Allen Ginsberg visits Machu Picchu

Culture/English
Machu Picchu (Foto: Omar Perez)

EXPERIENCE. On January 20th 1960, Allen Ginsberg flew from New York and landed at the Los Cerrillo’s airfield in Santiago. The poet was bearded and short-sighted, had dark eyes with optical lenses and carried a backpack. Ginsberg told reporters ‘I’m here to have fun’, but the next day a newspaper would write, perhaps maliciously: ‘I’m here to fuck one’.

Allen Ginsberg published his book Howl in 1957. Its impact on the literary world was like that of a cluster bomb. Chilean poet Gonzalo Rojas sent him an invitation to participate in a meeting organised by the Universidad de Concepción in 1960.
He stayed at the Pan-American hotel on Teatinos Street, next to the presidential palace La Moneda. He went to Café Il Bosco, the bustling bohemian centre in Alameda. Il Bosco was full of journalists, writers, night owls, cabaret performers, comedians and nightclubs dancers.

The following day a skinny man, only 25 years old, appeared at the entrance of the hotel. It was the poet Jorge Tellier. He did an interview which he published in Ultramar magazine. Ginsberg travelled in a van to Los Cerrillos where a plane took him to Concepción. The ‘First meeting of American writers’ was held between January 20th and 25th.

On April 21st Allen Ginsberg arrived in Cusco. He spent five days in the city. Then he went to the Machu Picchu area where a guard offered him accommodation in his hut. From there he wrote to his boyfriend, Peter, describing the cliffs and snow-capped mountains of the Andes. Ginsberg did not find what he was looking for: the sacred plant of the Incas – Ayahuasca, the rope of the dead.

 

Ginsberg stayed at the City Hotel, famous for its parties, boîte and elegant rooms. On January 21st he reads Howl in the auditorium of the University. In a letter he sent to his lover Peter Orlovsky he writes that the central discussion was about the relationship between art and politics. ‘Everyone expects the revolution.’ He wrote about the poet Luis Oyarzún, whom he described as a ‘roly-poly philosopher’, member of a semi-secret queer society. The writer Luis Oyarzún was then 40 years old. In 1954 he had been president of the Society of Writers. He also meets the Peruvian writer, Sebastián Salazar Bondy, director of the Institute of Contemporary Art of Lima. He invited him to Lima.

Opulens Twitter

Follow Opulens' English-language Twitter

 

In the early morning of January 26th, Ginsberg and his backpack got on the train that would take him further south. He wandered the wet streets of the cities of southern Chile; Temuco and Puerto Montt. Then he returned to Santiago and met the famous poets, Nicanor Parra, Jorge Teillier and Pablo de Rokha. He spent three months in Chile. In April he went to La Paz, the capital of Bolivia, writing:

”How real is Bolivia? With its snowy Andes rising above the modern city, now that one is in La Paz, which means The Peace in Spanish.”

On April 21st Allen Ginsberg arrived in Cusco. He spent five days in the city. Then he went to the Machu Picchu area where a guard offered him accommodation in his hut. From there he wrote to his boyfriend, Peter, describing the cliffs and snow-capped mountains of the Andes. Ginsberg did not find what he was looking for: the sacred plant of the Incas – Ayahuasca, the rope of the dead.

On May 5th Ginsberg went to Lima by bus. He stayed at the legendary Hotel Comercio, in front of the Desamparados Railway Station. The hotel has a famous bar on the ground floor, the Cordano bar. As in Il Bosco de Santiago, pisco sours were famous in the Cordano bar. Ginsberg reads Howl in a tiny room of the Institute of Contemporary Art, steps away from San Martin Square, on May 12th, 1960.
Ginsberg hiked in the Peruvian Amazon jungle through Huánuco to Pucallpa. Pucallpa reminded him in some city of Tibet. There he drank the hallucinogenic ayahuasca. In a letter sent to Burroughs Allen Ginsberg described his experience in these terms:

‘Drank a cup -slightly old stuff, several old and slightly fermented also- lay back and after an hour (in a bamboo hut outside his shack, where the shaman cooks) began seeing or feeling what I thought was a Great Being or a lake that approaching my mind like a great wet vagina was.’

On July 8th, 1960, Ginsberg departed from Lima airport back to New York.

 

OMAR PÉREZ SANTIAGO

Opulens är ett dagligt nätmagasin som vill stärka kulturjournalistikens opinionsbildande roll. Kulturartiklar samsas därför med opinionsmaterial – allt med en samhällsmedveten blick där så väl klimatförändringarna och hoten mot yttrandefriheten som de sociala orättvisorna betraktas som självklara utgångspunkter.

Det senaste från Culture

Gå till Toppen