Flores de Sangre


He estado en el mundo de las  añañucas,  el mundo soñador.  Adonde uno se pierde entre cuentos, mitos y leyendas aunque uno  reconoce que son fantasioso, a momentos  fantasmagórico – no reales. Sin embargo, hay momentos que existe un nucleo, un personaje, un héroe o heroína aun mejor un tema, con el cual nos encontramos o parte de nuestro ser se encuentra claramente identificando.

Muchos se pregunataran:  Que es una añañucas? . . . .


I have been in the world of añañucas,  a dreamy world, where  one gets lost between stories, myths and legends. For although one knows that are fantastical, at moments, phantasmagoric not of the real world, yet there are times, that there is a core, a character, a hero or heroine or better yet a theme,  with which we find ourselves or a part of one’s self clearly identifying with.

Many will ask themselves: What is a añañuca? . . . .

That is how it all began. A beginning that led me to the flores de sangre.  Surprising me so much because my first lines of response to the end of the research and the beginning of the writing phase was for me write in Spanish? I don’t know why. But I’ve decided to leave it as is, part of the mystery, part of the myth of it all.

Mientras que otros veran que hablo no tan solo de las flores de sangre y sus leyendas pero tambien de otros niveles de entendimientos- otros enredareros . . . While others will see that I speak not only of the flowers of blood and their legends but also of other levels of understandings – other entanglements. . . .

Añañucas are tubular wildflowers found in the norte chico of Chile. Referring to Near North (of Santiago) an area more specifically, between Copiapó (Atacama, the III Region) and the Quilimarí valley (Coquimbo, the IV Region).

Flores de sangre  are the catchy nicknames  found in various legends  of two types of bell-shaped  flowers from Chile. The two native wildflowers: añañucas  and the copihue.  Respectively, from two different regions of Chile as well.  The añañuca, is also known as the copihue nortino  because it is native to the northern arid coastal regions of Chile and is a rather solitary flower while the red copihue  is from the south, more of a Mapuche  rainy region, and of course, an evergreen flowery climbing vine. Both flowers can be found in a variety of colors (yellow, pink, white), but it is the red blooms that have origin myths attached to them.

Both flores de sangre  are angiosperms (flowering plants).  From the Greek words meaning, angeion  vessel  while sperma – seed. This classification refers to the fact that the seeds from these plants are formed inside the vessels, the fruits. I really liked the way the website of Bob Klips, a plant enthusiast living in Columbus, Ohio described angiosperms as “superstars of the plant kingdom  and also placing them into a timeline for me  [evolving] fairly recently, late in the Mesozoic Era – the age of the dinosaurs”.

An astonishing claim of the climbing, trailing  copihue  vine, is that due to the Coriolis Effect, it twines in different directions, depending upon which hemispheres it is grown. The first to observe whether vines steer left or right as they climb, was Charles Darwin. He published in 1858, a book titled  The Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants. But now currently an Australian plant scientist Angela Moles, has done extensive research and has discovered that 92% of all vines worldwide are left handed, they twine counterclockwise. It does not matter what hemisphere they are in or how they search for sunlight. In other words, it is not an result of the Coriolis Effect, rather they come program in their DNA with this left handed tendency. More extended research into this report is needed to clarify whether the copihue is one of those rare cases that is the exception to the 92%.

In Ernesto Wilhelm de Mosbach’s book,  Botanica Indigena de Chile, he rightly classifies el copihue, as the queen of all the wildflowers of southern Chile.  He goes on then to describe how this flower  even though of great beauty, leaves in the spectator a feeling of melancholy and nostalgia  maybe even augmented by its blood coloring, hanging position, the austere jungle, the sad, rainy and cold season in which it blossoms. How well these words fit the life of Josephine Bonaparte nee Marie-Joséphine Rose Tascher de La Pagerie (born June 23, 1763, Les Trois-Îlets, Martinique and died May 29, 1814, Malmaison, France).

