We watched shadows stagger past us and buttoned against the cold. From some unseen source came the melody, insistent, relentless, working its way inside me and digging out a hollow. What kind of instrument would make that music, I wondered. What kind of man?
My host liked to talk. "There are no doctors here," he said. "Usually the Indians that fight treat their wounds with donkey dung. If blood is running from their faces, they try to lick it. They believe it will increase their courage."
He smiled with contempt at the chicha yet in my cup. I drank it and he dipped back into the dirt-streaked bucket. "A town of ghosts," I said, nodding at the passing shadows.
"That is so even in sunlight now," he said. "Except during the fiesta, 30,40 families is all that remain here."
"Many people lived here when I was a boy, perhaps 6,000. A big market, haciendas. Then one night the Indians came down from the hills. They had been promised an equal distribution of the land, but they were tired of waiting. We escaped and hid by the river. Others...." He made a noise from the inside of his throat, ran his finger across the outside. "Almost everyone else left after that."
"Do the people here have any communication at all with the outside world?" I asked.
"Tome," he said. "Yes, there is a telegraph wire."
"Uh-oh. I hope that wasn't the wire our truck snapped today on the road."
He shrugged. "Well...they say it is not working."