Customs, Literature, Travel

The Condemned Roam the High Mountains of Peru

A Glacier Around Cuzco (Walter Coraza Morveli)

The condemned wanderers, the ones we call condenados, are very famous in legends from many of Peru’s communities. Some people call them fantasmas, something like ghosts. In reality they are condemned souls who must roam the earth until they have finished their punishment or could fulfill that which does not let them rest in peace.

Many hold that the condenados roam in places that are removed from towns and communities, such as up in the mountains where ordinary people almost never go. The highest mountains are where there are strong winds and much cold. Their peaks are covered in snow and that is where they say the condenados go to pay their debts, their condemnation.

We have many stories of the condemned. For example, when people have to pass near the peak of Ausangate to go to other towns it was said that the road was very difficult. If you had to travel at night, you had to close your windows well and make sure all the doors were locked whether on cars or buses. If you did not then the condenados could enter and eat you.

Some cars that traveled this route without knowing these stories were never seen again because they were devoured by the condenados and fell into the great and immense canyons that one finds in the area.

Onetime, a passenger bus from one of these rural towns passed by the high mountain at three am. The driver tolda ll teh passengers to make sure all the Windows were closed and to block them with the curtains or some other way.

Suddenly there was a knocking on the bus door as if there were someone outside. When people did not pay attention, suddenly pounded started on all the bus’ windows so that the passengers would be fooled into looking out and in that way be tricked into opening the door so they could be eaten.

One passenger did look out the window and it saw the condenados; they were men in chains with limbs and such from different animals, such as dogs, and with donkey heads. It was frightful. The man stood up and started for the door to open it for people. They yelled at him and grabbed him until they were able to knock him out so that he could not open the door.

On seeing that the door did not open, the condenados tried to push the bus to force it down the side of the cliff. At that moment the sun was starting to come up and, as a result, the bus was able to finish that stretch of road and arrive at its destination.

Afterwards a different route was engineered to allow people to go through both in the day and the night. But the condenados still roam those high peaks waiting for someone who dares to pass by in order to eat them.

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