A response to Pascua Lama

A response to Pascua Lama:


Hearing is gold, Manquemilla, Gold Condor


The glacier is the origin of the word “cool” and the first “chill”, the slow ice of an inner music that dies when no one wants to hear it.


Hollow cow they melt down letting out a lament.

An alveolus birthing its own death.


The messenger of the waters, the intermediary between the worlds, the condor is the glacier becoming extinct.


The boy/condor, guardian of the glacier was buried alive by the Incas, at the birthplace of the Mapocho river, on the summit of El Plomo, so the valley we now call “Santiago” would never lack water.


He was buried and then forgotten, only to be found 500 years later by treasure hunters. They found him to un-find him, turning him into an “archaeological object.” They said: “this is the cult of the heights” and the phrase placed him in the past. Calling him the “mummy of El Plomo” they separated him from us, but the boy/condor is still asleep and his dream comes alive each time someone feels a connection with the water.


Now, the boy/condor comes back to the national consciousness at a time when the glaciers are in danger of being sold, contaminated and lost.  He reappears when Chile is about to choose between hearing or not hearing the music of an ancient connection with the glacier and the land, a specificity of place, with its own particular tone.


A place is a sound, and a way of hearing it.

A web of interrelationships, an exchange between people and earth. The space of naming.


To change the meaning of a name is to change the world.


In Alto del Carmen, in the Huasco Valley, the land of the ancestors of Gabriela Mistral, Chile is choosing a meaning:

“Alto del Carmen” could mean “The Height of Poetry”, or  the place where poetry comes to an end. Today, the Huasco Altino peoples, descendants of the Diaguitas are the caretakers of the ancient vision of the glacier as a sacred place that guarantees life.  We have the possibility of hearing the music of place, in all its potential, or, to put a stop to life by giving away the glaciers and the mines to the neo colonial powers.


But, are we hearing their voice? our own forgotten inner voice, or that of the System that says: “Only the dollar matters” “And you, what do you know?” “Now, we are the owners of the mines, and cyanide is the new guardian of the waters.”


Water is gold

The blood of the earth

Hearing us.


The slowly moving ice is the testimony of our ancient relationship with the land, and the ritual maintenance of its flow, our true cultural patrimony.  The future heritage of a way of being in harmony with the land, a music that sustains the earth and human life at the same time.


In Australia, the Aboriginals have begun to recover their dignity and land through poetry: the ritual maintenance of the landscape, their “songlines.”  In Chile, the condor and the water of our stories, are our “songline”. The unacknowledged ritual of quipu making, the memory of its people, the continuity of our ancestral world.


Cecilia Vicuña

A Menstrual Quipu



(from a letter to Michelle Bachelet)


On election day

I climbed the mountain

to make an offering:


A menstrual quipu.


I climbed the condor’s shadow

spinning a solar thread.




                    (it said)




The union of water

and blood.”


“The glacier’s thirst.”



Cecilia Vicuña


Manquemilla: cóndor de oro (mapudungun)

“Cool” y “chill”: frío, (inglés) derivado del Latín gelu

“Songline”: laslíneas del canto, o las huellas del sueño que crean el mundo, traducción al inglés del concepto aborigen australiano creada por Bruce Chatwin.






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