Sociólogo - Escritor

"La Casa de la Magdalena" (1977), "Essays of Resistance" (1991), "El destino de Norte América", de José Carlos Mariátegui. En narrativa ha escrito la novela "Secreto de desamor", Rentería Editores, Lima 2007, "Mufida, La angolesa", Altazor Editores, Lima, 2011; "Mujeres malas Mujeres buenas", (2013) vicio perfecto vicio perpetuo, poesía. Algunos ensayos, notas periodísticas y cuentos del autor aparecen en diversos medios virtuales. Jorge Aliaga es peruano-escocés y vive entre el Perú y Escocia.

email address:

7 de diciembre de 2010

Jorge Aliaga Cacho's novel, Dorada in Wonderland


by Jorge Aliaga Cacho

Translated by Andina Aliaga - Chapters I and II

Dorada had asked me to wait a few days. Apart from her English studies, to which she applied herself diligently, she was attending regular appointments for some kind of skin treatment. I would wait for her, I told her, with great anticipation. After all, passing the time costs nothing. Days passed that then turned into weeks, and as I had promised, I waited patiently. Then I decided to track her down. I called her house, but they wouldn’t tell me where she was, or what she was doing. One day her sister, (surely the pain in my voice bothered her), told me that Dorada had gone to her aunties for a few days, to study at her country house, and rest, because Doradita had suffered a decline in health. This talk with her little sister pacified me for a short while. Before long, I was preparing to look for her again when the phone rang, I answered to the sound of Dorada apologizing. She told me that she had been poorly, but now she was feeling better. She was calling to invite me to accompany her on a work trip, into the depths of the jungle. I had travelled to other places with her, and, remembering these good times I accepted her proposition for a repeat experience, this time in the exotic Eden that is the Peruvian jungle.

On the day agreed for the trip, Dorada arrived at my house in a taxi. It was a Sunday night. Downstairs the car’s horn beeped. I went out to greet her, ready, with my hand luggage. The car waited with its engine running, clattering. She kissed me softly and told me her boss was coming too. We would all travel together as far as San Ramon. We boarded the taxi. She got in the back door. She sat next to her boss. She shut the car door, flexing out her little finger to reach the lock. Her nail polish looked wet. I sat next to the driver, I acknowledged him with a nod and shook her bosses hand. The driver started the car and farted simultaneously. There was a silence. I kept my composure, but I hated him.

A few weeks had passed since I last saw Dorada. This had been a period of excuses. Everyday she must work hard on her studies, she told me. I believed her, because I had witnessed firsthand how swotty she was. This occurred one time while we were holidaying in the Atacama desert. She even read her English text book while we were in bed together. Turning the pages with one hand, and slapping at the mosquitoes daring to bite her legs with the other. Those insects ending up squashed and in pools of blood. Dorada kicked off her slippers, much to my delight, as this meant that all the flying insects were now dead and soon she would take off her knickers too. This enthusiasm however, was short lived. As she then reached over to the bedside table, and in astonishment and despair I read the words: this manual is also available to study on audio cassette.

- This tape is on intransitive verbs- she informed me.

What was really concerning me however, was that there were tapes scattered all over the night table, and she was eyeing them up eagerly. I wished for the time to fly so that we could get on with the carnal act. Preferably before day break. At the end of tape number three Dorada took off her headphones and looked into my eyes with a coy smile on her face, as if she were entertaining mischievous thoughts. Knowing that she behaved like a good little Catholic girl at home, I enjoyed this immensely. Reading her mind excited me. The mosquitoes were now only conspicuous in their absence, and she, before my eyes appeared not as one of Botticelli's’ nymphs, but rather one of Decamerons’ girls.

Dorada was still sitting in the back seat. She asked me to speak in English. We went over some grammatical points taught to me by my primary school English teacher. “The Teacher”, we used to called him, in the same language he taught. He gave us lessons with his cane acting as assistant. His eyes shining manically, and his face dripping with sweat, he would swoosh his cane into the air, then stop suddenly. The pupils awaiting their punishment with uncertainty, unable to determine who was going to fall victim to the next stroke. Unable to breathe momentarily. Via this method we would successfully learn how to use auxiliary verbs, but after the holidays we would forget, as we did with the names of the sacraments, and the most stupid of us would even forget the ten commandments. When the latter happened our headmaster, Father Beautifulmind told us to kneel at the classroom door.

