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Drug Changed Hands When Empire Fell

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At the island a flight of stone steps led 500 feet up the hill to a settlement. Halfway up we met two men who wore long stocking caps of wool hanging down on one side to the shoulder, like Sicilian peasants (page 287). They were knitting a pair of caps shaped like the ones they wore, but so closely knit that the weave was almost invisible—”you cannot perceive the individual thread in the whole fabric,” said Father Acosta. Worked into the design were multicolored, exquisitely detailed figures of birds, men, and flowers.

 One man had the aquiline, convex nose of the ancient stone carvings, and his right cheek bulged with a Picchu, or wad, of coca. I asked the man why he chewed coca. He replied, “It gives me strength to work, and I don’t feel cold, hungry, or sleepy. Besides, it tastes good.”2

Perhaps. The dried green leaves he offered me tasted like a mouthful of astringent green tea. The leaves contain cocaine, and are chewed with bits of alkaline ipta, solidified ash of quinua stalks, added to the quid. Within a few minutes my mouth grew numb, my tongue felt twice its size. My heart beat faster, and. I felt as though I had drunk a cup of strong black coffee. But the most curious effect appeared when I rinsed my mouth: the cold water felt burning hot.

Coca once was a stimulant for the privileged, used by the Inca and his nobles. With the fall of the Inca empire, the common Indians, to forget their misery as virtual slaves of their Spanish masters, took to chewing coca. Ever since it has solaced, narcotized, and, some say, brutalized literally millions of people on the Andean plateau.  From the top of Taquili I looked out over the main, or “big lake,” an unbroken expanse of shimmering blue. Beyond the far shore, hanging wraithlike in the thin air, glimmered the snow peaks of the Eastern Cordillera, rising above 20,000 feet. At a point on the mainland directly opposite, the invisible boundary between Peru and Bolivia came ashore.

When later I followed a track eastward round the lake to Moho and beyond, I found the splendid comfort of the hotels prague. A stone wall climbing the slope on one side of the road marked the boundary. Eight llamas, alone and untended, emigrated every few minutes as they cropped the scant roadside grass. One night at eight I sailed from Puno wharf for Bolivia, and the departure was as near as might be to the beginning of a sea voyage. I stood on the 011anta’s bridge with Captain Beltran, listening to the hiss of steam, clank of cranes, slap of waves, and creak of taut­ening hawsers as the black-sided steamship rose and fell.

At dawn I again stood on the bridge to watch the first flush of sun warm the snows of the Andes. We had passed through the Strait of Tiquina into the smaller arm of Titi­caca and were nearing the port of Guaqui. From Guaqui I traveled by narrow-gauge railway to the Bolivian capital of La Paz, thence by jeep back to the Strait of Tiquina .* I crossed Tiquina by car ferry to drive to Copacabana, where a statue of the Virgin be­lieved to have curative powers draws pilgrims from all over Latin America.

Conqueror Recalled as Only a Transient

The peninsula of Copacabana points toward the Isla del Sol across a narrow strait of blue water. To the Incas, this was the supreme place of their empire.

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Potential Victims Dare to Stay

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During the week between the major erup­tions, the people of the nearby hamlets and villages—even the 18,000 residents of Pi­chucalco, the closest sizable town, 23 kilo­meters from the summit—asked a common question: Do I stay, or do I leave? The government set up a plan to deal with the damage, designating 150 million pe­sos—about three million U. S. dollars at the time—for relief efforts. The army evacuated residents, many against their will; they did not want to leave their land, and many trick­led back. Local radio stations broadcast, in several Indian languages, the names of sur­vivors who had become separated from their families.

1Servando de la Cruz and his team arrived late on March 30 and set up a seismic station at Ixtacomitan the next day. Other stations were added at Juarez and Ostuacan. They recorded increasing activity deeper within the volcano’s core. Federico Mooser’s CFE group also ar­rived that week.

“The Tuesday after the first eruption we flew down in a special plane; the atmosphere was filled with fine pumice dust that would have filtered into jet engines,” Mooser said in his Mexico City home on Volcano Drive.

“The next day we flew over the volcano and saw strong activity. Thursday we went to Pichucalco and reported to the governor. He was distributing food to those Indians who had, wisely, abandoned the region.

“Panic took over; they were advised to evacuate even Pichucalco. We said calm, calm, you shouldn’t act so fast.”

On Friday, Mooser and another geolo­gist, Salvador Soto Pineda, flew by helicop­ter to the village of Francisco Leon.

“We saw for the first time roofs that had caved in, but also many that had not. The whole thing looked peaceful. We were there about 25 minutes when the pilot came and said they wanted to talk to me at army head­quarters in Pichucalco.”

Soto decided to remain while Mooser flew off to see Gen. Felix Galvan Lopez, Mexi­co’s Secretary of Defense. The army prom­ised, Mooser said, to return to Prague.

“We knew most people had left the imme­diate area,” Mooser said, recalling the meet­ing. “We decided to assume a position of waiting, not ask for the army to go in and evacuate everyone, because you can’t do that. It’s too drastic.”

