Historias para nuestro futuro

Veber, Hanne, ed. Historias para nuestro futuro: yotantsi ashi otsipaniki : narraciones autobiográficas de líderes Asháninkas y Ashéninkas. Copenhague: Grupo Internacional de Trabajo sobre Asuntos Indígenas, 2009.

Veber has put together a fascinating collection of oral histories that cover the lives and struggles of seven Asháninka organizers from the Selva Central. Inspired by Wolf’s dictum, this volume seeks to enrich the growing body of literature about Selva Central history by introducing indigenous personal histories in juxtaposition against the documentary evidence marshaled by the usual suspects in asháninka historiography: Barclay, Santos Granero, Fernández, Hvalkof, Varese, etc.

The seven informants whose accounts comprise this volume were or are all leaders of regional indigenous organizations. Miguel Camaiteri, from Oventeni in the Gran Pajonal, served as secretary of defense for his community in their struggle to gain recognition as a Comunidad Nativa. He later worked with the Central de Comunidades Nativas de la Selva Central and became a crucial agent on the defense of bilingual rights and language education in the Gran Pajonal. He was also one of the leaders responsible for organizing the rondas campesinas that fought Sendero Luminoso and the MRTA through the late 1980s and early 1990s. (10) When Miguel was elected regidor of the town of Atalaya, his brother, Pascual, a leader in his own right, took over the chairmanship of the Organización de los Ashéninkas del Gran Pajonal (OAGP).(12) As the regional president of CECONCEC in Chanchamayo and Perené, Miqueas Mishari was a crucial ally of the Camaiteris and was himself responsible for expanding the organization through the Selva Central. (12) Bernardo Silva Loayza, another activist working in Atalaya, served as a militant in (OIRA) and now works as president of the Empresa Comunal Indígena de Atalaya La Minga”, while Vicente Ñaco, Adolfo Gutiérrez and Agusto Capurro were all members of other regional organizations.

The personal histories were gleaned through unstructured interviews conducted in Spanish, with the exception of Agusto Capurro, who chose to tell his story in Ásháninka in recognition of his community’s (Pampa Mishi in Chanchamayo) commitment to preserving the language as an integral part of their quotidian life.  Because Capurro appears in the court cases I am analyzing, I will focus on his story.

Capurro opened his account with the different ways his people and the arriving colonos had of naming. His grandfather, one of the early inhabitants of Pampa Michi, was named Kenchori, but the colonos gave him a last name and a title, calling him Kenchori Koraka Capitán (Koraka being a bastardization of curaca). Pampa Michi, named for the explorer Mitchel (Barclay 1989), was called nampitsi by Capurro’s people. He then explained the various toponyms given to the surroundings of Pampa Michi and told the story of how the hill in front of his village, Pamoroitoni, got its name (for more examples of this, see Santos-Granero). He then explained the union of his parents, the death of this grandfather, and the arrival of Mitchel, Whaley and Silva, followed by the Peruvian Corporation. In this last instance, naming is again a significant historical event, this time acted out by the British, who called the territories of the Perené by the names of the early explorers Mitchel, Whaley and Silva.

Capurro’s account was then broken into three general tales, the first and most substantial focused on a kind of origin story that detailed the early encounters between the people of the Selva Central and the outsiders.  The story wielded three major archetypes (the colonos, the monolithic asháninka and their individualized leaders), which served the didactic function of demonstrating for future leaders how to properly live up to the position of chief (Capurro’s mention of future generations of leaders 177, 193-194), and his narrative set up a noteworthy dichotomy in the figures of two chiefs: Cipriano and Maringama. Cipriano, an asháninka (Veber’s explanation of asháninka and ashéninka) warrior of the Chanchamayo, was taken prisoner as part of a plot hatched during one of the military incursions into the area. The account adhered to a Benjaminian sort of messianic time, so it is not clear whether those troops were Spanish or Peruvian soldiers, but the commander, comandante Poco, played synecdoche for the whole of invading outsiders. Poco’s plot was to capture and assimilate an asháninka man that could then return and rule his tribe, advocating for peace with the soldiers and colonos all the while. Cipriano was that man, the first to learn Spanish and wear the newcomers’ garb, the one who was destined to institute detent between the long-warring colonos and asháninka.

