by Joaquin Lequerica Vasquez
I was born in Iquitos, Peru and grew up a little further up river from Yanamono II and then downstream. I am currently 72 years old. I grew up in a suffering type of life because my father abandoned me when I was little and my mom took care of me. When my father left, my mom moved from our village to Iquitos. My mom could hardly afford clothes and food and I had to work at an early age to help provide for us. Because of that I did not have an education but I decided on my own to learn and study. When I was 14 years old my mom left me and went to Lima. I had to clean my own clothes. I had to cook for myself and I continued to work.
When I was fifteen, I left Iquitos and came to a village on the Amazon, in the rainforest. I met a friend, from Spain, who had a beautiful house. Together we decided that we would work with wood. I didn’t know that kind of work at the time. It took us four days journey to walk to a place where my friend knew that there would be good wood. We took our machetes and cut down a very big pine tree. It was a lot of work. We cut off the branches of the tree and cut in into pieces. After four months of preparation, we brought the wood to Iquitos to sell the wood for money. In Iquitos the people paid my friend and gave him the money. My friends mislead me and lied to me. Although we worked together we were not paid separate and He did not give me any of the money. He said, “I will pay you what I want and when I want.” That was a very bad thing that he did to me and we almost got into a fight. He said, “one day I will pay you.”
The next day he said, “Tomorrow, let’s go for a trip.” A group of twenty of us travelled about eight hours above Iquitos and then up a tributary in a large boat. We stopped there and then started walking through the mountains cutting our way through the Jungle. We finally reached a big lagoon. The water was very pure, very pretty. It was sparkly and shiny. For thirty days we panned for gold in the pretty waters and found many small pieces of gold that weighed a kilo in total. We left for Iquitos to sell the gold. The total trip took four months. The Spaniard gave me his address where he lived in Iquitos and said, “Tomorrow I will pay you.” The next day the twenty of us in our group got together to have him pay us. We went to his house and knocked on the door. The Spaniard was not there. We returned in the afternoon. He still was not there. The next day we went and we called for him. He still was not there. We looked for him for a whole month – we wanted to get paid. All twenty of us grouped together to see what we could do to try and get him to pay us. We went to his house and we broke down his door. A man came to the door that was very big and very strong. He asked us what we were doing. We told the man that this Spaniard had been cheating us and he told us to “go tell the authorities.” A secretary wrote down our statement as we explained what happened to the authorities. The Spaniard finally came but the authorities couldn’t make the Spaniard pay.
When I was 22 I came to Yanamono. I began to grow agriculture here – plantains, yucca and corn. I met my wife during a fiesta. We were married one year later and we have lived here ever since. I have thirteen children. All thirteen of my children have left Yanamono except for two. Some of my children are living in Lima.
When my children were young I worked in a convent for four months cleaning it. The convent was large with two floors. The boys were on the bottom floor and the girls were on the top floor. It also had a school in it. At night we locked the doors to the convent. One night a nun told me to come with her. Some Indians had kidnapped one of the nuns. They were looking for her and noticed that the doors were unlocked. They said that I was the one responsible and they blamed me and told me I couldn’t work there anymore. The nun never returned to the convent.