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Land of winds > Traditions > Legend | Issue 01. Jul.-Aug.2010
By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

The legend of Manchay puytu

Manchay puytu
Among the many traditions and legends referred to the quena (see), perhaps the most famous is the Manchay puytu legend.
There are, at least, four versions of this story, whose Quechua name can be translated as “pitcher of fear”. The Bolivian one appears in Jesús Lara’s book “Poesía quechua” (Quechua poetry). It tells that in the XVIII century, a native man from Chayanta (present Bolivia) was able to study in Potosi for becoming a priest. After acquitted himself well in several parish churches, Antonio de Asunción arrived at the Iglesia Matriz (mother church) of Potosi. There he felt in love with his maid, María Cusilimay, and she returned his love despite Antonio’s vow of chastity and social condemnation. Their romance came to an end when the priest had to go to Lima to attend some matters regarding his church. When he returned he found that his beloved María had died of a strange illness, though some stated that she had died of sorrow. In his desperation he exhumed the corpse and took it off to his house. At home he washed, dressed and perfumed the corpse and in a frantic attempt to revive her he even committed acts of necrophilia on her body. Once he realized the uselessness of his effort, decided to make a quena out of one of her tibias. It is said that Maria’s death drove him to insanity and he wandered the streets and sang his woes turned into a poem (which Lara supposedly includes in his Quechua “original” version). In addition, he used to introduce the horrible instrument in each clay container that he found on his way as a means of reducing its sound level and making it boom in a much mournful way.
Ricardo Palma includes the Peruvian version in his renowned “Tradiciones peruanas” (Peruvian traditions). His story also portrays the illicit love story between a religious man and a lady. Palma’s characters are the priest Gaspar de Angulo y Valdivieso (in charge of Yanakiwa church, Cusco diocese by 1690) and Miss Anita Sielles, and the end of the story is almost the same.
In Huamanga (Peru) it is said that three men exhumed the body of beautiful Carmen de Albornoz, whom they loved in secret, in order to make two quenas out of her tibias and cry for her death.
On her part, Juana Manuela Gorriti (“La quena”, 1865) turns the legend into a fatal love story between a mestizo young man (Hernando de Campoamor) and a Spanish young woman, the daughter of the local Minister of Justice.
Some authors state that the Manchay puytu story might well be a grotesque distortion of a traditional Quechua legend know as “Issicha puytu”, which was written down by Jorge Lira in 1942 and popularized by José María Arguedas in 1949.
Even nowadays, the habit of blow certain types of quenas inside clay containers specifically designed for this purpose still remains in some areas of the Peruvian Central range. However, none of those instruments is made of human bones.

Link 01. “El Manchay puito” by Ricardo Palma [es].

Video 01. Manchay puytu.
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