Issue - April 2008

April 2008

In this month's issue, read about how Yalo Cuellar began his career; experience and taste traditional family dishes with one of Cochabamba's families; Heather Dieguez tells us about Energética; Walter Sánchez and Luis Fernando Terrazas come back to us with yet more interesting tales of more...

April 2008

Forgotten Blacksmiths

the blacksmith was surrounded by a mystery halo, that made him enjoy of a special status

Luís Fernando Terrazas

The iron manufacture industry in the Cochabamba valleys was once outstanding. It was distributed in places of productive importance due to the demand for agrarian instruments such as hoes, shovels, pickaxes, and sickles. One important forge centre was located in the Low Valley, in the Ironcollo area (close to Quillacollo). Thisspecialized in sickles, pickaxes, spades, hoes, door locks, horse iron fittings, bridles, and horse harnesses.

In the High Valleys, in the Mamanaca, Méndez Mamata and Tarata communities, they specialized in door locks, door eyebolts, door knockers, hoes, pickaxes, spades, horse iron fittings, bridles and horse harnesses. The small town of Cliza had its own blacksmiths because they made a variety of products.

In the Sacaba Valley, next to the potato market, they had a similar blacksmith production as in the High Valley. In the process of wrought iron, the artisans found a very important way of expression as they began to produce door knockers; iron objects that were placed on the doors andthey had some social significations and even symbolic and ritual meaning.

Indeed, in small villages such as Totora, Tarata or in cities like Cochabamba, where the presence of landowners was important, the door knockers generated subtle messages that showed the visitors the social conditions of the house inhabitants. On the doors of rich landowner´s houses it was common to find knockers that were brought from Europe to show their “non-indigenous” origin. Those knockers were moulded like feminine hands (single and married) and in other cases they represented lions or other animals.

In the mestizo - countrysidemen’s homes, mainly in those of the High Valley (Tarata, Arani, Pocoata, and the indigenoustowns like Méndez, Mamata, Mamanaca, San Juan de Liquinas and Huasa rancho Rayo), they developed a kindof door knocker with its own symbolism. These knockersmaintain certain local domestic handmade wrought. They not only link the ritual part of the meaning, but the house inhabitants’ specialization. For example we could find callerswith bull or cow heads or animal figures.

The British anthropologist Evans Pritchard, once said that “the blacksmith was surrounded by a mystery halo, that made himenjoy of a special status that it is maintained in the popularbeliefs”. Iron was considered magic and those who worked with it, were assigned power of communication with the deviland evil souls, that gave them terrible powers. It is possiblethat people in the Cochabamba valleys believed that theblacksmith could protect their houses with his work.Nowadays this art has lost its ritual and social function. It remains as memories on the doors of majestic houses or on the old wooden doors of the humble countryside dwellers.

Yalo Cuellar - Portrait

Yalo Cuellar has been a powerful player of and influence on Bolivian folk music since the beginning of his career. He was born in Yacuiba, Bolivia, in 1963. Winner of multiple awards and distinctions, Cuellar (born Sadi Jorge Cuellar Marie) has released ten albums over his long career and is currently promoting his most recent CD Francocantador...

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