“I sing to women who have impacted me with their courage,” interview with rising singer-actress Magaly Solier

Translated from a special report published in daily Peru21:
By José Gabriel Chueca

In collaboration with Phantom Records, Magaly Solier – the star of  the award-winning Peruvian films “The Milk of Sorrow” and “Madeinusa” – will launch her first CD, titled “Warmi.” Although cinema brought her world fame, recording an album was always her childhood dream. And now a reality.

The CD is titled “Warmi,” which means “Woman,” because it’s about women who have stood up for themselves and to adversity,”  Solier was quoted saying. “I met them while traveling with my mother, to sell fruit and cereal. They impacted my life by their actions. Once, upon arrival to a small village – amidst pouring rain – I saw a woman in the park, standing up to four drunks who were making fun of her. She was throwing stones at them. I enjoyed the scene, while thinking to myself: ‘what a woman!'”

Q: You are from Huanta, where the violence was particularly fierce during Peru’s internal conflict. Do you remember these times?

A: I was very young. My brothers and uncles tell me, ‘We escaped and you cried and cried. And we pinched you so that you would shut up.’ I have heard other stories – from people who helped us on the farm – about the bridge nearby. They said that people drove to the bridge, to dump bodies. And that they hid underneath the dead, and that there were dogs who ate the corpses. They sometimes went there to look for their deceased family members, recognizable because of the clothing or shoes they wore. My mother has also told me stories. She helped me with my CD.

Q: How so?

A: I would ask her how I could summarize the life of a character, and she would say: “Oh, well, say this and that, and that’s it. Or give it a title in Quechua, and say what the person said, just like they said it. You have studied for a reason, right?”

Q: There was – and still is – a lot of violence in Huanta?

A: Violence is very strong in the highlands. They burn women’s hands, and sew their vaginas shut. My father told me about a man who would sew his wife’s vagina every time he travelled, and when he got back, he would unstitch her and then rape her. Only recently has he begun to tell be about these things.

Q: How did you get along with boys?

A: When they pursued me, I would grab sticks and stones. ‘Don’t you follow me!’ I knew how to deal with it. I would aim, throw the stone, and they would run away.

Q: At the “Milk of Sorrow” premiere, you met Mario Vargas Llosa.

A: Yes. It was strange. It’s because of him that I trusted Claudia Llosa. Because, when I met her, I was selling food with some friends in Luricocha. She asked me to play a part in a movie, and at first I though that it was a joke, and that it would be best if I didn’t say anything. But because of her last name, I thought Mario Vargas Llosa was her father. She told me that he wasn’t, but I trusted her anyway. Vargas Llosa congratulated me. He said that he liked the movie, and that I had a special talent. He spoke to me twice. The first time I didn’t understand anything because I was too concentrated on his face.

Q: Do people recognize you on the street?

A: Now they do. You’re the actress, right? Sometimes I say yes. Sometimes I say: ‘They always say that. I don’t know who this girl is, but it must be the bad one. I’m the good one.’

Q: Some people say that “The Milk of Sorrow” is racist and that it can be humiliating for people of the highlands because it depicts, in a crude manner, what happened there.

A: No. Humiliating? Why? I don’t understand. What this movie says is that things can’t go on as they have, that they have to stop once and for all. I am proud of the fact that Claudia Llosa has taken the time to address this issue, to say this can’t happen again, take care of your daughters, they have to value themselves. She could make movies about her world. She wouldn’t be going to the highlands if she were racist.

Q: What were you thinking when you were singing in Quechua at the Berlin Film Festival?

A: I was very touched because people enjoyed my songs. That was my prize. But when I saw that little golden bear, I thought about all our hard work. “The Milk of Sorrow” deserved it. And when they gave us the prize, I screamed. I didn’t realize that I did, only when I watched the video did I see how emotional I was. It felt just like when I won sports trophy as a little girl. I thought, ‘We have achieved something; we told women not to be scared.’ And so I thought that I shouldn’t be afraid to sing. Everything I said, I could hear them translating. So, thinking that no one would understand Quechua, and that I could express what I felt with all of Peru, I sang.

Q: And now what?

A: I have also taken part in the movie “Altiplano,” which was filmed in Arequipa. It’s about the government and what has happened with the mines. And my CD is a dream come true. I’m not planning anything else, I’m just going to let life guide me.

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