The Ancient Ones prosper in Vilcabamba,
Ecuador’s lush home for long life.

—The Hartford Courant (1993)

What does it take to live forever?
Ask Gustovio Luzon, 97, at work still
in the cane fields of Vilcabamba—
fields so steep even a goat can’t stand
upright. He’s been working all day,
not even a stop for lunch. Ask Señor Roa:
Abertano’s 116, if he’s a day, and his claim
to be 120, though clearly unverifiable,
should tell us something about this place:
that it isn’t merely the sweet water
of this hidden valley that keeps
its citizens young, nor is it the tranquility
of the green planet they inhabit; nor is trago,
alone, the salve that heals them, though it burns
the throat as fiercely as vodka. For isn’t the Agua d’Oro
Alfonso Ojeda-Bastides drinks, that keeps his legs strong
and his heart happy, brewed from his daily rapture
in Vilcabamba, where he breathes respect
from the lips of everyone younger?

Sisters, brothers, stop killing yourselves in the winters
of dying cities. Here, in the eternal spring that blossoms
in the datura trees, your new life wakens.


© Charles Fishman