Hugo and the Shihuahuaco

A collaborative story written during a creative writing workshop between the Forest Online and Wild Forest and Fauna’s Future Leaders program. Written by Casey, Jose, Blake, and Pavel. 

Many years ago (in 1990), Hugo was born in the native community of Tipischa. He spent his childhood in the jungle on the banks of the Las Piedras, amongst the trees and the birds. He sought adventure in the forest, climbing and playing in the trees. Hugo loved all of the trees of the forest, but his favorite of all was the giant Shihuahuaco, or ironwood, that stood by the creek.  

Time passed, and there was no school for Hugo to attend in Tipischa, so his family moved to Puerto Maldonado, a small city of laborers and loggers a few hours away from their community. More than anything, Hugo knew that he would miss his tree, and he carved his name and the year, 1997, into its bark so that it would always remember him.

As he began his education in Puerto at the Carlos Fermin Fitzcarrald school, little by little he lost his connection to both his native culture and the land, and his priorities began to mirror those of his peers. Consumerism became the center of his life: he spent his time in front of the TV, or partying with friends. He became accustomed to “easy living” in a society very different from the community in which he was born. In Puerto, money was king. As a result of this new lifestyle, Hugo forgot the beauty of his childhood and his true home…

During high school, he fell into a bad circle of friends, and his party lifestyle intensified. Somewhere amongst all of the partying, Hugo became a father.  

With a new son to support came the pressure of finding a job. One of the few opportunities that he could find was with the logging company of a friend. Despite the legal risks, he took it. His knowledge of the Las Piedras made him a valuable asset, and his job quickly became lucrative.

After logging extensively towards the southern end of the Piedras, he eventually found his way north toward Tipishca. One day, he was called in to help with an especially large tree- it would take all day to dismantle. Not finding anyone that could care for his son while he was away, Hugo brought him along.

He spent the morning expertly cutting the wood into planks, not thinking that this tree was different than any other. Eventually, lunchtime came and Hugo turned off his chainsaw. He wiped his brow, looking up to see his son sitting on the part of the log that remained intact, his feet dangling. He smiled proudly at Hugo, pointing to something on the bark and saying “Papa! Come look at this!”

Curious, Hugo walked over to where he was sitting. “What have you found?” he smiled down at his son.

“I found your name!” he responded, pointing insistently at a carving in the side of the log. “Right? That says h-u-g-o, right?”

As he looked down at where his son was pointing, Hugo’s heart skipped a beat. Carved into the bark he saw “Hugo, 1997.” To his surprise and embarrassment, his eyes began to fill with tears at the realization of the life that he had taken. “Yes, hijito, that is my name.”

His son looked up at him, surprise and confusion etched into his brow. “But papa, why are you sad? Did I do something wrong?”

“No, no you did nothing wrong.” Hugo said, wiping at his eyes and clearing his throat. “Come now, it’s time for lunch.” Hugo watched as his son ran off to eat with the other men before turning back to run his hand along the bark of the fallen Shihuahuaco. He closed his eyes, and for the first time in years he closed his eyes and listened to the sounds of the forest around him.

At the end of the day, Hugo watched his friends load the wood of the Shihuahuaco onto the trucks, feeling a sadness and longing for his childhood. Walking back one last time to the place where the Shihuahuaco once stood along the creek, he bent down to run his fingers through the soil. As he did this, he felt a small, hard shape under the dirt. Pulling it out, he discovered that it was a seed- the only remaining seed of the tree that had once been his friend. Turning it over in his hand, he thought of his son- seven years old, just as he had been when he had left Tipishca. As he stood and walked back to the trucks, he placed it in his pocket. They would plant the seed later, together.

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One thought on “Hugo and the Shihuahuaco

  1. Pingback: Familiar Strangers in the Forest – The Forest Online

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