Analysis

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 289

This text pits the value of twenty-first century Western culture against the value of indigenous, isolated cultures like the Machiguenga. It shows the way "modern" cultures tend to disrupt, appropriate, and, ultimately, do violence to these native groups in the name of education or religion. In addition, the text points out the real damage done to such communities by deforestation or "progress" (as the hegemonic culture would term it). This particular native group believes that they must keep moving, keep walking, in order to sustain both their community and the sun (which is always, in their view, moving). To disrupt this belief is to necessarily impinge not only upon their physical environment, but the very cosmogony that underpins their culture.

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Moreover, there are two narrators of the text, and they alternate in narrating the chapters. There is the first narrator, who seems to be based on the author himself. He is Peruvian, and he works, for a time, with the Summer Institute of Linguistics and later travels with Christian missionaries who attempt to learn the Machiguengas' language so that they can translate the Bible into it and then provide it to the people (who are not Christian). The second narrator, who seems to be a Machiguengan storyteller, tells the stories of the Machiguengan culture in equal measure with the first narrator's speech. There is, thus, a real balance between the two, affirming—via the novel's structure—that one culture is just as valuable and worthy of recognition and preservation as the other. In addition, the fact that mainstream culture would never fully accept Saul Zuratas, simply because of his unique facial birthmark, while the Machiguenga do, exemplifies the potential superiority—at least in some aspects—of these indigenous groups.

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