Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fiesta de la Jora

When we were recently in Cotacachi, the Fiesta de la Jora was taking place.  Below is a description of what the festival was about:

Celebrations of the Fiesta de la Jora

JORA:  a celebration of the sprouting corn (Jora) which unites and strengthens the Andean people and cultures.
Year after year in September, Cotacachi celebrates the festivals of la Jora with song and dance -- an intercultural activity that attracts many tourists to the city. The Festival of Jora has Inca roots and is based on the permanent interplay of three elements:  nature, people, and the“creative forces”. According to the indigenous native concept, the balance of these elements gives rise to our life.
This is the start of the planting season for corn, beans, chochos, and quinoa. The locals traditionally thank Nature (which they call Pacha Mama) for the fertility of the earth. In this Fiesta de la Jora, the fruits of the earth mother are specially treated so that making and drinking the Chicha together serves as a symbol of reciprocity with the deities, solidarity with neighbors, and even a kind of redistribution of what they have managed to produce together.
This celebration began to be recognized as part of Cotacachi community identity 51 years ago, and was founded as a public festival by members of the Club El Nacional, who since the early years designated a Queen of the Jora for her moral, intellectual and physical qualities. Over time, a civil Party Committee took over the task of organizing this event with the support of the Municipal Administration. The Fiesta de la Jora, with its displays of music, culture, art and gastronomy has always been a reflection of the essence of Cotacachi.
Chicha, drink of the gods:   Corn, known in most of the world as maize, is the grain held as most sacred in the Andean Cosmo-vision, and the calendar of sowing and harvesting rituals revolves around this. The basic component of the traditional drink of September is maize in all of its varieties. Traditionally, the earliest inhabitants of Cotacachi, after the harvest of maize, offered sacrifices to the God or gods whom they worshipped. After ceremonies, they drank this refreshing chicha de jora (corn), together with the peoples and chiefs of the surrounding areas.
Preparation:   The process of preparing the Chicha de Jora is long and laborious. It is first necessary to know that this beverage was used in the past for Minga (community work-togethers), as well as for regular working days to quench thirst and provide energy. The local version of fermented Chicha is prepared with 7 dry grains such as: (germinated) maize, wheat, barley, white and yellow and chulpe corn grains and a popcorn type called canguil. It is a process that takes about 3 months starting with germinating maize in leaves of “gilguirillas”, changing the soaking water continuously for 12 days. These sprouted grains, together with other ingredients, are left to dry a specific period of time before being roasted or toasted and then ground. The mixture that results is placed in a bronze vessel filled with water. Bronze is said to give a characteristic flavor. Left to boil for at least 8 hours, water and additional herb and spice ingredients are added, depending on personal or regional preferences. Then this preparation is fermented in a container which is known as pondo. This natural fermentation process is traditionally only for a few days at which point, the Chicha is strained and sweetened and ready for consumption. The level of alcohol is very low at this point -- about 2 percent, although with a longer ferment it can become a little stronger.
 Jora in a National Context:   The economic activity recorded on the city feast days is high. Leather handicrafts and local gastronomy are featured, with typical dishes including Carnes Coloradas, meat colored and flavored with Annato. Cuicocha Lake with its unique landscape, is a main attraction for national and international tourists. For this years’ Festival, the Municipality of Cotacachi and the Festival Committee have prepared several activities to celebrate the 2011 Jora from the 2nd to the 18th of September.
The Parade of Joy will be Friday, September 9th at 3PM on the main streets of the town with floats carrying national and international delegations; and the festivities opening program will be made livelier by several Ecuadorian groups and the Colombian Matecaña orchestra. For Saturday, September 10th, the election and Coronation of the Queen of the Jora is the central activity. And on Sunday, September 11 a contest for the best Chicha de Jora, a food fair showcasing local products and at midday there will be artistic finale events to conclude these special days of celebration.
Below are pictures that I took of the various food booths, the crafts, etc.

Starting the cooking process

This little girl is cooking their special delicacy (cuy). 
Notice how pretty she looks in the traditional dress.  The young girls wear
clothes just like their mom's but made smaller for their size.

Another young girl helping out

Here is the local craft market, located at Parque de la San Francisco.  Cotacachi is known for their fine leather products.

Here is Mike with a sculpture in the park.  This park is the smaller of two parks in Cotacachi.

Oh oh, someone's coming!

He had to keep moving so as not to fall

There he goes . . .
 Here is a picture of an indigenous couple.  The traditional dress for women is long skirts with a white pleat down the side.  They wear beautiful blouses that are hand-embroidered.  The men wear white slacks and panama hats.  Both men and women wear their hair in one long braid, down the middle of their back.

A mural at City Hall
 We stayed in a hostal called La Cuadra.  It was very nice and the price was right ($15 per person, per night).  There was a community kitchen and dining room.

The lobby

Our hostess

One of the common rooms
We stayed a week in Cotacachi and really enjoyed the weather.  It was sunny and warm every day.  Now we are back in Cuenca, and it is cold and cloudy, just like we left it.

1 comment:

  1. What a surprise! I found a new posting!!! The cuy scares me but all else looked great! Keep blogging. I love checking in with you through your stories and pictures!