Nia Robles

This poem features words in quechua (my indigenous language) and I will attach the translations below:

Apus: gods, guardians. In quechua chanka (the dialect of my community) it can also mean mountains
Ucumari: spectacled bear. Vulnerable species haunted by Spanish colonizers
Illiclla: traditional handmade blanket used in the Andes to carry objects and babies
Huayra: wind (my favorite word)
Huaytalla: my grand-grand father’s last name. Field of flowers/made from flowers


My apus made me from the stars
and the earth. I am the daughter
of the mountains, the rivers, and the trees.

I was raised in harmony
painted with soil and full of life,
shining like my mother’s corn, resilient
like my father’s crops.

I was raised in a community
of peach, orange and lemon trees.
They would feed my soul with tender flowers.
Red butterflies would dance in joy.

I was raised in deceit,
pain, bullets, and fear. The mountains cried
in agony that turned into rage
and fury. The earth crumbled. I died.

I was born in captivity. I was haunted
with the ucumari rambling in that lost forest.
He looked at the cosmos and wondered
if he would be last. And so did I.

I was raised and forgotten.
My last name was crafted from my mother’s wildflowers.
Huaytalla, they called me. At dawn,
I started the uprising. After, I became
numb in a constant euphoric present,
lightheaded, weak. Sudden darkness.

I was raised without humanity. They took
my braids and my colors. I wasn’t anything
but theirs,
and my beloved land became hell.

I was born with my ancestors’ weight on my shoulders.
Daughter of the moon and the river. I became
a mother at the age of three. It would happen again.
Six times.
Alone in the ravine, my sisters and my brothers
in my brown earthy lliclla. I became my mother
when she left.

I was raised in strange grey lands. Dead.
Overwhelmed by artificial, suffocating,
burning noise. Grieving five hundred years of loss.
My heritage,
forgotten. I digged the earth with my nails,
searching, begging.

I was made from the wind.
The huayra calls me at night,
she wants to take me to my homeland.
Near the river we will rest.
A blue hummingbird will search
for my flowered braids.

Made from the stars, we were.
Small bright islands in a dark ocean, flowing
in purples, yellows and blues,
sleeping in my grandmother’s home.

When asked about the inspiration for this piece, Nia said, “I wrote Genealogy as an exercise for a class. The idea was to write about or genealogy using images and repetitions. As an indigenous chanka person, my culture’s cosmogony and perception of the world is heavily influenced by nature. I started the poem referring to the cosmogony about the history of the creation of my people. I tried to describe the Andes and the personal connection many of us feel around it. My family is from Apurimac, which means the ‘god who speaks,’ but in my culture it also refers to the mountains, which surround our valleys and are our protectors. I decided to tell the history of my people from the prosperity of our early years to the pain and colonization and its consequences in our corporalities. At the end I focused on the story of my great-grandfather, my grandmother, my mother and finally, me. My ancestors organized anti colonial uprisings, but also showed resilience in other ways. Indigenous women don’t have it easy. I wrote this poem as a tribute to my people and our history. Each image represents an aspect of our culture, a tradition, or cosmogony. I also alluded to one tale from Ayacucho called ‘Huatuscalla y Ccaser’ translated by José Maria Arguedas––a writer from Apurimac––and a poem called ‘Estrellas que entre lo sombrío…’ by José Asunción Silva.”