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     Land of winds > Traditions > Legend | Issue 17 (Jan.-Feb. 2014)
    By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

The tusuq little boy


The tusuq little boy

Like in many other places in the Central Andes, in the province of Parinacochas (department of Ayacucho, Peru) it is said that there are machay (natural caves) hidden under phaqcha (waterfalls) along rivers such as the Huancahuanca. Sirens, those mysterious beings, half fish women, half Andean water spirits, used to bathe in those grottos. Also harp and violin players made their way to machay for picking up the magic melodies sung by the drops of water dripping from the cave ceiling. From one of those grottos emerged the "Danza de las tijeras" (Scissors dance) and its music. The Peruvian writer Alfonsina Barrionuevo collected the following story in Parinacochas


The story goes that a little boy of around 11 years of age who was looking for wood near the river met with another boy of his age and was invited by him to play on the sandy shore. This boy began to dance following the music that seemed to spring up from the nearby phaqcha, doing acrobatic dancing as he moved his feet to the beat and kept the rhythm with a sort of stone castanets or rumi tijeras hanging from his right hand. The boy who was looking for wood first mimicked those moves, possessed by an inexplicable joy that made him forget why he was there, and only came to his senses when his mate jumped into the water and disappeared.

He went back home carrying a load of wood with him and also the castanets that the other boy had left behind on the sand. At home he went on dancing as if he was off in his own world; her mother, worried by her son's behaviour, noticed that hanging from the back of his trousers was a tusuq muñeco ("dancing doll") with bright coloured clothes. When his mother dragged the dancing figure out the little boy came to his senses. Frightened as she was, she thought of breaking apart the rumi tijeras and setting fire to the doll, but her son begged her not to do so but to tailor him a costume similar to that of the tusuq muñeco instead.

The story was soon known to everyone in the village and the neighbours came in to see the niño tusuq ("dancing little boy"). Then the llaqtakumunruna (local authorities) decided to celebrate a festival where everybody could see the boy's skill. However, he disappeared few days before the event was meant to take place. After a long search, two musicians found him near the phaqcha, dancing to the beat of the music that seemed to emerge from inside the cave, where, apparently, there were figures of "people who were not people" playing unknown instruments.

Those instruments, the harp and the violin, were later reproduced at the size that players would play them, and accompanied the dancing little boy with the thousand and one songs murmured by the water as it made its way down phaqcha. It is said that the little boy had many followers and it was after he had taught what he had learnt that he left and was never seen again. Perhaps he is inside one the magic machay along the Huancahuanca River, dancing forever with his rumi tijeras.


Article. "La magia del danzaq", by Alfonsina Barrionuevo [es].


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