I told the familiar tragedy of the Inca's ransom, of how Atau Wallpa, realizing the white men's hunger for gold, offered to fill a room with it, and two other rooms with silver, in a vain effort to buy his freedom. "Of course, the Spaniards took the gold and killed the Inca anyway," I continued. "Those things happened exactly four and a half centuries ago, but the native people of Peru"--I avoided the word Indian for obvious reasons--"have never forgotten. They are about half the population of Peru today, but they have little land, no power, and are ruled by the descendants of the Spaniards and by people of mixed blood.
"They have a belief, a belief that the Inca emperor-who was almost a god as well as a king-will come back to them one day. They believe that the ancientworld still exists as it was, underground-beneath the visible world brought by the Spaniards. And they believe it is possible for these two worlds to turn over, or reverse, so that the time of the Inca will one day be restored.
"In their legends they say that the head of the Inca king-cut off by the Spaniards-is buried somewhere beneath their old capital city. Slowly" all these four hundred and fifty years, the head has been growing a new body. When the Inca's new body is complete, he will emerge triumphant; the worlds will turn over, and the Peruvians will once again be masters in their own country."
I felt the silence immediately. Because of the unusually strong kava, sunburn, and headache, my delivery had been poor-terrible, no doubt, when compared to the oratorical fluency of Fijians. But I expected them to say something, ask questions, or feign interest.
There was nothing. Just a silence, uncomfortable, even shocked. What was wrong?
Photos courtesy of Dame Jane Resture and Javier R. Miro de Mesa
Historian, novelist, and essayist Ronald Wright is the award-winning author of nine books of nonfiction and fiction published in 16 languages and more than
50 countries. Much of his work explores the relationships between past and present, peoples and power, other cultures and our own. On Fiji Islands, was published in 1983 to critical acclaim. He has graciously allowed Fijiguide.com to serialize his work for your enjoyment. We welcome your comments. (For more information visit http://www.randomhouse.ca/newface/wright.php)