The copihues, Latin scientific name is Lapageria Rosae, duly named so in 1802, by two plant collectors –  Hippolyto Ruiz and Josepho Pavon, in memory of Josephine Bonaparte, empress and love of Napoleon. A taxonomic naming that is romantic and in homage to Josephine because of her contribution to the cultivation and exhibition of roses. It is her maiden name, La Pagerie, at the beginning of this vine rose.  In 1810, the year of Chilean independence, it is believed she hosted in France the first rose exhibition.  Even though the copihue  was always considered, it is not until 1977 that the copihue  is formally legalized as Chile’s national flower and protected from extinction. An ironic twist of fate for this  flor de sangre dolor indigeno  since this spotlight occurs during the bloodshed years of the military dictatorship (1973-1990) of Augusto Pinochet. The Valech Report, which was published in 2004, confirmed the figures of roughly, 28,000 tortured victims and  3,200 deaths to the regime.



For the readers who do not read Spanish – the above video by Paz Sargent translates into English in the following two paragraphs:

PROCLAMATION OF INDIGENOUS SUFFERING – “LONG SIGH” – “FLOWER OF BLOOD’ – THE RED COPIHUE. Chile: the myth originates in the Cautín province (Región de La Araucanía,  IX Region in the south of Chile), during the times in which the Mapuches battled against other tribes  for territory. The legend tells that this flower drew life when the warriors departed for battle. As they awaited their return, the young indigenous maidens climbed to the highest trees to descry the battle’s survivors. Upon discovering only smoke and death, it is then – as they descended from the treetops, crying, that their tears turned into flowers of blood in order to remember those who battled until death.  [Also] because of the hanging manner that they sag, from above  they are also called  largo suspiro   – long (extended) sigh proclamation of the pain of an indigenous people.

This is but one of the many, Mapuche versions of their origin  other versions tell: (1) Of an impossible love between Copi and Hues, prince and princess of rival tribes and (2) The misery of Rayén over the death of her beloved warrior, Maitú.


A different take on the origins of the copihue,   this video incorporates the song, “El copihue rojo” . This ode to the copihue  was originally a poem “Copihue rojo”  written  by Chilean poet, Ignacio Verdugo Cavada (1887-1970), when he was 17 years old.  A part of this poem was set to music by Juan Miguel Sepúlveda with a debut date of 1918. It should be noted that the poet’s work was not published until 1961 in a book title “Alma de Chile”. This video is an instrumental version, interpreted by Chilean harpist, Jose Veliz that incorporates the lyrics to the song on one side and the story of the copihue  legend on the other side.

Copihue legend presented in Miguel Manquepan’s video translated:

The Mapuches tell of a tale of many years ago, deep in the forest of the south there lived a young girl,  Rayén, who was given away at birth, to a young boy named Maitú. They had grown and naturally, fallen in love. Maitú was the bravest warrior of their tribe. One spring day, he left with the other men of the tribe to go fight a battle on the banks of the Toltén river. Young Rayén was very saddened but as each time that Maitú would go to battle,  Rayén climbed the highest pine in the forest. From such vantage point, she would observe the trail of dust left by the warriors’ travels and battles. Upon their return, she would go out to reunite with Maitú. But this evening, she did not see him return.  Rayén bereaved, inconsolable, cries of grief  in the forest. Her tears transformed into flowers of blood. These flowers in full awareness that they owed their existence to the pain in  Rayén’s heart and soul – arose, and laid themselves out as a rug and flew her thru the skies in order to reunite  Rayén with Maitú. And so it is since then that the copihues   exists, as climbers who seek the sky.

