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

El "Arbol del Pueblo"

“During the spring season, under the pleasant leaves of the Arbol del Pueblo, people gathered to celebrate for hours the great festivity of San Andrés.”

Walter Sánchez C.
Archeological Museum,
Universidad Mayor de San Simón

At the north of Cochabamba was the beautiful countryside of Calacala. At the beginning of the XX Century, during summer, almost all the families from Cochabamba would move here to pass the long season, enjoying walks through the fields, and bathing in the springs.

The poor would only go on Sundays to wash clothes and wait under trees as they dried. In the evenings, they would return to the city “forming happy groups and singing to the sound of guitars and charangos…”. In 1889, Jerman Von Holten, teaches us that during the festivity of San Andrés (December 2-3), the multitude of people increased and you could see people under “each tree in Calacala or Queruqueru”.

José Aguirre Achá left us with a beautiful description of the countryside of Calacala, in his book De los Andes al Amazonas (1902): “The avenues that cross the extended countryside in every direction, exhibit tall willows and molles on the slopes, discovering from one stretch to another, beautiful country homes, where young women appear at the doors and windows in the late afternoon, or where couples stop to sing music…There is not, in Cochabamba, a love story that is not remembered for the thick forests and flowered paths of Cala Cala. How many golden dreams does the willow of the main plaza hold!

How many melancholic youths have been tranquilized by the rumor of the creeks that wind through the rosebushes and myrtle that grow in the gardens!”

The willow was not the only emblematic tree in Cala Cala. The ceibo tree, otherwise known as the “chillijchi”, was found by the thousands. Nataniel Aguirre, in his novel Juan de la Rosa written during the second half of the XIX century, writes “In front of the city, separated by the bed of the Rocha River…was extended the leafy countryside of Calacala, over its eternal green forests, stood two or tree great bunches of ten times centennial ceibo trees. Benjamin Blanco wrote in his Geografía de Cochabamba (1901) that at the border of Calacala, there was “a beautiful country home, elegantly built, with a public chapel, and it is there too where you will find the great ceiba tree named “The tree of the Pueblo”;it’s trunk measures fourteen times the extension of the arms in circumference” and its roots emerged from thesoil. Such an impotent presence, without a doubt, and a profound ritual meaning for the people of the city and the countryside. José Macedonio Urquidi also wrote in his book El Origen de la Noble Villa de Oropeza (1949), that in this “picturesque area and higher than the countryside of Calacala…(with) beautiful and fertile properties and old and modern buildings of this delicious region, until not long ago, was a corpulent ceibo, whose robust trunk measured fourteen times the extension of the arms in circumference”.

Cala Cala was not only a recreational place, a place to take a walk or to fall in love. The presence of the people was closely linked to a cult revolved around this tree,whose entailment was visible each November during the All Saints Festivity (November 1-2) and during the San Andrés festivity; a time that ritually inaugurated theplanting season. What was the relationship between this tree and the festivities of this period? One columnist of El Heraldo (4.IX.1907, No. 5191) writes that during All Saints, the “simple artisans…at the shadow of the leafy tree, improvised meeting in the open air of the countryside, frightening the birds with their orchestras of string instruments and humorous songs, rhyming with uproarious clapping, according to the grace ofeach couple, with a handkerchief in hand, gave in to the famous dance of the land”. For José Macedonio Urquidi,we know that “during the spring season, under the pleasant leaves of the Arbol del Pueblo, people gathered to celebrate for hours the great festivity of San Andrés.”

Although we have no explicit reference, the tradional stories told remind us that during All Saints and San Andrés, people hung wallunk’as (great swings in Quechua) from the branches of the highest and most grandiose trees, where young women of marriageable age were swung while singing picaresque songs. The great decorative willows and ceibos, sheltered the people dancing, singing drinking, ch’allando the trunk with chicha, under their shadows, as if they were “feeding” them. We also know that around the Arbol del Pueblo, the most beautiful of the whole central valley, the most prominent wallunk’a was prepared, and there, the most outstanding rituals of the San Andrés festivity were held.

The loss of these trees by nature or by authorities’ decision, the last great willow left in Cala Cala was found at the cross between the Avenues Libertador and America. It was taken down during the 1970’s to allow traffic to pass. This marked a declination of the festivity of San Andrés and the countryside of Cala Cala, likewise, dissolving the people of Cochabamba’s cult to the tree.

Forgotten Blacksmiths

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, ...

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