Today is Cuzco’s Day, the culmination of a month of festivities and its celebration of self with the massive Inti Raymi pageant drawn from the writings of Garcilaso Inca de la Vega. Cuzco Eats wishes to join the celebration in a salute to the city of passion and tradition. To honor the city and region we publish here a translation of the important poem “Song to Cuzco and its Holy Stones” by Cuzco’s native son el Cholo Nieto (Luís Nieto Miranda).
Song to Cuzco and its Holy Stones
By Luis Nieto Miranda (translated by David Knowlton)
Cuzco, flower and whip of the Nation’s air.
Cuzco of sun and flute, bell-tower of dawn:
here I leave you a wind of stars from my sky
so that songs drop like leaves on your breast.
Here you instill pride in two thousand Indian warriors
to form your guard.
Here I offer you a pedestal of centuries
on which to place your statue.
Here days open a parade of dawns
to illuminate your march.
Here I bring you, Cuzco, the laurels of America
to crown your head
and my people’s love in the light of glory
that illuminates your face.
Here you have me free with my burning years,
with my flag from before, my song from forever,
with the fiery song of my highland ñujchos
and the hurricane of condors my hand loosens.
Here with my bright stars in battle formation.
Here with my lighting, here with my guitar.
I sing your light, your shaft of resounding heart,
I sing the ancient silence of your heroic walls
and the tremendous flower of your golden temples.
I sing the song of your glory. I sing to your Empire’s sun.
I sing your Incan descent, your warrior banner.
I sing the centuries-long dreams of your sleeping stones.
Your stones! Solitudes! A long temblor of wings
peoples the absence of your ancient pupils.
When night falls from the eagles’ eye,
they throw into the air their poppy’s complaint
which opens and trembles, mute like a shadow’s flower.
I know what they talk about. I know what they say.
I know the sorrow that falls from their sphinx-like faces.
In each of those stones lies a captive Inca,
a princess who awaits her youthful Indian archer,
a bird that trembles with its star in its beak,
a flute which cries, a horn which roars,
a condor that shakes storms of the wing,
a chief who brings the moon on his sling,
a runner with his bundles of leagues and distances,
an air of doves, a lark that sings.
In every eternal stone there is the pull of country,
a river of memories pours from its nests,
a fire’s brilliance that your hands bore
and a moon’s branch that exiles its tear.
But I think now of the sweet laborers
who built lyrical terraces of song.
I think of the magical hand of those potters
who filled with music your holy vessels,
of the wisdom of the ancient wise men,
of the golden foliage of your stony palaces,
of the Great Willaj-Uma surrounded by mysteries,
of the evening eyes of Indian princesses,
of the pained queens and wounded flutes,
of the broken romance knitted by Ollanta
and that Cusi-Koillor crowned with pain.
I think of the grave Inca, of his armored escort
of lightning and stars, of condors and eagles,
of the pilgrim stars that illuminated his hand,
of the Aclla virgins that wove wreathes
of dreams and hymns for his royal cloak.
I think of the chiefs who would come to Cusco
by the four roads of the great Tawantinsuyo
carrying in their pupils their silver idols,
to take home with them the gold of Qori Cancha
a sparkle of the Sun’s glory in their looks.
I think with my blood loosened in furies
in the metallic eco of sonorous horse shoes
from the epic mounts of the conquistadors,
of the Empire’s God trampled in the dust,
of the defeated race, of Kosko in flames,
of the temples in ruins, of the golden sanctuary
that the hunger and envy of the beasts sacked.
I think of the vengeance lit on the mountain passes
by Manco and his brigade of arrows and drums
and that Túpac Amaru fighting among arquebuses,
the liberator’s new flag ensign.
Let your star burn, Cuzco, your day of hope.
In America’s breast burn your five lamps.
The rain of ash, the years, the swords,
never snuffed out your battle’s light.
I was born from the bandurria that makes your blood shine.
I carry your whip, your beating shadow.
Your wind of bells sings in my eyes.
Your guitar’s flower climbs up my throat.
I am a child of your loins, city of sun and star,
ancient sacred city, capital of my America.
But I am also the son of my crags’ condor,
who with one wing stroke illuminated my paths.
That’s why I’m the only one bitten by nostalgia,
frightened of absences, and conqueror of dawn
with a sky of birdsong chatting with me on the wing.
I will leave your banks. I will carry in my heart
a painful thorn from your old wood.
I will carry your stones’ imperial silence,
a spark of the song that in my blood burns of you,
light from your ancient gaze,
your crown of goodbyes woven from your tears,
your voice that sounds the echo of the larks’ march,
your breezy fragrance, your silver’s splendor,
your fiesta’s dawn, your tower of pigeons,
your wandering moon, your dove’s love,
I will carry you on my eyelid, rainfall of corollas,
dew’s musical, desolation of dawn,
the last resounding ring of your María Angola.
But I leave you, oh Kosko, this armored song,
my proud melody of metals and huaynos,
and my burning love to the sound of charangos.
I leave you everything, my thundering flag–
a combative flag born among two blazes,
my horizon of lamps, my sky of singing finches,
the romantic secret of your errant swallows,
my traveler’s kerchief stretched out to the breeze,
my heart that trembles on the sheaf
that always sounds of wounds and memories.
I leave in your hands my castle of dreams
beating from birds and bleeding dawns.
I leave on your forehead, untied from concerns,
my sewing of poems, this wind of verses,
so that on a free day when drunk on songs,
flying from your eyes they may shoot in the sky
these new paths to inscribe your name.
Aclla. The holy women who wove and made chicha in the inca Empire.
bandurria. A mandolin-like instrument with many strings typical to Cuzco
Cusi Collor. The daughter of Pachacutec Inca in teh drama Ollanta and the love interest of its hero
huaynos. Popular indigenous song style.
Kosko. A variant spelling of Cuzco to more closely approximate the Quechua Qosqo.
Manco. The rebel Inca who broke with the Spanish and retreated down river to the area near Machu Picchu. As a result, after the Spanish invasion a small, rebel Inca government contined for some 80 years.
María Angola. One of the main bells of the Cathedral with its own mythology.
ñujchos. Red flowers offered to the Lord of Temblors
Ollanta. The hero of a colonial Quechua drama widely performed.
Qori Cancha The temple of the sun, now the convent of Santo Domingo
Tawantinsuyo. The land of the four divisions or the Inca Empire.
Túpac Amaru. The last of the rebel Incas and an 18th century rebel who almost defeated the Spanish.
Willaj-Uma. The high priest or wise man