Waranga Flower Woman
In "Waranga Flower Woman" Clara Santi Grefa provides a remarkable portrait of the love that unites a Canelos Kichwa woman and the man she loved in the early part of the 20th century. It also provides insight into the cross generational love between a granddaughter and her grandparents. From it we can learn a great deal about how Amazonian people of this generation understood romantic love and how that love was mediated by nature.
Central to this story is a triangular relationship between Clara's grandmother, a tree, and the man she loved. To understand this relation it is necessary to understand the tree. Clara portrays the waranga as shinzhi or strong. Each December the leaves of the waranga are eclipsed by yellow blossoms visible for miles. These flowers are understood to be the llauta or feathered headdress of the person hidden in the tree. When the flowers fall bean-like pods appear which dry and burst open. When they do the wind spreads the seeds which soon sprout blanketing the forest floor with thousands of saplings.
For Clara and her grandmother Josefina, trees are human-like beings whose beauty, aroma, and other admirable qualities can be physically acquired through entering into a sensual relation with the tree. Beneath their bark are believed to be attractive tree men or women whose hidden beauty mirrors the external elegance of their flowers. To acquire these qualities Kichwa women entered into emotional relations with the trees which were imagined to be quasi-romantics. In other words, women engaged these trees heterosexually as handsome men. The idea was that because they were men the trees would be attracted to the human woman so as to more readily extend their qualities to the woman's body through a heterosexual bond. To do so a girl would stand gazing at a tree taking in its beautiful color, aroma, and strength. While contemplating this man she would sing a tribute to his beauty often portraying his flowers as a beautiful llauta or feathered crown of the kind worn by hunters. Generally these songs would include a repeated affirmation "I am the waranga sisa warmi" or I am the waranga flower woman (or woman of whatever tree species was being addressed)." Because the word "warmi" can also mean "wife" these phrases also suggest the affirmation of a romantic tie. Like any friendship these relations were nurtured over time. Women spent much of their day alone, rising at dawn to go out to the forest around their gardens while their husbands went hunting, often in another direction. During these early mornings and late afternoons alone the women spent time contemplating the beauty of the trees, emulated their qualities, and carrying themselves accordingly. These relations were intensified by ingesting the tree's bark in the form of teas after which the tree men would often come in dreams.
In Amazonian thinking the attraction and fertility of a human body is extended by an acquired relation to the the bodies of plants. In this case love between a man and a woman is mediated by the attractive power of a waranga tree. What were the qualities women acquired through these relationships? The qualities Clara's grandmother Josefina received from the waranga were its strength enabling her to be a "shinzhi warmi." Within this strength emanated the graceful beauty and aroma of the tree. This beauty was displayed in all she did or made including drinking bowls and gardens or even in the beauty of her singing. In everything she did she carried herself as a waranga flower woman.
One of the most important qualities Josefina would have acquired from the waranga was its fertility. Like the waranga whose saplings sprouted everywhere she would have many descendants. But this fertility likely extended beyond her capacity to have human children to a broader sense of productivity including her ability to have fertile gardens productive of abundant manioc. According to Clara her grandmother frequently sang the waranga flower song together with another song: "Manioc flower woman."
These qualities are all captured in the sparse description of Clara's last memory. On the day she died Josefina did what a shinzhi woman always did. She went out to her manioc gardens alone. One can imagine that she had already arisen before dawn to serve wayusa and then asua to her husband. The river must have been unusually swollen that morning because when Clara tried to go along her grandfather stopped her saying that it was too dangerous. Despite the danger the grandmother calmly loaded a smoldering termite nest termite nest into her canoe. Its smoke would keep away mosquitos as she worked throughout the day. Her hunting dog climbed in with her as usual. She stood up poled into the current off for a day alone to bring back the garden produce with which she would feed her family. But that morning she never made it because the canoe was overturned and the woman was killed by an anaconda. Clara describes this last sight of her grandmother as a shinzhi chagra mama disappearing puyunlla in a cloud of smoke.
It was these qualities of strength, elegance, and that her husband loved in her. Clara says that her grandmother would meet her grandfather with an elegantly painted bowl of asua. Instead of handing it to him she would hold it to his lips swaying back and forth singing as he drank. And when she sang "I am a waranga flower woman" he would hug her and cry.
