are awakened by a piercing sound coming from the direction of the gorge. Wauooh, wauooh, wauh, it sounds mournfully. Every time it starts again. In the darkness a few Indians creep toward the overseers, and whisper to them that Misitu is sad for the horses he will kill tomorrow. Perhaps your horse, taita, master.

When the group of horsemen departs for the gorge the next morning, the Indian women weep and sing a death song for the men, some of whom certainly will not return alive. “Stop that stupid singing,” don Julián growls. But the overseers are already scared. When they arrive in the gorge, get a first glimpse of Misitu, and hear the dismal sound of the wakawak'ra, they panic and dig their spurs into their horses' flanks. The white horse of don Julián starts trembling, and then gallops after the other horses.


The marvellous novel Yawar Fiesta (Blood Festival, 1941) from the Peruvian writer José María Arguedas depicts the life of Indian peasants and farm labourers. As a child Arguedas lived for several years in an Indian family, and learned there to speak Quechua fluently.

Go to:
= part 1: The road - a village in Peru – 1930 (1), story 79.
= the next page: Discord in the village - a village in Kenya – about 1930, story 81.
= the Table of contents, story 80.