High in the Andes

Down in town, checking out another of the new cybers, which have sprung up like mushrooms after a spring rain since the last time we were in the town of Carhuaz, Peru a year and a half ago. Unlike Banos, Ecuador, which we have visited at least once a year since we discovered it, 32 years ago, our time in Carhuaz has been interrupted and rejoined during several intensive stretches.

We first came here in 1979, before  marrying the Peruvian Princess we met in Cuzco. It was, in fact, she who brought us up here in the first place. The Princess had been living in Europe, for one long interlude in Geneva as the kept mistress of a Swiss banker until she was arrested and deported for stealing a Raggedy Ann type doll from a toy store, a traumtic incident she would never fully recount, only allude to.

When she arrived back in Peru she discovered that her closest rabble-rousing Lima girlfriend had hitched her wagon to a dissolute, alchoholic washout from the New Age movement, who had inherited several million from his Italo-Peruvian family, and was trying to drink it away while escaping from cruel civilization high in the mountains. At that time Carhuaz, and indeed the entire Callejon de Huaylas valley in which it is situated, was becoming quite popular with back-to-nature counter-culture refuges, especially from Europe.  The land was cheap, and fantastically fertile – anything will grow. Inventive adobe and white plaster hobbit-hole style hippy houses began sprouting out of the incredibly lush mountainsides, and the Princess, with the Dowbrigade in tow, settled in for an extended summer as a high energy interloper, gate crashing the sustainable and decidedly non-western world of indigenous Americans high in the Cordillera.

As an anthropologist the Dowbrigade was simultaneously exhilerated to finally be living with the Indians, not dropping in to take a couple of months worth of notes and write up an enthnographical paper or tract, but actually living as a (marginally) accepted part of the community, and aghast at the almost complete lack of understanding on the part of the Princess as to exactly what she was experiencing, the cultural and human significance of this alternate version of the world we were privaledged to participate in.

To her, it was more like an extended stay at an Indian-themed summer camp, practicing crafts, cooking over a wood stove, growing our own vegetables. She hung out with an irresolute gang of mestizo wastrels down in the town, who because of the Spanish component of their racial heritage felt (and were treated) as being somehow “superior” to the Indians. This superiority translated mostly into a conviction that the world owed them a living, and that therefore they needn

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