The only other teacher allowed to make us sit on our knees was “The Teacher”. Only The Teacher could do it. Speechlessly threatening us. His eyes dark and sadistic. He stared at us and swished his thick cane. The black tone of his eyes would change in intensity, swirling, almost popping out of his head. Sometimes when we failed to pay our school fees he would make us do hail marys’ in the hallway, but the fervent prayers would come to an end when we saw the priests’ secretary walk by in her miniskirt. She had buckteeth, so we called her Bugs Bunny. With porcelain skin and a friendly smile, Gloria would walk the corridors while we kneeled in penance. The boys with hands clasped in prayer, would turn their heads and closely observe her retreating buttocks as they made their way into the courtyard that was once blessed with the presence of the Archbishop himself. But on that occasion Bugs Bunny had been out of school. She was not parading the hallways with her pert little behind. The Prelate had listened attentively to Father Beautifulmind. The school report had pleased him. Beautifulmind would at times interrupt his speech to whip at the legs of the third years kneeling before the Popes’ representative. Most of the strokes hit the air, few ever connected with the pupils, however the one boy who without fail always seemed to get hit was Quintanilla. The Prelate was unperturbed by all this. In truth Father Beautifulmind was a good man. A man of God. The Teacher knew this, I knew this, and so did Bugs Bunny, the third years and the Archbishop himself.

- I’ll cane you! - threatened Beautifulmind, flourishing his varnished stick.

- To which the students of the third, fourth and fifth years yelled keenly:

- Cane us!!!

In the rear view mirror I noticed her sweat. She dabbed at her nose discreetly with a handkerchief that she kept concealed up her jacket sleeve.

She told me in summer she wouldn’t leave the house during the day. Preferring to wait for the evening cool. She hated the sun, but for some unknown contradictory reason, she wished to emigrate to Australia.

She changed the subject to say that she had been denied a visa for the United States, France and Spain. It embarrassed her that France had refused her twice.

- How humiliating! - she complained.

The taxi stopped at 28 July Avenue. The coach was waiting with its engine running. We were to go to La Oroya, before proceeding downhill into the lush greenery of the jungle. Through our window we could see rubbish everywhere.

Some children wearing filthy rags poked about in the mounds of rubbish and debris. A kid with a long trail of snot running from his nose into his mouth gathered plastic bottles, another, a little older found some stale bread and put it in a bag. La Victoria is the neighbourhood that houses the most popular football team in all of Peru: Alianza Lima. Rats leapt around the children’s feet like firecrackers at New Year, children who will surely on Sundays watch their football team of champions, and in years to come will don a military uniform and be sent to fight the enemies of Peru.

My seat number didn’t allow me to sit next to Dorada. She took her seat in the middle of the bus. We would have to plot something and fast, otherwise I would spend the duration of the journey next to an uptight looking man I didn’t know. I asked, almost pleading, for him to swap seats with Dorada. It was not necessary to ask him twice, this knight in shining armor picked up his blue suitcase and gracefully parked himself into Doradas’ seat. His suitcase was not heavy, it was made of faded blue cloth and had a blurred inscription in white: I can love you, I can hate you, but I can never leave you, ALIANZA LIMA!

- You are very kind Sir! Very thoughtful indeed! - I told him, before he moved seats.

Dorada brushed past me, her elegant form almost landing in my face. She had brought a crimson lipstick and a bag full of papers from her office. In her other hand she held a bottle of water and a little blue cushion for her neck. She put the bag into the overhead compartment and slumped into her seat. She looked at me. I looked at her. She rested her head on my chest, leaning in. Soon my lips sought hers. My hands sought her hands. I perked up. I kissed her gently. Our gazes merged. I looked at her beseechingly. Goose pimples. Pecks on the cheek. My arms curled around her waist. My chest puffed out against hers. Demanding glances. Her lips waited expectantly. Her black hair shone. My hands twitching. I kissed her forehead and very quietly asked her to lower her trousers. She blushed, but let out a nervous laugh that turned into a cackle.

- Cheeky! She scolded, resuming her coquettish manner.

She was sitting in the window seat. I bent over to hug her. We reclined our seats. Some passengers closed their eyes. Others opened them. I burrowed my head into her breasts. Her little top was threatening to spill its contents. I was happy. I had tucked myself nicely into her ‘Andes’ and she had covered us with a blanket. I woke up with my face rolling around between her boobs. In the darkness under the blanket, my hand encountered a persistent blocking hand. The passengers looked on through the corners of their eyes. The bus passed through cold little villages, sometimes trundling down hill, sometimes ascending. Dorada laughed and kissed. I kissed and laughed. My temperature raised and I was certain that tonight, surely, Dorada would be mine.

