It all started with poetry…

8 Jun


Meet the contemporary Shuar poet Maria Clara Sharupi Jua…

She writes in Spanish and Shuar, a language spoken by the Shuar people. Her poetry is soaked with  imagery from nature and the traditions of her  culture.

Maria shares her inspiration: “‘I write to enable the world to hear the voice of the Shuar people. This is a voice of the jungle, the mountains, rivers, birds, plants, insects, trees, and the sacred waterfalls that are born of our mother and sister earth and are one with the cosmos. I want to convey the wisdom of my ancestors and the orality of my culture that inhabits every syllable I put into writing. While as humans, our blood is all the same colour, our voices are the hues that matter, because they uniquely adorn our language.'”

  • This woman is amazing.
  • Published in numerous literary journals and books: Amanece en Nuestras Vidas, the first anthology of poetry from Ecuadorian indigeneous women writers, and Collar de historias y lunas, an anthology of Latin American female indigenous poets.
  • Conducted poetry readings at various universities and book fairs.
  • Invited as a guest to the 2012 International Poetry Festival of Medellín in Colombia.
  • Served on a team of professional Shuar translators that edited the official translation of the Ecuadorian constitution from Spanish into Shuar Chicham.
  • Member of the World Poetry Movement.
  • Participated in the first International Colloquium of Indigenous Women Writers.


“Drenching myself, like cool rain on mother earth
with the scent of smoke from damp firewood
that tastes like the mountain plains
and the chukirahua flower’s aroma
blends with the birdsong of the paují.

You have no eyes
and you watch like the windstorm
peeling back the contents each paragraph holds
nestling them within your colored pages.

You have no hands
but even so, you shape my senses
and you strip the 21st century, which shelters the years, the days
made of sweet, coarse sounds.

I want to kiss your words
without brushing my lips
where there are no scars
and no curtains to conceal your face.

The freedom of not having you
makes your steadiness intense
coy and playful, you chase my footsteps
like a flowering tree
in a boundless color.

We don’t know if you’re here or not
behind your eyes you hold a thousand tales
always at the tip of the wind’s tidings
like the roar of the jaguar
or perhaps an anaconda
graffiti skin, cloaked in dreams
you don’t remember infinity.

You don’t threaten my childhood dreams
or my speckled nightmares
in a faded metal box
or my bare feet
which refuse to wear high heels
or the fake smiles that unleashed my tears without wounding my soul.

I think of my beloved jungle
vines swaying from tree to tree
a drop of poison resting on an arrowhead
possessed by magic ayahuasca dustwhere the maker of life is born.”

I write poetry as well. It is my voice,  my heart embedded in ink and lead. I wanted to share some with the Shuar, but because of my ignorance I did not think they would understand. After reading Maria’s poem, I am absolutely crippled. The Shuar surely will teach me far more than I could ever teach them.

Maria: “They [foreigners]want to report only on what’s different – not on what we have in common… Poetry is important because it’s our way of life. Poetry is song, everyday life, ritual, and where the heart and soul of the world unite. It’s a form of paying tribute to what exists beyond just what we see. It is also important for keeping the memory of our ancestors alive for our children and their children.”

Poetry unites us. Tethered in metaphors and bound in personifications. It is a language that sits on every nation’s tongue. These words are our bridge to pay homage of each other’s culture, heart, soul, passions, and dreams.

I will not hide my culture, heart, soul, passions, or dreams from you…

-Dios respira vida en sueños aparentemente imposibles

To hear more about Maria and her beautiful poetry:


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