Posted on May 6, 2012
This journal entry was written on an early sleepless morning in London, several weeks ago, after watching my friends Guillermo (of the Quichua) and Humberto (of the Secoya) board their planes back home to the Amazon. We had been on a short campaign trip in Europe (London and Oslo) building support for the legal battle against Chevron – the American company that caused a massive oil disaster in the Amazon. I publish this note because small moments are often bigger than big moments.
April 23, 2012: We decided to stay the night in Heathrow Airport – Terminal 5, a gigantic vault which in the empty hours of the night feels likes a godless industrial cathedral. Sleep was impossible. The floor was cold and the benches had maddening arm rests. We probably should have spent several hundred pounds for a couple hours of sleep, but then we would have missed the delirious laughter, the tiny revelations, the camaraderie…the quirky moments where friendship is born.
At one point in the night, Guillermo, who was lying on the cold floor staring up at the gigantic dome of the terminal ceiling, exclaimed: “tremendo!” I could see a giddy look of awe in the profile of his face: “Que avances se ha hecho! What advances have been made!” His tone reminded me of the village of Macondo in 100 Hundred Years of Solitude, and the gypsy Melquiades who arrives with miraculous inventions (magnets and alchemy labs) from the outside world.
A bit later, roused from sleep by Guillermo’s wonderful account of the miracles of air travel (“the great metal wings!” and “people giving you food in the middle of the sky”), Humberto declared, suddenly, that “the west has lost control of their own inventions.” I asked him if he knew about Frankenstein, and he said “he sounds like the Germans.”
The night passed this way. We talked about the idea of kings and queens. I couldn’t explain the unexplainable idea of royal blood. Humberto heard that the King of Spain had gone to Africa to hunt elephants, which was a case enough against royalty for him. And Guillermo found it wonderful that the “pigeons of Europe” are always shitting on the great statues.
And then there was World War II. This was the revelation of all revelations! Our host in Oslo, Per (a wonderful man), had brought us to the Norwegian Resistance Museum, which is set on the premises of a medieval fortress overlooking Oslofjord. The idea that there had occurred a huge war – a World War! – that their tribes had no knowledge of (and weren’t even affected by!) was an epiphany. Humberto found it humorous that his tribe was making great voyages in search of salt while Europe was at war. Guillermo liked the tiny hidden radios — in loaves of bread, in books, in irons! They both wondered how it could be called a World War if their tribes weren’t even involved.
And this is how I got the name Vikingo.