The window was steamed up. Looking over at my muse I wrote the name Daphne with my finger. I rubbed it out so I could look out at the little thatched houses. Afterwards I wrote Dorada, but then I rubbed that out too.

As we passed through these thatched houses, I recalled my childhood neighbourhood, the mansions, the grand colonial Spanish houses and the slums in the alleys. I drew closer to the window. The condensation had started to drip like tears. I marked out a circle with my index finger and inside it drew the silhouette of a woman: an ass, two boobies. I rubbed it out. We arrived at Tarma, Dorada was sleeping. We went swiftly by the facades of buildings. The bus seemed as though it were static, it was the houses, garages and hotels that appeared to be moving.

The clay walls displayed electoral slogans: Ollanta, APRA, Unidad Nacional. General Odria was born in Tarma, a former Peruvian dictator. I remembered the stories about the APRA and Communists who were tortured by his henchmen. I also remembered the Home Secretary; whose name was synonymous with murderer. In Moquegua Street, in the conference room of an old Spanish colonial house, former Secretary General of the Communist Party,Venancio, used to make addresses. Today it is a sad little whore house.

- Zanartu! - Venancio would shout.

- Zanartu! - he would repeat.

And every time he bellowed this name, his Ariquipeñan accent would deepen. The audience sat in little red chairs in rows, shaking, shivers down their spines. The comrades in the front row would quietly sit before a smiling mural of Mariategui, then, upon the arrival of the revolutionary, in crescendo, would start to clap, to greet the arriving comrade Venancio, who smiling, would start to join them, clapping in time with the audience.

Venancio, the veteran print worker, wore his glasses far down his nose, only using the lenses to read his speech. Leaving his eyes free to discern his audience. Isidoro Gamarra would do something similar when he gave speeches at the same place, but Gamarra would enter quickly, shuffling along the ground. This president of the CGTP would always arrive smiling, though I never discovered if he was for real. His face, I believe, was born smiling. I noticed this once at a conference. He was absolutely fuming, letting off sparks, he ranted and attacked, yet he smiled.

Venancios’ way was to arrive notes in hand. Carefully following each letter of his speech to the end. He started each page carefully, and when it came to a climatic point he would wave his index finger in time with each accusatory syllable. At times, his voice would break. He condemned his imprisonment. He had been left half deaf, and almost half dead. He spoke out about the beatings they had inflicted upon him, on the rocks where the sea lions rest, outside the island prison of Callao. They submerged his head in pools of water. They hit him all over his body. They tied his legs together and dipped him into a well, when he was about to drown the torturers ushered him back to the surface, in order to kick, slap and spit on him. They left him hanging like a chicken in a market, then dunked him under all over again .

- Death to imperialism!

- Death! - responded the audience.

Immersed in my political memories, I came across her breasts. Sweetly, I gave her a little kiss on the lips. Now on the bosom. How lovely she was! I bathed in her fragrance. I could feel the presence of our neighboring passengers. The bus, rattling, plodded along the roads in the direction of the jungle. Climbing ever upwards like a puma scaling the rugged mountains. In the mean time I found comfort in that crevice, that for a while, allowed me to lose all concept of time.


We arrived at San Ramon. It was raining. We found shelter under a tin roof on the corner. The rain drops made onomatopoeic splatters above our heads. A tuk-tuk pulled up, a rickety mode of transport with room for two passengers; a whole host of bags, a mother in law and a small donkey. I had witnessed and appreciated how these plucky little vehicles navigated the slopes of Lima. The drivers loading up their taxis with all and sundry, in order to earn one extra Sol to take home to their families. Striving for an impossible dream. Once I saw a tuk-tuk with two people in the back, (though it was tricky to confirm with any accuracy what those four eyes belonged to), as they were completely encased by bags of rice, straw chairs, bedside tables and a parrot, who continually flew out of one window and back in through the other. Fleeing the scene along with its cargo of incognito passengers.

- Taxi! - I called out, several times.

Doradas’ boss boarded the little vehicle ass first. I said goodbye to her, sensing that we would never meet again. She departed clutching her accounting files, leaving no trace in her wake. Indeed I did not lay eyes on her again, nor did I ever find out her destination. The next taxi came swiftly, the drivers eyes were sunken into an impish face. We didn't speak. He took Doradas’ luggage and heaved it onto the make-shift rack at the rear of the tuc-tuc, then he stuck mine there too.

