Land of Snails

Prologue to the English version

While surfing the Internet via *Llajta (the Bolivian cultural news-user group), I was fortunate in meeting Huascar Vega. In reality, we still have not met physically, but I found his soul to be most compatible with mine from the very beginning. It was because of that feeling of affinity that I dared to share with him my dream to publish for posterity's sake, stories based upon my childhood memories growing up in the Bolivian upper rainforest, my beloved birthplace. In doing so it is our intent to immortalize customs and traditions that unfortunately are being forgotten little by little, day after day. Huáscar is helping to crystallize my vision as he sketches with his magical pen and with his incisive Andean mind.

We are producing a book in collaboration. This book is probably the first Bolivian cyberbook completely written using all contemporary methods and mostly via e-mail. It is the first book of this kind developed in Bolivia, probably in Latin America or possibly the first one of this kind in the world. In this book , we are using contemporary multimedia to offer a true audiovisual experience. Along the stories themselves we present to the reader accompanying related images and music associated with each narration. An innovative hypertext glossary is indeed an excellent distinctive feature of the book.

This book is being released in twelve monthly installments. The main purpose of the book is the description and preservation of customs and traditions of the upper rain-forest region of the Bolivian Yungas. All the stories are developed within a background of fictionalized memories of a bright-eyed rainforest child in search of his own identity.

The first chapter of this cyberbook was first released on November 1, 1996 with a story appropriate to that month and that particular day : the Feast of All Saints. The title of that first chapter was: Tantaguaguas.** The second chapter (Niños manuelitos) was released Christmas Eve 1996 and consisted of a narration of how Christmas was celebrated in the Bolivian upper rainforest in the old days.

This month the third chapter is being released the day of Epiphany, January 6, 1997, Day of the Magi. It was at the dawn of this day and not on Christmas eve when traditionally rainforest children would receive their gifts -- not from Santa Claus but from the travelling Three Kings who would deposit presents on the little shoes all kids would leave by their windows or by their front doors....

Subsequent chapters will clarify the reason for the title "Land of Snails" an apparent enigma to some of our readers. The title itself refers to the underlying story within the stories: the child's quest to attain self-discovery. Early in his life the child adopts a symbol for the restlessness of his inquisitive mind. That symbol is an insignificant snail carrying on its back the burden of the burning question mark akin to all mankind: The interrogation sign of the meaning of his existence. "Where does he come from, where is he going, who is he?" That burden is like a cross that he carries during his search for knowledge and answers. After a long roundtrip journey from the real jungle to the concrete jungle, in a moment of fatal crisis, he discovers that what he considered a burden was all along his refuge and protective shelter. At the end of his quest, he realizes that the answer to all his questions is within himself, within his family, within his own people and within his own land….

Any profit derived from this project will be donated to a non-profit organization exclusively dedicated to the preservation of customs and traditions of the Bolivian Yungas region; fostering the local artistic talent and the regional ecological preservation. The basic proceedings will be used to sustain and stimulate the literary production of Huascar Vega. To me, the simple pleasure of making reality a longtime dream, idea and desire, is more than sufficient.

Any Bolivian or any friend of Bolivia interested in contributing to this project, please be kind enough to get in touch with either Huáscar or with myself.

These stories are fictions that portray a past reality. All copyrights and intellectual property are fully reserved.

Jaime Molina, "Caracol"
T. J. Molina, MD, FCAP

*Llajta = means "People" in the quechua Inca language.

**Tantaguaguas=Little dolls and figurines made with baked dough. The term is derived from the Aymará language used by the Andean people in the high plateau surrounding the famous Titikaka lake ; t'anta=bread, guagua=baby, little kid. In the November festivity of Dia de los Muertos y Todos Santos (Day of the dead and in the Feast of All Saints) Bolivian people use this specially elaborated bread as an offering to their dead relatives. People from the Bolivian Rain Forest traditionally prepare this bread figurine-dolls in different shapes and colors with different types of masks such as kittens, gargoyles, angels, cherubs, devils, clowns, indians, etc.

Prologue to the first chapter:

When Jaime first contacted via e-mail, I thought he was pulling my leg and he wanted to play with me; I decided to play along with him.

Today, we are playing together.

Today we offer you this electronic "tantaguaguas" so that Bolivians and friends of Bolivia, commemorate the festivities of All Saints' Day.

Huáscar I. Vega Ledo
First of November, 1996