Did people in the Ecuadorian Amazon really experience true love? Of course they did! I raise it only because many ask. From the anthropologists we mostly learn that women traded "manioc beer" for meat hunted by their men in the forest. Ethnographies frequently have a chapter on women's lives in the "wasi" or the "chagra" and another on men's lives in the sacha. These two are often linked by the idea of "reciprocity" or sexual witchery but seldom love.
All human beings experience the full depth and complexity of love but Amazonians did so in a different context. One thing that distinguishes the Amazonian view of love is that the loving relation empathy and llaki between male and female comes from working together. In the Amazon love was not separated from work. This may be strange to Europeans for whom the workplace has been carefully separated from sexuality. But for Kichwa speakers love has the comradery of teammates with different skills who match each other's moves to win together. A man is enamored with the way the woman he loves makes a beautiful chagra in the space he cleared with long hours of chopping trees. Men did not "exchange" meat for asua. They spent hours standing still in swamps without swatting a mosquito hoping to bring home a siku that might get them a high five from the girl they loved. Rather a couple worked together each providing what the other could not responding together to the challenge of providing for their children in the forest world. Love carries within it the ever present possibility of loss. Part of the poignancy of this story is that Clara's grandmother dies as she goes out alone in her canoe to bring back food from her gardens. She died in the process of living her life as a strong waranga flower woman.
Attraction and by extension sympathy (llakina/llakichina) for those who are loved is what motivates the Andean/Amazonian world. It is not just humans who feel this but also. mountains, rivers, lakes, rivers, thunder, rain and trees. All of these feel are paired as kari warmindi, male and female. The pull between upriver and downriver can be seen as sexual attraction. The headwaters of the Napo is female and the mouth of the Napo is male. The Pastaza is male and the Napo is female the relation between them is attraction. Thus the attraction that held this older couple together was embedded in an mediated through the environment they lived in including the rivers and the anaconda that led to the grandmother's death
Clara Santi, Waranga Sisa Warmi
Cantagara. Josefina mara. Canelos warmi.
Pai cantagara lumu sisata.
Lumu sisawan waranga sisawan
cantagara ñuka apamama ñuka apayayata. Pay cantak ara.
Ñuka apamama nigara
waranga sisata cantani ushushi nigara
porque paiwa kara chaquirisha reventasha chimanda muyu llambu sacha intiruta wiñasha shayarinata cantani
nigmara ñuka apamama.
Miran. Miran? Miran. Shina akpi.. Chi waranga ruya urti yandata charin pai. Chasna cantagara.
Y pay, shinakpi.. ashka mallquita charin?
An a. Ashka mallkita pay charin. Shina kantakpi warmi shinallata? An a eso eso si. Warmi shinallata ashka charin? An A. Ashka charin pay. Ashka wawa? Ashka wawa.
Sacha intiru solo aumentani nisha cantagara. Chi ñuka apayaya ukllarisha wakagara.
Primero wañushka man. Yakui wañushka
Yaku canoai chimbauk mikunata apangak riuk. Canoa amarun aisasha....
Allkuwandi ninata apirik, ñaupa kallariga, allkuwandi ninata canoa pundai apichisha kumishinda apichisha puyunlla rik anawra.
Chasna ñukata ñuka apayaya nira
"Ama ringuichu ushi," nira. Apamamallata pelasha apamunga," nira.
Chi ñuka nirani ñuka "Mana. Abuelito," digo. "Yo me voy," digo, "abuelito, a traer mashtita, papayata."
Chi ñuka apayaya mana munak ara. Dino
Mai ñuka apamamawa pariju. U Um. Chasna mak ara.
"O sea pay cantaka waranga sisata?" "An a. Sisata, Waranga sisata cantara. Chagrai cantaaakman."
Tutamanda rin. Ninata apichik ña tarabangaj rausha cantaun waranga sisata pai.
Aumintasha shayauni nira waranga sisa pawasha chaquirisha pawashka muyu urmasha umentasha shayauni.
Pay waranga kwinta aumentanga... ashka wawawa? An a. Ashka wawauna.
Y shinallata shinzhi? Shinzhi. Pai aicha shinzhi? Pai shinchi aicha. An a. Shinakpi waranga kwinta paywa aicha shinzhi.
