13 July 2012

Ibarra 2

“I also know New York. I also know Miami,” said Don Pepe. “My son worked in those cities.”

Don Pepe was the owner of the Hotel Imbabura. Don Pepe was a very old man with white hair who walked slowly with a cane. His eyes were green and lively and because I could talk Spanish he wanted to talk with me. We had been talking about the United States and about places we had both lived in.

“This is my son, Osvaldo.” Don Pepe introduced me to a man who had approached as we were speaking and I shook his hand and we greeted each other.

Osvaldo had lived in Queens, in Flushing, and had operated a limousine service between the airports. Flushing was an ugly place to live, he said, and he had not liked living there. He worked very hard but New York was too expensive. Then he moved to Miami and lived in Brickell. Brickell was a nice place but he did not like Cubans. The Cubans ran Miami. He did not like Cubans at all. Puerto Ricans he did not like either, although he disliked Cubans more. Miami had too many Cubans and Puerto Ricans. His family was emigrated from Argentina. That made him an Argentine. But the family was originally from Italy. That made him an Italian. Like any good Argentine he did not identify himself with South America.

When I explained I was headed for the Pacific coast, Osvaldo cautioned me about coastal people. Costenos were a different sort. You could not get along with them. I did not quite understand what the difficulty was with coastal people. I mentioned that I quite liked the Colombian costenos that I knew. Osvaldo smiled painfully. He shook his head. He did not like Colombians. I could see he felt badly for me. Clearly I did not know what I had gotten myself into. Osvaldo was an Ecuadorian from the mountains who was also an Argentine but really an Italian, and he could not understand the people of the Caribbean.


In the morning Don Pepe stopped me as I was leaving the hotel. “Where do you go today?”

I explained to Don Pepe that I did not really have any plan.

“You must go to Laguna Yaguarcocha today. You must go to see the Angel on the hill that protects Ibarra and you must go to see the lake into which the Incas placed 30,000 dead of the Caras. The lake was turned red by the blood of the slaughter.”

“Perhaps I will go this afternoon,” I told him. A lake of blood did sound interesting.

Don Pepe was disappointed. “To go in the afternoon you will miss the lunch of the tilapia or the trout.”

“The tilapia and trout are fished from the lake of blood?”

Claro. Of course.”

“I will depart soon,” I assured Don Pepe.

Don Pepe was still disappointed.

“I will depart now for the lake of blood,” I told Don Pepe. “I must not neglect the lunch of tilapia or trout.” I did not want to disappoint Don Pepe.

Don Pepe was very pleased and he shook my hand. “Buen viaje.”

There wasn’t much to see at the lake. The dead bodies are gone and the lake is no longer colored red by blood. A few tour ferries were on the water but there was not much other activity. The restaurants were empty and I stopped in one with the cleanest looking signage. There was no trucha so I ordered the tilapia and a pilsner. It was a very tasty fish. Then I walked around the lake.

The sun was out and a breeze was blowing. I tried to imagine how the Incas got the 30,000 dead Caras into the lake. Unless they were taking the dead out in boats and dumping them, I figured the shoreline would fill up quickly with bodies. There seemed to me a real logistical problem. Was 30,000 dead enough to color the water red? Perhaps it was only colored red along the shore. Anyway, I was sure Don Pepe was going to be pleased with me.


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