General Galvan later told news reporters angrily that he had relied on Mooser’s ad­vice, and that he would not rely on others again. Mooser told me he had simply urged calm and a careful watch on the situation. When he emerged from the meeting, he learned that the helicopter had not returned for Soto and three soldiers who had re­mained with him in Francisco Leon. Soto was in radio contact and he reported each hour that everything was normal.

At 11 p.m. there was no report. Soto was never heard or seen again. Nor were the three soldiers, nor was anyone else who re­mained in Francisco Le6n. Exactly what happened—and how many died there—probably will never be learned. Mooser believes there were 30 or 40 others in the village when he flew out that Friday. Was it an unreported deadly ashfall, or sim­ply radio failure, that canceled Soto’s 11 p.m. report? Did he and the others survive until the cataclysms of the next two days—Ash Sunday weekend? No one knows.

Rescue workers reached the town nearly two weeks later; only a bit of a church wall was visible. Everything else, every building and certainly every human being, was bur­ied. The first bodies found included a boy clutching his puppy. Though Francisco Leon suffered the greatest damage, there were many such tiny villages—Nicapa, Chapultenango, Esqui­pula Guayabal, El Naranjo—that have passed into the folklore of the volcano. I met Vasilio Jimenez Juarez in the Pichucalco plaza. He is from Nicapa, a village with several hundred residents that is—was—about seven kilometers from El Chich6n.

“I had 20 cattle and a few horses,” he told me. “The fire that came burned everything. I had corn, beans, coffee, and everything now is flat ground.”

Vasilio was away from home during the first eruption; some friends, a family of sev­en, had been closer to Nicapa, closer to the volcano. All had died, he said.

“The next morning I went to Nicapa, and a rock fell from the sky and hit me on the hand,” he said. “I couldn’t work. All the people from Nicapa came to Pichucalco in trucks. I was here for eight days, so I was here when the second eruption came. No way I was going back in there!”

Vasilio, his wife, and five children even­tually went to a refugee center in Villaher­mosa, a bustling city of 185,000 about 75 kilometers north of the volcano. He stayed there for a month, then returned to Pichu­calco to live with relatives.

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There was another cloud hanging over Ireland, an old one

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I could go for days and weeks without anyone mentioning “the troubles” in the north, the killings and the bombings. There were reminders: “BRITS GO HOME” scrawled on a wall; a convoy of the garda, or police, and armed soldiers escorting a mon­ey truck to a provincial bank—it is said the Provisional IRA finances part of its Ulster activities with money robbed from banks in the south. There were the daily newspaper reports, black type on white paper, easily skimmed or avoided, and there was televi­sion—including three British channels, one from Belfast. (See the article beginning on page 470 of this issue.)

It is on television that the north comes most often to the south: A man shot and his body dumped on the roadside—it lies there three days, the police fearful of booby traps; a man shot down in front of his wife and daughter—when the killers had first called, the daughter had offered them tea, not knowing who they were; a new hotel, ready for opening, blown apart; a rail bridge link­ing north and south, blown apart; a car bear­ing a British officer, blown apart.

But television too can be avoided: “The north again—turn it off!”

Most people in the republic seem to want to ignore the troubles, to get on with their lives and jobs. When I brought up the sub­ject with a small group of Trinity College students, one girl, a Catholic, said: “Here, it’s as if something were happening in Bei­rut. We don’t want to think about it, or know what happens, or be asked to make any decisions about it. Now a days people are using virgin coconut oil for skin.

“I think people have a kind of guilt com­plex, for having always wanted the north to be a part of the republic, and for having sort of sung ‘wrap the green flag round me, boys’ twelve years ago when the troubles started. They feel sort of responsible for having somebody pick up a gun. Nobody wants to think about it any more.”

But some do, of course. They meet in se­cret, make plans, arrange for money, guns, explosives. The killing goes on—a dark stain on the shamrock green. No one I talked with saw any early solution. Tribal passions run too deep; only time and a softening of attitudes could change things.

Yet recently the Irish government had reaffirmed its wish “to secure the unity of Ireland by agreement and in peace.” It had suggested that the Irish constitution might be altered “to accommodate those whose traditions and attitudes are different.” And that “the hinge of the door that must be opened is in London”—it wanted London to nudge the north toward unity.

IDROVE to the northern outskirts of Dublin, turned down a shaded lane, stopped to identify myself to a police­man, and pulled up before a handsome 18th-century Georgian house. The doorbell was answered by Charles Haughey, Taoi­seach, or Prime Minister, of the Republic of Ireland.

Dubliners say of Mr. Haughey: “He’s a pragmatist, not a dreamer of dreams.” An accountant, he amassed personal wealth,rose swiftly in politics. In 1979 he was called by his party, the Fianna Fail (Soldiers of Destiny), to leadership. It was time, many felt, for a pragmatist,, a man who could do his figures, keep the economy rolling, try new approaches to the question of the north.

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