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The Legend of Yuraq Orqo

You can sample a taste of Daughter of the Nazca Moon via an excerpt “The Legend of Yuraq Orqo” on

This story is part of a larger novel. The dune-covered mountain Yuraq Orqo (yuraq means white in Quechua, orqo means mountain) was sacred to the ancient Nazca culture. It became known as Cerro Blanco after the Spanish conquest. I read and heard several versions of its origin story while researching my novel, and wanted to include the essence of the tale, while weaving in some of the differing perspectives. Some were told like cautionary tales (the unfaithful wife will be punished), some were tales of liberation (the young savior who frees the unhappy daughter). Some featured battles between ancient gods, others were post-conquest intrigues between Lords and Ladies. What still strikes me as significant food for further rumination and exploration, is that the god/lord/curaca/chief and the lover/rescuer/thief both had names, but the female character was consistently referred to by the name of the mountain she became. She may be revered as a sacred mountain, but as a woman, she remains nameless.

 “Patya had heard so many variations of the legend that she once asked her grandmother which one was right. Kuyllay replied that they all were. ‘There is never only one way to see something,’ she said. ‘Stories should keep you thinking.’ ”

Preview… Desert Voices – A novel of ancient Nasca


There is no evidence of any writing system in South America before 1532. After the Spaniards arrived, history recorded the brief and dramatic reign of the conquered Inca, but little is known of the many other cultures that had risen and endured for centuries before the Inca Empire. What we do know has been pieced together by archaeologists and anthropologists who decipher history from the pottery, textiles and constructions left behind.

Patya’s story unfolds in the sixth century AD on the southern coast of what is now known as Peru. The creative and resourceful Nasca culture has been flourishing for almost a thousand years, populating the narrow valleys carved by rivers that cross the desert on their way from the Andes mountains to the Pacific Ocean. In recent years, a series of droughts and weather anomalies have taken a heavy toll on the Nasca people. Fields lie barren, wells have gone dry, and raiders from the highlands have been foraging into Nasca territory, hunting their game and raiding their livestock.

 Nasca pottery is known for its rich colors and imaginative designs. Above is the art from a ceramic vase depicting a tangle of flying anthropomorphic supernatural beings  wearing headdresses and nose ornaments, carrying severed heads, knives, slings for weapons, and sprouting cactus-like snakes. The  rich mythological world of the Nasca was very much part of their living landscape, and ceremonial offerings an integral part of their community.


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