The lyrics of the “El copihue rojo” written in 1904 by Ignacio Verdugo Cavada, who would later in his life become a  lawyer and public servant, are considered to be a national hymn to the Chilean race. An hymn that poetically touches upon the blood spill of indigenous  blood as they heroically fought for freedom.  Referencing as well,  the theme of the indomitable nature of Chile’s  indigenous peoples, that was first documented in the first epic poem to come out the Americas, La Araucana.  An epic poem written by Don Alonso de Ercilla y Zúñiga (1533-1594) a courtier, soldier, poet, and Spaniard,  during his stay in Chile (1556-63) that began when he was 21 years old. Published in three parts in the years of  1569, 1578, and 1589.  It is because of this epic poem of 37 songs, that Chile is said to have been invented by a poet.

Lyrics of “El copihue rojo” translated:

Soy una chispa de fuego   I am a spark of fire

que del bosque en los abrojos    that from the forest, amongst armed thistles

abro mis pétalo rojos   I open my red petals

en el nocturno sosiego.   in the quiet of the night.

Soy la flor que me despliego   I am the unfolding flower that deployed me,

junto a las rucas indianas   along with the natives’ huts

las que al surgir las mañanas   the ones that, as the morrows arise

en las cumbres soñolientas  in the sleepy peaks

guardo en mis hojas sangrientas   saves in my bloody leaves

las lagrimas araucanas.  the Araucanian tears.


Nací una tarde serena   I was born one serene evening

de un rayo de sol ardiente   from a ray of burning sun

que  amó la sombra doliente  that loved the suffering shadow

de las montañas chilenas.  of the Chilean mountains.

Yo ensangrenté las cadenas  I bloodied the chains

que el indio despedazó  that the indian shattered

la que de llanto cubrió   the one that with cries he covered

la nieve cordillerana,   the snow of the mountain range

yo soy la sangre araucana  I am the Araucanian blood

que de dolor floreció   that due to pain, blossomed so


As a note the Spanish word, abrojo, which can mean not only a thistle, or weapon but in plural it can refer to as well, long suffering or adversity. A good living example of overcoming adversity, is El Indio Araucano  a Chilean singer from the early 1940’s who is now forgotten in Chile. Originally the intent was to place a sound of the his song, “Lamento Mapuche” , but it was nowhere to be found. (Oswaldo “El Indio Araucano” Gomez is still alive- near or at 90 years old and gave a live performance and received the Mapuche Warrior Medal  in Union City, New Jersey this past Friday, September 14th, 2012).  Below, you can hear the lyrics of: “¡Ay mi pobre raza! tan despreciada está; por eso mi queja Araucana siempre se escuchará”.  “¡Ay mi Dios! porque indio nací, mancillado estoy; derramando lágrimas me voy…” ( “My poor people ! so despised we are; for that is the reason my Araucanian complaint will be always be heard”. “Oh my God! Why was I, as an indian, born? Sullied I am; shedding- spilling tears as I go….”)


Another Chilean singer, who rose to great fame during the late 1930’s and through the 1940’s as soprano, is one who adopted a Mapuche stage name of Rayén Quitral (1916-1979) born as Maria Georgina Quitral.  This is her lyrical version of “El Copihue Rojo”. (It is the same song as above instrumental version, but here it is sung).


There are several sources for the etymology of the word copihue.  For the Mapuche (from the words, Mapu = earth and Che = people) the source for the common name of the copihue comes from the word, copun (“estar boca abajo” – to be upside down). The copihue  vine also gives a fruit, which in Mapudungun (Mapuche language)  is called kopiw, which is the root base for the Spanish word, copihue.  This fruit is an oblong berry with a thick skin and many seeds, and its common name is a pepino.  It is because of the over cropping of this popular and delectable fruit that caused the copihue to be near extinction and the reason for it be protected as an endangered species since 1977.