This was the quickest journey of my life. In two minutes we were outside the hotel El Parral. Its' doors were open just a crack but we could see that lights were on inside. The receptionist opened the door for us. Behind the bar, at the back, items were displayed for sale; soap, razors, shampoos, toilet paper and multi-coloured condoms. We asked for two rooms. We signed the visitor book but they didn’t ask us for any documents. Dorada always went to that hotel. The ONG where she worked had offices just around the corner. We were given rooms 203 and 201. Dorada took the first. At dawn, when I awoke upon a firm pair of breasts, I realized that room 201 had spent a lonely night.

My eyes opened and I saw Doradas’ sweater hanging from a nail that served as a hook. The nail was large, bent and rusted in the middle. Dorada had been watching the light bulb dangling from the ceiling. Marauding mosquitoes. I tried to scare them off with jabs, but they weren’t bothered. I changed strategy. I took a newspaper that was lying on the floor and rolled it into a fat club, then fired at will. I killed a few. And so went the night...bouts of kissing and fighting. Scratching here, scratching there. They refused to give up. We covered ourselves right up to our heads. I heard her moans, and the hum of mosquitoes.

Encased in white sheets we met the dawn. Dorada was happy and mine. On the radio we listened to a Zambo Cavero song, and in the shower Dorada hummed: larai lai larara larai laila, larai lai larara larai laila…

This secret you share with me no one will know,
This secret will be hidden for eternity,
I assure you I’ll never say what happened
And don’t you worry, about all
That lies between you and me

This secret you share with me no one will know,
This secret will be hidden for eternity,
I assure you I’ll never say what happened
And don’t you worry, about all
That lies between you and me

No one will know that your chest, beat together with mine,
That we enjoyed moments of fascinating sweetness,
I’ll never say that there were nights I adored you madly,
Nobody will know that in your arms,
Drunk with love, I fell asleep.

She came out of the bathroom and wrapped her arms around me, talking about how much we had done together.

- Yeah it was great! - I agreed.

Dorada wanted to stay in bed longer, but a pile of paperwork was waiting for her at the office. She had to go, but didn’t want to. She took some clean underwear out of a plastic bag, almost getting onto the ground to put them on. She slipped her legs through the holes and deftly wriggled them up, securing the elastic firmly around her waist.

She dried her hair. Her legs were still damp, she‘d missed bits with her towel. She put on her bra, looking at her I repeated my reluctance that she leave for the office. She seemed undecided. She asked me to go to the room we had booked for me the night before. The cleaners here were gossips. Kissing her, I promised.

She told me that in San Ramon the people are interested in everyone else’s business. She also said that she loved me and that she was prepared to go anywhere with me. Dorada let out a nervous laugh, realising that I had never suggested anything of the sort. Her nose was on the point of sweating once again.

- I don’t want to go to the office - she repeated.

She wanted to stay, but her work load meant that she must go. She would be back soon. She hunted for her lipstick. She tracked it down under the bed. She squatted. Her hair already frizzy from the humidity. She wore a pair of grey trousers that were a little tight. She had difficulty doing up the buttons. She covered her top half in a white blouse, and stuck on a pair of trainers, she perched herself on the edge of the bed. She got up. Now fully dressed. She made her way to the door then turned back. She kissed me. Taking her brush for curly hair with her, she left. I could hear her trainers squeak as she made her way down the stairs. In no time I was asleep.

- Excuse me Sir! Said the maid who woke me up.

A woman’s head loomed in the doorway. I had forgotten to go back to my room. My boxers were still on the floor. I wanted to recover the composure this unknown face had taken from me. I wanted to say something logical, but I couldn’t. The woman's gaze fell onto a pair of socks that were haphazardly strewn across the floor. She then checked out the toiletries that Dorada had left on the night stand. I sunk my head into the pillow and not knowing what to say, I listened.

- Sorry Sir! Would you like me to clean your room? - she asked.

- Good day! No I don’t want you to change the bedclothes today - I said.

I slipped back under the covers and laughing at myself repeated my answer: Good day! No, I don’t want you to change the bedclothes today.

- How dumb I must have sounded! - I said aloud, laughing.

Repeating my words again:

- Good day! No, I don’t want you to change the bedclothes today.

- What a bloody moron I am! - I said, chuckling.

