Mercedes Paz-Carty: Wayra Churi

Mercedes Paz-Carty continues the literary tradition of her family through the publication of her novel Wayra Churi: Hijo del Viento (Son of the Wind). Wayra Churi: Hijo del Viento is a collection of short stories and poems thematically linked by their connection to Mercedes' homeland of Bolivia and the culture and language of the Inca people she grew up with. The works contained in Wayra Churi: Hijo del Viento explore the social interactions and interplay between the cultures of the wealthy elite of Bolivia and the native peoples who toiled under them in the hacienda system. In Wayra Churi: Hijo del Viento, Mercedes poignantly illustrates the complex cultural landscape of Latin America and honors her family's literary tradition.

To Mercedes, her grandfather's writings are among the greatest inspirations in her literary endeavors. "I never met my grandfather, but I feel like I have a spiritual connection to him. He was a playwright and a poet, but unfortunately most of his work has been lost because my family didn't take care of it." Mercedes has attempted to recover as much of her grandfather's work as possible. "Recently, I found some of his work, and I am trying to revise it. A friend of mine from Bolivia also found me some old newspapers where they praise him and talk about his poetic achievements. I don't want these things to be lost."

Mercedes' grandfather was not the only inspiration she found within her family. "My father was a great writer who gave me a great deal of encouragement and told me I would be a good writer. I started writing when I was a child. I wrote mainly in Spanish then, and I entered several competitions, some of which I did very well in. However, I never had the chance to write and publish a book of my work while he was alive." It was only after her retirement that Mercedes had enough time to devote to the creative process of writing. When asked if any particular author is a major influence on her style of writing, Mercedes says, "I don't follow any particular style or way of writing, but there are many writers whose work fascinates me. I'm particularly fond of Jorge Luis Borges-I love his style and the way he writes. Among English-language authors, I enjoy John Updike because the voices he uses for different characters sound so genuine."

Mercedes' writing is extensively influenced by her youthful experiences of growing up surrounded by the Incas, the native people of Bolivia. "As a child, my family had a hacienda from the 1600s, the time Spain established the colony, and the Inca people had worked there for our family for centuries. We had Inca servants in the house who we had more interaction with than our parents-they were the ones who really raised the children." As she grew up with them, Mercedes developed a strong emotional connection with the native people of Bolivia. "They had no desire of anything great, they were just happy with little things. Their religion teaches them not to ask more than what you can achieve in life, because if you die with an unfulfilled dream, you don't go to heaven. I live by a similar philosophy in my life-I try to be happy with the little things in life and not want something I can't have." Mercedes also symbolically represents her love for the native people of Bolivia through her use of Quechua, the language of the Incas, in which a third of Wayra Churi: Hijo del Viento is written.

In the short story The Swallow and the Bats: Ana's Story, Mercedes illustrates the changing social dynamic of Latin America through a tale of turmoil and revolution on a wealthy family's hacienda. "I grew up in a neo-feudal society in which the wealth rested in the hands of a few extremely rich families, and the campesinos had virtually nothing. Even as a child, I was aware of this great divide between the haves and the have-nots in Bolivian society, and when a great social revolution occurred during my childhood, I thought it was something that should have happened because of society's injustice." The Swallow and the Bats graphically depicts the demise of the hacienda system, as a group of enraged former campesinos destroy the hacienda and house of the family they once worked for. Mercedes emigrated to the United States after these social upheavals and faced the challenge of adapting to a new country with a different way of life. "In the United States, life is busier than in my home country, and people are always trying to achieve new things, but unfortunately there seems to be a constant competition to be better than everyone else. In South America, people are more concerned with everyday living, and there is not such a tremendous desire to be the best in everything."

Mercedes has ambitious plans for future writings. "In the future, I'd like to write more plays. I love plays and the theatre-in fact, I like to see plays even more than going to the opera." Wayra Churi: Hijo del Viento contains Mercedes' first completed play, The Guardian, about the lives of the Incas before the coming of the Spanish. Mercedes says that the keys to successful writing are that "you have to write with your heart, and you have to be very honest about what you write. Portray whatever you are trying to communicate in the best way you can. Be humble about what you write, and just hope for the best."