Guide to Patagonia's Monsters & Mysterious beings

I have written a book on this intriguing subject which has just been published.
In this blog I will post excerpts and other interesting texts on this fascinating subject.

Austin Whittall

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sacharuna or chullachaqui the “jungle men”

Sacharuna ape man
Indian dressed up as a Sacha-runa, from a watercolor by Joaquín Pinto (1842-1906).

Sacharuna or chullachaqui the “jungle men”
Continuing with my series of posts on South American hominids (I began in Guyana and then continued with the Colombian-Venezuelan border area, mentioned some Peruvian hairy beings) today I will write about the Sacharuna. As I usually do, I will not copy and paste or rehash what has already been written by my other cryptozoological colleagues. Instead I will go directly to the sources.

The oldest written references

As in all things dealing with ancient South America, the oldest sources about how things were, are the journals, minutes, diaries or accounts of the Spanish Conquistadors during the early sixteenth century. The native South Americans did not possess any written language other than knots tied on cords made from llama wool (known as “quipu”).

The word Sacharuna , according to Garcilaso de la Vega (He was the first American Born historian, son of an Inca Princess and a Spanish Conquistador . 1539 – 1616), in the ancient Peruvian language, meant "savage" and was used to name the people that lived in the mountains. Note that he is not speaking about animals, ape-men or weird beings, just coarse mountain men.
“Sacharuna” is actually the combination of two Quechua language words: Sacha = jungle and Runa = man.

Spanish jesuit priest Bernabé Cobo (1572-1657), in his Historia del Nuevo Mundo (History of the New World), published in 1653, mentions a very strange “ape-man” with notably human abilities: [2]

But among all the species of Apes or Monkeys, there is a strange one that has been seen in the Andean mountain ranges, not far from the city of Cusco: it is about the height of a twelve year old boy, that always go about on two feet, their face is more similar to the human one than to that of the other monkeys, its body is voered with hair, and its face has noen, or it is so delicate that it appears to have none, its feet like those of men, only different in that they bend, like hands do; the Indians call it Sacharuna, which means both Indian of the jungle or wild man, and they attribute to it such a strange instinct or inventiveness, that they affirm that this animal, sets snares for deer and in such a manner hunts them for his sustenance, that it makes balls with which it plays and even small drums with which it makes sounds, it is believed that some of them have horns, which if so, would let us say that they are satyrs, fauns or sylvans... ”[2]

A very man-like ape, or perhaps a primitive hominid (was it furry or wearing furs?).

Another Spanish chronicler, who lived in Peru was Antonio Rodríguea de Leon Pinelo (c.1595 – 1660), who recorded that in the jungle at Carabaya, a Sacha Runa was slayed, and he asserted that it was the outcome of an aberrant mating between man and monkey. (LeonP IV-5) note that he wrote down what others had seen, he did not witness the event. Apparently he based his account on a now lost work by Felipe de Pamanes (Los Notables del Perú) in which the Sacharuna are refered to as “Carabaya monkeys” and “Savages... whose face seemed human... it shouted like a man” and also “had the height of a medium brawny man”.[4]

The following map shows the places mentioned in this post and oultine the habitat of Sacharuna:

Sacharuna habitat map
Map showing Sacharuna's habitat. Copyright © 2012 by Austin Whittall

Trying to justify their origin, Pinelo suggested an antinatural mating between human and ape. In a similar line of thought, Miguel Cabello de Balboa (c.1535 – 1608), another Spanish priest, wrote about the case of an Indian woman who gave birth to a dead monster after being “impregnated by a bear” at Carangue, close to Quito, Ecuador.[5]

What is it like?

The creature is also known as “chullachaqui”, and in Northeastern Perú, on the Amazonian side of the Andes, in the region of Loreto, the natives name it “Yahsingo”, “Sranshico”, “Shaningo”. “Shapshico”.

The natives here, in the Equatorial jungles are not Quichua, but Amazonian natives (such as the upper Napo and Bobonaza Indians), describe it as a being that appears to hunters in the forest, to frighten them.

It is a man-like creature that prefers to live in solitude, far from humans, whose presence it tries to avoid. Interestingly: [3]

they are attracted to humans and will kidnap human beings for the purpose of copulationg with them. Yashingos use kidnapped human beings for procreation, even though they can also breed within themselves [3]

The image that appears at the top of this post [6] is an Indian dressed up as a Sacha-runa, from a watercolor by Joaquín Pinto (1842-1906) (Eduardo Samaniego y Álvarez Collection), its green color is due to the belief that its body was also covered by moss or lichen.


[1] Garcilaso de la Vega, (1617), Historia general del Perú: ó, Commentarios reales de los Incas. Impr. de Villalpando, (Ed. 1800). Vol 5, pp 353.
[2] Cobo, Bernabé (1653), Historia del Nuevo Mundo, pp. 978 - 980.
[3] Ilkka Pyysiäinen (Ed.), (2010). Religion and Reason, Religion, Economy, and Cooperation, Walter de Gruyter , Vol. 49 pp 84.
[4] Francisco Carrillo, (1990) Cronistas que describen la colonia: las relaciones geográficas, la extirpación de idolatrías Volume 5 of Enciclopedia histórica de la literatura peruana. Ed. Horizonte. Pp 75 citing Leon Pinela “Monos hay en todas las Indias y de Peregrinas Condiciones”
[5] Miguel Cabello Balboa, (1586). Miscelánea antártica: una historia del Perú antiguo . UNMSM.
[6] The Sacharuna Photo is online here, and is part of: pp.552, El arte ecuatoriano, by José María Vargas, O.P.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2012 by Austin Whittall © 

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