Maringama, on the other hand, was a warrior of the ashéninka from the Gran Pajonal. In the events leading up to Cipriano’s capture, the account goes, Maringama was asked to lead the asháninka. He traveled to the Chanchamayo and accepted the invitation to lead, promising that he and his warriors would defeat the invaders. On the night of his arrival to Pampa del Carmen (today La Merced) the two communities celebrated their alliance and planned a great assault on the troops up river at San Ramón. However, the following morning, as the men of Pampa del Carmen were recovering from the night’s festivities, the soldiers launched an attack and abducted Cipriano.

After a year of assimilation among the soldiers, Cipriano returned baring clothing, tools and cookware to try and convince Maringama and the rest of his community that peace could be had with the soldiers and colonos, though Maringama could not abide a truce with the outsiders after the amount of bloodshed his people had endured.

Capurro’s narration told of the peaceful means by which Cipriano and Maringama, along with their respective communities, diverged vis á vis their relationship to the newcomers. While Maringama returned to his people and their relative isolation on the Gran Pajonal, Cipriano became chief of the asháninka of the Chanchamayo and continued to forge bonds with comandante Poco and his men, all the while plying his own people with the material rewards reaped through the relationship. The alliance between comandante Poco and Cipriano was said to be the origin of conviviality (Mbembe) in the Selva Central, and to close this account, Capurro again referred to the creation of toponyms. Marking discursive space as a corollary of territorial conquest (Said), Capurro’s account tells of the increasingly Hispanicized landscape that emerged from the union of Cipriano and comandante Poco and the increasing estrangement of Cipriano’s people from those of Maringama.

Con el tiempo nacieron muchos otros nombres, así como: El Río Toro, Quimiri, Limón Pata, Vaquería, Río Colorado, Pueblo Pardo, Puñizás, Villa Rica, Oxapampa, Paucartambo, que es el río de la sal. Allí en la unión del río Chanchamayo con el Paucartambo se forma ya el río Perené. Así iban formándose los pueblos de los colonos. Los militares informaron a sus superiores de Lima y todos conocieron por la noticia que los “chunchos” campas ya fueron vencidos por medio de su jefe koraka Cipriano, que aceptaron no matar y aceptaron terminar la guerra entre colo- nos y campas, así que hoy hay paz, la zona está libre para hacer trabajos libremente, para agricultura y ganadería, ya que son tierras muy buenas. (187)

After relating this episode, he then took Veber into the realm of his own life experience, beginning with the arrival of Hermenegildo Cossio Lambert, who, as a functionary of the Ministry of Foment led expeditions and colonization efforts along the Perené between Concepción and Satipo. In the wake of the powerful 1947 earthquake, Cossio was tasked with finding a new route to reconnect with the town of Satipo, which remained cut off in the devastation. (note 11) The area Cossio surveyed became the site of intensive colonization at his own urging and by the mid 1950s Cossio had become president of the first group of colonists. Capurro claimed that he was the first scout to accompany the surveyors and told of the frenzied land grabbing that, as part of the survey team, he sometimes oversaw. (189) His strategic position as narrator also betrayed some ambiguity as he spoke with pride and not a bit of regret about the asháninkas’ participation, or lack thereof, in the quick subdivision and settlement that followed the state’s recovery of Peruvian Corporation lands in 1965. On the one hand he juxtaposed the lascivious colono plot mongering against a more noble representation of the asháninka as distant “observers” (189) of the land spectacle. But at the same time he attributed the lack of asháninka participation in the land grab to their innocence or naiveté. (189) His position then gained clarity when he lamented how he, once finally becoming chief, fought to get a parcel for his community, and in the end could “only get the state to give me [not us] 118 hectares of land”. (189, note 7, Barclay 1989, directory of titles, and CSJJ 397-1970 and 51-1970, lots of confusion about the land amounts)

Finally, and with much less narrative structure, Capurro, closed his account by commenting on asháninka leadership and his own stature as the founder of Pampa Michi. He recounted with cursory detail the conflict he and his people had with Samuel Reyter and the time he was jailed in Tarma for what he described as his efforts to protect his people’s territory.