Shinzhi aichayuk. Kausana. Pero unaiga chari kaunsanmara pero amarun apara apamamata.
Chi historiagunata ñuka iyaibi yachanga kamba suegro. Pai riksik ashka Asua Juanzhu pero ñuka apayaya, pero kai shukta no se. Así es.
Waranga sisata pero gustuta cantak ara. Chillata cantangaruani. Mas mana.
//Waranga sisa warmiga//
Waranga sisa warmiga waranga shina paiwa muyu chaquirisha bainata aparisha pakai muyu shina aparisha
Paiwa uras pajtapi llambu partirisha sacha intirutami mirasha shayauni. Mirasha shayauni.
Ñuka warmiga. Waranga sisa warmiga
sisasha shayauni. Kariguna munawanunga mana munawanungachu.
Ñuka kari llauturisha ñuka sisata apasha
waranga sisa warmi.
Waranga sisata apisha ñuka karita pichasha shayaunilla.
Ushushi ushushilla kamba apamamaga chasnami cantauni. Kamba si[sa] tarpuriasha cantangui ushushilla.
Waranga karata llambu wamburisha
lora shina shayauni kamba apamamaga
Wamburisha sacha intiruta
paiwa muyuta aumintasha shayauni
waranga sisa warmiga. Waranga sisa warmi mani.
(My grandmother) used to sing this.
She was Josefina, a Canelos woman.
She used to sing the "Manioc Flower." The "Manioc Flower" together with the "Parkia Flower" she used to sing to my grandfather.
My grandmother used to say, “I sing to the parkia flower, Daughter," she used to say. because when the pods dry and burst its seeds spread and grow all over the forest.
They multiply. They multiply? Yes the multiply. That parkia tree has very strong wood! That is how she sang.
So It has a lot of seedlings? Yes a lot of seedlings! So if a woman sang this she would also have a lot too? Uh huh! Lots of children! Yes. Lots of children.
"I am increasing the whole forest," she used to sing. Then my grandfather used to hug her and cry.
She died first. My grandmother died in the river.
She was crossing the river in a canoe. She had gone to bring food. An anaconda pulled over the canoe.
In the old days she would go out with a dog, lighting a fire in the bow of the canoe, lighting a termite nest she would set out like that in a cloud of smoke.
My grandfather said daughter you can’t go. Just grandma is going to go to bring the (yuca) back peeled he said.
I said, "No grandpa I am going to bring papaya". But my grandfather was against it.
Otherwise I would have died as a child along with my grandmother. That is how it was.
She used to sing parkia flower. She used to sing it in the manioc gardens.
What time would she sing it? In the mornings she would go out, light the fire and then as she would begin to work she would sing the parkia flower.
I stand flourishing she would say. When the parkia pods dry, burst open and their seeds fall I stand multiplying.
So like the waranga she would increase? With many children? Yes. Many children.
And she was also strong? Strong. Her body was strong? Her body was strong. An a. So like the waranga tree her body was strong.
Yes. Strong body. She had life in her.
She might have lived a long time but an anaconda took my grandmother.
I think your father-in-law knows that story because he knew my grandfather Asua Juanzhu, but this other grandfather, I don’t know.
She sang the Warang flower beautifully. I will sing it but that is all I am going to sing. No more.
//Parkia Flower Woman//
Parkia Flower Woman, like the parkia tree when its seed dry it will bear beans like the Inga trees.
Parkia Flower Woman, like the parkia tree when its seeds dry it will bear beans like the Inga trees.
When their season comes and their seed pods burst I will stand multiplying the entire forest. I stand multiplying
My woman, a parkia flower woman
I stand flowering. Men will desire me!
will they not?
I will crown my husband taking my flowers, Parkia Flower Woman,
Taking parkia flowers I will just stand sweeping my husband (with flowers).
Daughter, dear granddaughter,
This is how your grandmother sings. You too should sing planting your flowers little granddaughter.
Flying over the whole forest like a parrot (spreading) waranga seed pods
I stand. Your grandmother, I stand, I stand.
Flying over the whole forest I stand increasing its seeds. Parkia Flower Woman. I am a Parkia Flower Woman. Ay!