Two of the largest aborigines groups in Chile, the Mapuche and the Pehuenche, share a legend of the copihue  which speaks of  their mutual distrust. The last romantic version of the copihue‘s origins is more along the lines of Shakespeare’s 1594 star-crossed lovers tragic tale,  Romeo and Juliet. In this legend, the prince Pehuenches Copih and princess Mapuche Hues from two sparring tribes – the Pehuenches and Mapuche – fall in love. Since their families were mortal enemies, the forest played the secret keeper of their secret rendez-vous. Until that fateful day, as they by the lagoon amorously embrace, their respective fathers saw them. The first to act was Chieftain Nahuel (true to his kingly name of Lion) head of the Mapuche tribe and Princess Hue’s father. Although blindly enraged,  it was his skill as a hunter that landed his lance directly on his prey and to pierce Prince Copih’s heart. As Prince Copih sinks to the depth of the lagoon to the horror of his father, Pehuenches Chieftain Copiniel, who then slews – with his lance, Princess Hues as retribution. One year later,  after much  mourning and lament for the loss of such young blood,  the tribal  families agree to met back at that fateful lagoon to remember them together. They spent the night on the banks of the lagoon and as the first lights of the day lit up the waters. there  on the lagoon was a sight to behold. Arising,  to their awe, two  inter-crossed lances, from the bottom of the lagoon with an entangled vine intersecting and connecting them, from which cascaded blood red and snow white upside down bell shaped flowers. The two tribes, having recognized their loved one’s  love, reconciled and concurred that this love union of their offspring, Copih and Hues to never be forgotten and thus named the beautiful blossoming of love, el copihue.

Love, passion, pain and suffering,  red is the color that connects the flores de sangre,  the  copihue  with the añañuca.  Many times the color red is what makes a blood association, and yet at other times, it is this color that calls out the devil himself. In this case it is by name only. One of the nicknames for the añañucas  is the azucenas del diablo  (the Devil’s lilies). Sounds like this devilish association is made simply as a result of the flower’s red passionate coloring that resemble fire.  Because the etymological origins of the name azucena  in Spanish – trace it to the Arabic origin of sannahdel pelvi  (relates it to the pelvic area). I say that it is a red coloring association of passion, since  azucenas  are usually symbolic of the Virgin Mary’s purity in her womb (pelvic area)  and it is with this purity that the añañuca legends align themselves. In the case of La Añañuca,  the purity of chastity and the dedication to one mate – all with deep passion – which led to a blossoming of love and then a life lost. It is nature, mother earth who later comes into play, as she brings to bloom, as a reminder of this love, pain, suffering and passion, the flower añañuca.

Rhodophiala phycelloides is an endemic plant of Chile.

Photography courtesy of Atacama Photo


The word, añañuca  is of Quechua or Aymara origin, from añay,  qué lindo! (how pretty!), and from ñutco, seso (brains).  Other synonyms in Quechua of añañuca are amancay, chupapoto, coral del cerro, azucena del diablo, tulpu, pultru and revienta ojos. Even though there were online claims that this  is a type of evening primrose – after searching its Latinate, botanical name, “Rhodophiala – it is a genus that has been placed in Hippeastrum, in the former Amaryllis or even in the new genus Rhodolirium”. I must report it does not appear to be an evening primrose which is classified as belonging to the various Oenothera species  – more specifically, Taxon name: Oenothera biennis. In the end what all this means is that the añañuca is an ornamental wild flower and does not have any medicinal properties.

Another direct quote on añañuca  online confusion in reference to its scientific taxonomy, is confirmation from an academic abstract found at Scientific Electronic Library Online that said: “The taxonomy of Chilean Amaryllidaceae is confusing. Taxonomic problems still persist at the level of genera and species.” On the other hand, another reliable website “What is this” expands the etymology of its scientific name: “Rhodophiala translates to “red-saucer” or “red-shallow cup” (a reference to the broadly funnel-shaped red flowers).”

Both legends related to the añañuca  lightly speak of the search for gold riches in the northern regions of Chile. In one version the young male love interest is a miner who is in search of a gold mine and in another version, he is a soldier who is part of a Spanish expedition that came in search of gold as well. Even though, from Chile’s early history, she was not considered valuable because she did not have the riches of other South American terrains. Both versions follow the typical archetype motif of the trade off of selling one’s spirit, soul for gold and of not being ready to settle down, lay down roots and of giving it all for that one thing in your life. Be it true love, happiness, success or gold.

