800px-Hilaria_Supa_Huamán_1 (2)

Hilaria Supa Huamán

This tiny woman,
conceived by rape, stands
before Congress in her blood
red Peruvian hat, the color of
horror, fringed with a halo
of Andean peaks, or beaks
of condors.

She remembers a highland
childhood, her Quechua
abuelitos working as hard as
alpacas for the muy rico
hacendado, the farm owner
who raped women she loved
and abused her grandfather
who was murdered standing up
for farm workers’ rights.

Before she speaks, the woman,
whose face looks like chisled
stone covered in clay from
Machu Picchu, feels her feet
burn. She thinks back to her 6th
year when she was forced to
travel 293 miles from Cusco to
Arequipa to work with her child’s
hands as a maid and how her heart
shattered, then hardened when
she was told, “Your grandmother
has also perished, niña.”

The woman is almost ready, so close,
but she allows her memories to flow
freely, to remind her of Lima, of the
rich families for whom she toiled at 14,
of the exhaustion and pain from
beatings and of her body bleeding
after the disrespect of rape,
of the father of her children dying
in an accident when she was 22,
of the 400,000 indigenous women
in her country who were forcibly
sterilized under el presidente’s
“Public Health Plan” and of how
these trials were the price she had
to pay to be standing here now,
before her adversaries.

Though her body aches
with arthritis the diminutive
Congresswoman stands tall,
adjusts her blood red Peruvian hat
fringed with a halo of Andean
peaks, or beaks of condors, and speaking
first in Quechua, second in Spanish
she begins to tie together the threads
of her life.



Today’s poem was written through my tears. It was a hard climb, like trekking through the Andes, to get the the final line and when I read it to R we both cried. And yet, Hilaria Supa Huamán, known in Peru as “La Supa,” is all about the power of suffering, perseverance and hope. I have tried to honor her in this poem.  Here is the link to a video, in Spanish called La Supa Knows (I could not find one for you in English.) if you would like to view her in action.

The prompt for Day 19 of NaPoWriMo was to write a poem using or inspired by the name of a shell. One just happened to be “Peruvian Hat.”  I knew immediately where I needed to go.

30 thoughts on “Threads of a Life

  1. That’s some powerful shizz—and how you wrote it—feels also like you’ve intertwined a tribute to the late G.G. Marquez—the magical threads you’ve woven in coming to life inside my consciousness. Thank you–for pushing those boundaries—helping us find the source where our own tears can be awakened to awaken those parts of us.


  2. I’m honored by your words, jd. La Supa is the kind of woman who can push a poet’s boundaries into the stratosphere. As for Gabo, I will write about him after the shock wave of his passing has ebbed a bit. He was the light out of the tunnel for me and when I first read Cien Años de Soledad, I recognized that magical realism was my literary home. I am eternally grateful to the man. Gracias.


  3. Pingback: Jeffster Awards #25 | Deconstructing Myths

  4. this is such a moving and haunting poem. You clearly stand in witness and solidarity with this woman and her community, and thank you for sharing your her story (and the story of so many other indigenous women on our planet) through your painting with words.


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