Chicha and the Zaparo Festival

Chicha and the Zaparo Festival

The following excerpt is from Field Notes, Sinchi Sacha Foundation, 1991

Since the beginning of time the Zaparo celebrated nature’s exuberance with a spectacular fiesta each year between January and March, when the fruits of the forest have ripened, chonta is plentiful, and the animals fattened. The monkeys are plump and delicious!

Three hundred Zaparo, usually from the same family, came together for the fiesta. The preparations took a long time. A group of men, along with a number of assistants, were chosen for the hunt. They were gone for three and sometimes four weeks, leaving their wives alone and sad.

Mamma always sang songs so that my father and the others would have a good hunt.

The men hunted and fished as much as they could. In the meantime, their assistants spent the day smoking the game so that it would not spoil. With the skins and feathers they made gorgeous clothing, headdresses and other decorations for the fiesta

The women also had much work to do; they had to prepare the chicha and the ceramic vessels. They planted the entire garden plot with manioc especially for the chicha they prepared for the fiesta, and they made jugs and jugs of kazuma, a chicha made of manioc fermented with saliva — the saliva of women only.

There were different ways to make chicha: with a sweet and pleasant taste, a thick liquid that I liked most; strong and thick, a chicha you got drunk on right away: or mixed with peanuts or sweet potato.

The women also had to make the vessels for the fiesta: large jugs for storing the chicha, mucahuas, or bowls of all sizes and designs for serving it, and purus in the shapes of birds, trumpets, supai heads, and so on.

When the day of the fiesta came, the women painted themselves with the seed of the huituc, making lovely designs on their faces, feet, legs and arms. They also dyed their hair very black with the same seed. The men also painted their faces with huituc before entering the community in triumph, crowned in feathers and wearing all sorts of decorations, proudly carrying the game they had hunted. The women went with joy to the men and, to the sound of drums, clay horns, and bone flutes, the three days of celebration began.

How we danced, spinning and spinning! How beautiful it was.

The first day we danced without stopping and drank great quantities of chicha. The second day we ate the meat from the hunt at a great banquet, and we also danced and drank. The third day, the kazuma had to be finished, and when we didn’t want to drink anymore we poured it over our heads, shouting “imaru, imaru, imaru,” rain, rain, rain. It was a chicha rain, a rain of abundance, an offering to the forest. At the end of the fiesta, it was the custom to break the lovely ceramic pieces, throwing them against the roof. The pieces that stuck in the leaves in the roof made us long for the fiesta, until the next year.

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