At noon I left the hotel to look round the town. I walked to the nearest corner about fifty metres away. There stood the town square with its two principal buildings: the town hall and the home ground of the local football team: El Centenario. I walked right round the square, following the pavement, admiring the church that was partly hidden under a canopy of trees, by a street full of restaurants. On the corner a crowd had gathered ready for worship. I made my way up the street of restaurants. All sorts of business was carried out here. I double checked my wallet was still in my pocket. In it was all my money, which I needed to make the journey to Pozuzo. I felt it was time that I acquainted myself with the place where, nearly one hundred and fifty years ago, sailors had come from Austria and Germany, poor Europeans in search of a better future, and who had built it right here in the Peruvian jungle.

I once wondered how they had got to the port at Callao, on board the Norton. My fat friend Churrunaga told me the story some time ago:

They spent a three-day quarantine on the island of San Lorenzo. After having eaten, drunk and rested, they set out past Huacho where residents saw them flying the British flag on its mast.

- And where did they sail to, fatty smarty-pants? I prompted mockingly.

Chubby Churrunaga, a native of Oxapampa, a medical student at San Marcos University, salesman of pressure cookers, adjusted his glasses before amazing me with his erudite answer.

- The Norton sailed to Silz Tyrol, on the 26th of March 1856.

Dorada was to meet up with me for lunch. I still had a few minutes to make my way through town. I found her at the corner of the ‘shared taxi’ rank, here you don’t always get a taxi to yourself; she smiled upon seeing me. We kissed quickly. She abruptly announced that were going to eat Chinese food.

- How indigenous. I replied sarcastically.

The Chinese restaurant was near the town square. It had a garden that welcomed the sun. There we chatted over glasses of Inca Kola and cool beer. Dorada said she would go. That everything was fixed. She was going to work in Australia. She had studied English intensively. She would go, she would triumph. She said that she could no longer live in Peru. That they had not wanted to give her a visa for France or for the United States. This had caused her embarrassment. In Australia she had a friend, and her visa was almost ready. Her so called agent in Lima had been ‘assisting’ her with this plan for two years. Her eyes shone brightly. I had almost forgotten that only yesterday she had playfully said how she wanted to hide in my suitcase and travel with me. To hear her, I felt somehow, as if things had been put into place. Then I pondered on the impossibility of that project, her travelling in my suitcase, like a stash of contraband, to some place of my choice. Dorada continued her moaning:

In Peru everything is bad, everything is corrupt, the people are not paid; they don’t have work, the office hours are long, but in Australia everything would be different.

Who had told her that the situation would be so easy away from home, I thought? I knew it would be difficult in any part of the world. How could I be the one to tell her that her middle class peers, from well-to-do districts like Miraflores, left their homes only to go and work as servants in the houses of gringos. I felt sad, I wanted to tell her, yet I didn’t want to crush her dreams. I took her hand and looked up at her poignant face with devoted eyes. I almost said something, but I sealed my lips, I shut up. Dorada rose from the table, she was too hot and needed to splash her face. I watched her walk through the courtyard garden, her butt cheeks swaying, under a sunset sky. Upon her return, and before she finished taking her seat, I looked into her black eyes, squinting in the sun:

- You will triumph Dorada! - I cheered. But she failed to smile.

We rushed through lunch. I thought it was sacrilegious that she had ordered lomo saltado, a Peruvian dish, in a Chinese restaurant. The Wan Tan soup we had consumed had made me sweat and my fried rice was discarded half eaten. I paid the bill and we left. We crossed the square. A street vendor was sitting on a worn concrete bench. The man looked like he was on his last legs. He was wrapped in rags, carrying a box half full of cigarettes and chewing gum. The little man was threatening to collapse from malnutrition. He slept, but this was no siesta. Dorada noticed him and quickened her pace. We walked together to the corner of the square. We were engrossed in a goodbye hug when a loud crash caused me to loosen my grip from her waist and investigate the source of the noise: the pedlar lay on the floor, face down on the concrete. His arms were out stretched, and his hands open, as if to reach for the cigarettes that had spilled from their packs onto the deserted pavement of San Ramon's plaza.

I boarded a shared taxi from the rank at the corner of the square. The driver packed in the passengers. I could still make out Dorada in the distance, her blue trainers with white laces. She looked like she was mulling something over. I watched her until she became a point in the distance, then adjusted my gaze to the side of the road, where San Ramon's football club stood proudly.