The Story of the Old Man and the Inhospitable Town

Huaypo Lake by Night

One morning, while looking for fruit I made my way to the San Blas market. I went to the stand of the casera Lourdes. Her stand is inside the market and I asked her to sell me some apples. She offered me three varieties: a green Chilean one, a red one, and the perito.

This last was small and I asked her where it was from. She said, “it is from my garden. I have my property in Chinchero and on it I have five apple trees. It is very sweet.”

She invited me to taste it and while I was eating her friend came up. I realized they had been talking before I got there and Lourdes had been telling her a story.

She said, “Inside lake Huaypo there is a submerged town. Once upon a time, though, there was a large hacienda in it. One afternoon its owner had prepared a fiesta that included a banquet but he had only invited the other hacienda owners. They were all drinking and dancing. They had eaten abundantly all the best in meats.

“A dirty old man, hungry and asking for food and water, arrived but the people from the party turned him away because of his appearance. He was leaving resigned to more hunger when the cook from the hacienda came out after him feeling badly.

“When she reached him she pulled from her q’ipi, her carrying cloth, some chicha and food left over from what the hacienda’s workers had eaten. ‘Thank you’ he said. ‘You are good, how can I pay you?’ The cook said, ‘don’t worry about it.’ Seeing her traditional dress of colorful skirts, her hat, and he q’ipi he asked “where is your home?’ She responded by showing with her hand ‘behind that hill.’

“Looking carefully at her, the old man said, ‘I am also going that way. What time do you get off work?

“ ‘When the sun is just about to hide itself’, she responded.

“ ‘Well then I will wait for you and we can walk together.’

“ ‘Thank you’, she said, ‘that’s ok.’

“The old man stretched out in front of the hacienda on the grass and waited for the cholita, the traditionally dressed cook to come out.

“Once she came out the went away walking together. Just as they were ready to cross over the side of the hill the old man stopped and asked her, “do you have a yauri?”

“She pulled a very sharp yauri from her hat and the old man pushed it half way into the earth. He looked in the cholita’s eyes and said “don’t turn around even if you hear shouts and laments.’

“She stood up and started walking away. She had almost passed the hill completely when curiosity grabbed her and she turned around to see where all the cries were coming from. She saw that the whole town had been flooded. Then she turned towards where the old man had been and he was gone. At that moment she was turned to stone.”

Mrs. Lourdes’ story left me astounded, the same as her friend. I asked her were she had heard the story and she said, “in Chinchero people know this story and they always tell it when they are close to the lake. Today you can see the top of the hill and it looks like a woman stretched out.”

Lake Huaypo is located in the district of Chinchero, in the province of Urubamba, department of Cusco.

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