There are few things more exciting to humans than a mystery. It hooks us, catches us, produces a feeling of uneasiness for not knowing and pleasure for the sensation of searching and the promise of knowing. It is hard to match. The bad thing is that, on many occasions, the moment in which the answer is discovered does not give that satisfaction: the search ends and the discovery is too “earthly”. There begins the kingdom of legends: when the explanation does not meet expectations or is not found. The best way to solve the mystery is with a story worthy of a story.
VOLCANOES AND LEGENDS OF ECUADOR: COTOPAXI, CHIMBORAZO, AND TUNGURAHUA
Ecuador is the country of volcanoes and it was there that we began to understand the importance they have in Andean history. The volcanoes could move, to fall in love, have children … but also the other human capacities associated with these emotions: jealousy, fights, infidelities …
When we slept in Baños we met Mama Tungurahua – of the few Andean female volcanoes. It was erupting and according to legend, it was because the Pichincha cried. Why? Because Pichincha would be the son of Mama Tungurahua and Chimborazo – who got it after winning her brother Cotopaxi who also wanted her.
Another legend tells the reason why the Qillcay volcano, known as the Altar by its shape, is flat. The marriage between Chimborazo and Mama Tungurahua was not very happy and they both cheated on their partner. When the Chimborazo learned that the Altar was being seen with his wife, it erupted, taking the head of the Altar ahead and leaving it flat and extinct.
VOLCANOES AND LEGENDS OF CHILE: LASCAR, LICANCABUR, JURIQUES, AND QUIMAL
It was on an excursion in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, where they explained to us why the “decapitated” form of the Juriques volcano. Love affairs and fights between brothers. In that area of the Andes, it is said that volcanoes are ancient warriors and hills beautiful maidens. How could it be otherwise, one of these warriors fell in love with a maiden, specifically the Licancabur volcano and the Quimal hill. The problem was that Juriques – Licancabur’s brother – was also in love with Quimal. In an outburst of madness, he tried to force Quimal and, although he did not succeed, it reached the ears of his brother Licancabur who exploded with jealousy.
As it was a volcano, the explosion was literal and, with one of the rocks ejected, it hit Juriques’ head, ripping it off – hence the name of the headless. Lascar, the father of the two volcanoes mounted in anger and banished the beautiful Quimal one hundred kilometers away from the volcanoes. That is why there is a plain next to Licancabur and the Quilmes hill is isolated on the other side of the salt flat.
Despite the hardness of the separation, the legend has a part that gives hope to impossible love: every year, after the winter solstice, the shadow of Licancabur completely covers the Quimal hill remembering his love.
VOLCANOES AND LEGENDS OF BOLIVIA: TUNUPA AND THE ORIGIN OF THE UYUNI SALT FLATS
Despite the priority role of Pachamama, in Bolivia, the volcanoes were also all male. All except the beautiful Tunupa, north of the Salar de Uyuni. All the surrounding volcanoes courted Tunupa. As a result of all those courtships, Tunupa becomes pregnant and gives birth to a small volcano. All the great volcanoes in the area are considered the parents of the child. To force Tunupa to reveal which of them is, they kidnap the boy-volcano and hide it in Colchani – where there is a volcano with the same shape as the smaller Tunupa.
Courtships, struggles, kidnappings … end up annoying the gods who, angry, withdraw volcanoes the ability to move to leave them stuck in the ground. From that day, Tunupa, cried the loss of her baby and her tears mixed with her milk created the Salar de Uyuni at her feet.
Love can explain the geology and eruptions, especially in the Andes, volcanoes, and legends, the perfect combination.