Sunday, 15 February 2015

Language lessons

Julio C Tello
photo from the Tello Archive

Museo de Arqueología y Antropología de San Marcos 
Tello was already in his fifties by the time of the Upper Marañon river basin expedition. Hernan was still a youngster – in some ways the baby of the group. You can see it in his idealism, in the way he defers to el sabio, in his small gestures of rebelliousness, his irreverent tales about stuffy local gentry, his cheerful playing of the charango. Above all you can sense the delight and pride he took in his work.

Hernan Ponce Sanchez
the artist as a young man
Hernan published the Anecdotes in 1957, when he was forty. He had long left his earlier adventures behind him, and settled down to teaching and running the small art supplies shop he owned in downtown Lima. As it turned out he was to die prematurely only two years later from a kidney infection. 

Sadly I was never able to meet him. But when I first came across his stories I could feel in the pages how special it had all been to him.  In spite of all his gripes about being underpaid and overworked, in spite of the hardships and the frustrations for a young man far from the bright lights and comforts of the city, Hernan had felt he was part of something spectacular.

Tello, for all his capricious temper and punishing demands, inspired that in him. I would go as far as to say that he continues to inspire many Peruvians in the same way today. It´s clear too I think that the middle aged archaeologist felt a genuine affection for his young aide-de-camp. 

In this story Hernan is a fresh faced twenty year old. And he´s about to get some … 

Language lessons
In which 'el sabio' slips ever so slightly from his pedestal

One day the doctor was dictating to me at Mojeque when we were interrupted by a visitor to the camp. It was the manager of the local hacienda whom the archeologist had met a few days before. Tello indicated to me all the drawings that I should make in the campaign log whilst he attended to the visitor and they sat down to chat for a while.