Pablo Corral Vega Andes Book « pablocorralvega.com

The fictions of Mario Vargas Llosa

Word to the reader

The vignettes that follow are not objective descriptions of the photos they accompany. They are fantasies, fictions, and inventions inspired in images taken by Pablo Corral during his travels through the Andes. They are not intended to provide exact information, but to recreate, with the help of imagination, the psychological, social, and cultural context that inspired the artist. In writing these word pictures I have worked with the same freedom I enjoy when I write a novel, interrelating the photographed reality with my own visions and allowing that alliance to merge into a new phenomenon. I would like to add that the world of the Andes is not alien to me. I was born in a city of the southern sierra of PerĂş famous for its volcanoes and earthquakes: Arequipa, where ancient houses and temples are constructed of the petrified lava called sillar. I spent my early years in Cochambamba, a city in the Bolivian sierra, and that landscape is the first recorded in my memory. And although I have lived most of my life on the coast, I have gone back to climb the Andes and breathe its pure air, and felt my blood stir on the heights. I have felt what the prodigal son feels when he returns home and through the gift of memory recognizes his native land and beloved peoples.

Mario Vargas Llosa

translated from the Spanish
by Margaret Sayers Peden

In the Andes, human beings have the condor’s vocation: rise upward, climb the stairways of air, soar above the clouds, scan the earth below, far below. Why else would cities like Quito, La Paz, and Cuzco be so high that more than clusters…

Down there, to the right, in those small white houses that look like snowflakes at the foot of the mountain, is where we live, we women and men of the village of ChaltĂ©n. You don’t see us, of course. We are insignificant, invisible…

He paints and sketches portraits, but if someone should ask this man what his true vocation is, he would immediately reply, without hesitation or doubt, “Making people happy.” In fact, nothing is so rewarding to that heart that has been…

Why am I covering my face with my right hand? Not because I believe that by taking my photograph you are stealing my soul. That’s what people who are ignorant believe, and I’m not ignorant. I’m covering my face because…

Carnival is fiesta: pagan, Christian, religious, secular, provincial, universal. And Carnival in Oruro, Bolivia, is the best in the world. Carnival time is more than having fun: dancing, playing, singing, and dressing in costume…

Patrolling the invisible borderline that separates Bolivia from Chile, in such frozen solitudes, is very boring duty. There is almost nothing to do but try to keep warm in your khaki uniform, stick your hands in your pockets, and remember…

Working in the mines of PotosĂ­ is a man’s job. A poor man, because we will always be poor. A miner’s wages barely stretch far enough to make ends meet, but miners are very macho men, not afraid of anything, not even the devil…

I don’t know what my name is by now, I’ve forgotten over the years. Because–just take a look at me–I am a tired old woman. I don’t remember how old I am, either, but who’s going to care? The important thing is that I was born here in Paucartambo…

This is not an abstract by a great modern painter maddened by geometry and symmetries and wild to capture on canvas the blue-violet light that glorifies the evening as the sun says goodnight behind the mountains of Cuzco.

A dancer has died, a celebrated and familiar figure who for many years enlivened village fiestas and spread happiness with his agile steps and mysterious gesturings, and the crich! crich! of the scissors blades striking sparks as he slashed the air…

As we are born to die, death lasts much longer than life, and the cemetery, where we go to rest through all eternity, is our true home. Our house, our neighborhood, our village, are merely temporary stopping places, inns or hostels along the way.

Eyes closed, contrite expression, prayer book in hand, and a rosary of white beads around her neck, this señora is praying before a small, modest tomb in the Arequipa cemetery built by the poor on a strip of sandy ground at the foot of the volcanoes.

I have been at the University all day, attending my law classes, and then at the library, studying and preparing for exams. Now I am going to go home, take a cold shower, change my clothes and go to work. I work at a nightclub near…

I am a soldier, and I’m proud of it. If ten years ago you had told me that one day I would be going around with my head shaved, and wearing a uniform, I would have burst out laughing. Me? A soldier! What I liked was going out at night, drinking, dancing…

There is this stupid, racist saying that goes, “The puna’s no place for turkey buzzards.” They invented that to mean that us Blacks can’t live in high places—that’s what the puna is, you know—because we can’t take it, can’t take the harsh…

The earthquake itself isn’t the worst part, it’s what comes before and after. What comes before, minutes or seconds before the shaking starts, is the sound, a deep, muffled moan that rises from the depths of the earth and paralyzes people with terror.

This mountain stream wetting my feet grows as it flows down the mountain; it gets wider, and leaps around, drops over cliffs, forms lakes, and turns into a big, big, river that after it crosses the jungle “proudly dies, repelling the sea,” as the poet wrote.

Aracataca is not some lost town choking in heat and overlooked by God and man, stuck down among the deserts, and ocean, and mountains of Colombia. Aracataca is a universe, and behind those fragile wood and corrugated tin walls sparkle…

There was not the slightest intention of sacrilege on the part of the woman who owns this small whorehouse bar in a tough neighborhood of MedellĂ­n. This city is known throughout the world for the drug cartels that operate there, and for the violence…

It has cost me blood, sweat, and tears to build these biceps and pectorals. By that I mean hour and hours of working out in the gym, following a strict diet, and giving up cigarettes and alcohol. If you want a physique like this, worthy of a body-building…