Ciro Alegria was born in Peru in Sartimbamba in 1909 and died in 1967. One of the best-known Spanish-American novelists of the 1940s and 1950s. While Manuel Rojas wrote about the common man on the street and the poor, Alegria wrote about the lives of the Peruvian Indians and exposed the problems of the Peruvian Indians while learning about their way of life. For more information about his life, there are a number biographies published on the internet, of which the following is only one.
The Siren of the Forrest
(La sirena del bosque)
The tree called lupuna (1), one of the most originally beautiful in the Amazon jungle, “it has a mother.” The Indians in the Jungle say they believe this tree is possessed by a spirit or inhabited by a living being. These beautiful and rare trees enjoy some privileges. . The lupuna is one of the tallest trees in the Amazon forest; it has graceful branches and its trunk, of leaden gray color, has triangular fins at its base. . The lupuna is attractive at first sight and generally, after looking at it for a while, produces a sensation of strange beauty. Since “it has mother”, the Indians do not cut the lupuna. Their axes and machetes are used for chopping, knocking down parts of the forest to build villages, or to clear fields for planting yucca and bananas, or to open paths. . The lupuna will stay dominating. Anyway, since they are not cut, they stand out in the forest because of their height and particular shape. They are very visible.
For the Cocamas Indians, the “mother” in the lupuna, is a white, blonde and singularly beautiful woman. On moonlit nights, she rises through the heart of the tree to the crown and comes out to be illuminated by the glowing light and then sings. In this Vegetable ocean, forming the tops of the trees, the beautiful woman resonates her clear, high, and singularly melodious voice, filling the solemn grandeur of the jungle. The people and the animals, who listen to it, become bewitched. The forest may calm down its branches to hear it.
The old Cocamas prevents the young men from falling under the spell of the voice. Whoever listens should not approach the singing woman, because they will never return. Some say that they died waiting to reach the beautiful and others that she turns them into tree. Anyone who thought her out, any young Cocamas that followed the fascinating voice, dreaming of winning the beautiful, never returned. This is the woman, who comes out of the lupuna, the siren of the forest. The best thing you can do, on some moonlit night, is to listen to, and remember her beautiful singing, nearby and far away.
1) The following links provides some background on this tree, including legends and superstitions