So the legend goes. . . In a far away time, long before the Independence, it is fair to say that this tale exists long before Jose Miguel Carrera’s raising of the azul, blanca y amarillo  flag – the First National Flag, also called

Bandera de la Patria Vieja   (“Old Fatherland Flag”- 1812-1814)  in the Limari province, more specifically in the village of Monte Patria (Mount Fatherland), that back then had been christened by the Spaniards as Monte Rey (Mount King). It is here that lived, of flesh and blood, a young flowering girl  named Añañuca , who was much courted by endless suitors who all vied to win her heart. Though she had the admiration of all in the village, none had been able to conquer her elusively reserved heart. Time passed thus for this young maiden.  Until the day a handsome gallant miner, who was searching for a mythical lost treasure of gold,  passed through the village. Once the miner caught sight of Añañuca’s beauty, and she him, it is love at first sight. As the romance blossomed,  young love finds them settling into a homestead as he traded in his miner’s tools for farmer’s. The young lovers lived blissfully for a period, until the night that the young man had a dream in which a mountain elf told him the whereabouts of long lost mythical treasure he had long been seeking. The very next day, the young miner, took foot and left without giving notice – not even to his dear wife.

Añañuca waited and waited for his return. It was never to occur. Many villagers believed that either he had been a victim of the a desert mirage or had been stuck by a desert storm.  As her heart bled, her unhappiness sapped the life out of Añañuca and she died for love, out of her lack of desire to live, if it was not by her true love’s side. Añañuca, being of much endearment to hearts’ of the village, the village out of consideration to place her remains as close to her love as possible, then on a rainy day, interned her body in the desert amongst a rocky terrain.  To their astonishment, the next day, upon her sacred sepulture site, was a sight to behold. Wild flowers bloomed and christened Añañuca in her memory, honor and love.

The alternative version closely resembles the above, only that the young gallant lover is not a miner but a soldier and this alternative version is informally tied into the great El Dorado search. Because this alternative version begins with the mention of it having occurred when Diego de Almagro (1475-1538) who is also known as El Adelantado and El Viejo passed through Chile. He is credited as being the first European to discover Chile. While battling in the New World, this Spanish conquistador lost his left eye. According to this legend, when this one eyed conquistador on a quest for riches and his expedition passed through this northern region of Chile, one of his soldiers fell in love with a young native girl. The soldier followed his orders and continued forth southward with the expedition. Upon the expedition’s return, defeated – returning back, because they did not find gold  riches  the young lovers met once more for the last time. Since the strict rules of the expedition did not allow for the soldier to stay or the young native to be added. As much as she cried, and begged for things to be different, they were forced to say goodbye.

On a morning that was dressed with misty fog the expedition left northbound, with no plans of returning. So the young native girl decided to follow on foot. The caravan traveled, leaving a trail to be followed. The young native maiden wholeheartedly traveled through rocky terrain where there were many loose rocks, by day and by night, the air dry and land a solitary arid landscape. She continued forth through the harsh sun rays on her back and the cold harsh darkness that would bite into her innards at night. Meanwhile, between the wind, fog and time, the caravan’s trail was slowly disappearing from sight. But it was the morning dew that truly did her in, by hiding and then erasing the trail left by the elusive caravan and preventing her from tracking down her love.

Burning tears covering her face and her bleeding feet not only staining the desert floor but actively defacing her determination. The malady of thirst, fatigue, pain and her love sickness, left this young maiden’s heart and body without the desire to live. On automatic pilot, for many days she walked in a trance of desolation, blood and tears. To witness such misery did cause much heartache to the sandy coastal terrain, until the desert night’s pious wind, amongst random rocks covered her body in a sarcophagus made of sand and the dark night sky lit up a candlelight vigil in the form of thousands of stars. . . it was not till the next day, that mother earth truly endowed the land with a splendid tapestry that laid upon the desert floor. . .thousands and thousands of añañucas a-blooming. Red in the tracks of her bloodied footprints and yellows ones in the places that her tears landed.

