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  • An Interview with Juan Eleazar Tristan Reyes*
  • Marcus D. Jones

Where are you from?

Tristan Reyes:

I'm from the Hacienda of San Jose, the district of El Carmen, the province of Chincha, the region of Ica, in Peru.


Were you born here?

Tristan Reyes:

I was born here. According to what our ancestors and some historians like the Venezuelan Maria Elena Vasquez—who studied African roots a great deal, how things were here, and who wrote a book—the majority of blacks brought to Peru were blacks from the Congo, Angola, Mozambique, and South Africa. Their language was Quibundo. Their religion was witchcraft, as is still the case today in many parts of the world. Because they had sex aboard the ships in which they were being transported, they formed ten casts of blacks. Among the ten casts of blacks were the Terranovas, the Locumies, the Mandingas, the Cahundas, the Calveies, the Cangaes, the Chalas, the Guadacholies, and the Congo. The split was based on the original four casts there had been. For instance, that's why my skin is a bit darker; my cousin Augusto has lighter skin. This is what they called casts. They also took into account height, build, weight, skin color, facial features. There are blacks who have very thick lips; there are blacks who have a broad nose; there are blacks who have straighter profiles. There has been a type of black whose bottom half of their bodies is longer and who are shorter from the waist up. And when blacks and Indians started mixing, the zambo resulted. The mulatto resulted. More variants started to emerge, until we got to the present day.

San Jose was a hacienda of blacks. There was the transition from slavery to semi-slavery, and then to liberty while what really changed were the owners of the hacienda. It started with Monte Blanco, or "Carrillo" as they called them. From them, it got passed on to the Benavides. The Benavides kept it within the family until the Siones came forward and took over everything. We're talking about more than 12,455 acres. A single brother was in charge, and they liked to work with blacks a lot. We're talking about the 1700s, 1600s, or 1800s. There was plenty of water here. Sugar cane was planted. Blacks harvested the sugar cane. They went out singing early in the morning. For instance, they sang: "I was born on the beaches of Magdalena, under the shades of a valley beyond. Because my mother was [End Page 433] a black slave, I, too, carried the mark." Or maybe they sang, "Oh, cursed luck, to carry chains and be a slave and be the slave of an evil master. If I could pick up my spear, I would steal his life and set fire to his sugar cane and tear out his heart." They harvested the cane with love, because they had no other choice. They lamented because they wanted to forge ahead. The work was all done by blacks and some native-born people. The one who was in charge stood still; he didn't do anything. For him, it was easy. He's not bent over for more than forty-five hours. He's on a horse. But the black man started changing little by little. They say that time heals all wounds. The black man began to learn. The men in charge found black women beautiful, and akundun.

Mike Gonzales had that song, "Akundun." Akundun is a Zulu word. Gonzales came here and heard one of his aunts, who has since died. He greeted her and said, "How are you, little momma?" "Getting by, Miki," she said. "It's been some time since I made akundun." "And what is that, exactly?" "It's an African word." "What does it mean?" "Hey, you want people to give you everything for free," she said. She said, "Miki, I have been a widow for twenty years. It's been a while since I've made love. So akundun means to make love." Let's suppose that they each lived there, with everything open. Everything. So your children wouldn't know...


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