The añañucas is part of the flowering desert, a phenomenon which does not occur every year, rather only after long periods of rain, which in turn occur either every 5 years to every 10 years.  In reference to Chile’s indigenous wild flowers and plants, following is a translation of a bimonthly publication from INIA – Instituto de Investigaciones Agropecuarias (Institute of Agricultural Research) called Tierra Adentro, dated July-August 2004 :  “In Chile there are 5,617 wild native plants of which 50% are native only to Chile;  one can truly say that 2,808 species are exclusive to Chilean terrain. It is thanks to this characteristic that the northern central region of our country is categorized as one of the top 25 areas of most biological diversity worldwide.” The Pacific Bulb Society documented and classified many wild native flowers during its 2011 visit to the  “desierto florido“. The magic of the flowering desert, is the periodic resurgence of blooms in a landscape that dryly hides any signs of such a colorful revival.

Flores de sangre  have true regenerative power because of their connective link of blood. Also common to all these origin tales is the central young woman, who most inevitable, of menstruating age, is the regenerative link between past, present and future. In the spirit of the regenerative symbolism of blood, we end this flores de sangre article on the sacred idea of regeneration  purity  and preservation in this case, of the earth..

We end this article with a English translation of the above allusive video to the beautiful flower, añañuca and Ecological Action Group and Conservation, Añañuca. The video is dated to May 14, 2010 and filmed in San Vicente de Tagua Tagua, Chile.

“Our group- Añañuca- is named after an endemic (native) flower of Chile. Typical of the northern part of our country and worthy of nomination. According to the legend it comes from a sad love story between a beautiful young native named Añañuca and her lover. This flower is proper to the III and IV regions of Chile, though, it is also possible to find in (this VII region) San Vicente de Tagua Tagua. Mainly in ravines and hillsides
Sadly, their habitat is heavily fragmented and intervened by man – reason why today it is very vulnerable according to their conservation status.  It is for this reason, in addition to its beauty, ecological and cultural importance that we are inclined for calling ourselves by the same name as this emblematic species.
Our group, Añañuca – Ecological Action Group and Conservation,  since its beginnings as an organization has been devoted to the nature study of the Tagua Tagua Valley. Finding admittance through fences, rivers and forest gathering necessary information in order to obtain a better understanding of the functioning of our ecosystems through the recognition of the living beings that live in these habitats.
Result of this work comes as an exhibition of the Tagua Tagua Valley – An introduction to San Vincent wildflowers. A moment at which the participant simply enters a new world of living beings of this community.
Currently Añañuca develops the project: “Forest Conservation and Promotion of Heritage and Natural Heritage Sclerophyllous of the Tagua Tagua Valley” (conservacion y difusion del bosque esclerofilo patrimonio y herencia natural del valle de Tagua Tagua)
And we invite you to become a participant in the activities that will take place throughout the year in reference to this project. There will be talks, itineraries, workshops and images of its fauna where we can share our love of nature and learn from the forest and its flora and fauna.”

2 thoughts on “Flores de Sangre

  1. Mi querida Luz..hermoso y muy completo reportaje, muy bien documentado , ilustrado..e incluso con su musica..una vez mas realizastes un hermoso articulo..ahora de Nuestra Flor Nacional..”EL COPIHUE”, Flores de Sangre y aprendi que en el Norte le llaman Añañucas…hermosa la leyenda…mil gracias por permitirnos ampliar nuestros conocimientos…Recibe un cariñoso abrazo y muchos cariños a tus papas..David y familia toda.

  2. I finally had some time to sit down and read your article – and Luz, you did an awesome Job!! Very information, to say the LEAST! I learned a lot – especially the twining effect – the 92%? Once, again, great Job! So much research and information. Left, right, left right left….

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