August 2011

Chicheria Banners

A sustainable producing garden with a healthy top soil.

Chichería banners have a long history in Bolivia. This article gives a short overview of their development..

By Walter Sanchez C.
Instituto de Investigaciones

Photo: Walter Sánchez
Chicha banner

Banners are not only the most eye-catching thing that represents a chichería (aqhawasi = a house where chicha is sold, in Quechua), but they also indicate the presence of chicha in other locations, even in private homes.

There are several kinds of banners, depending on whether the chicha is sold on a temporary or permanent basis. In places where chica is sold permanently, the banner is a diamond shape suspended from a stick. The flag itself is covered with red fabric, with white pompoms hanging from three corners. This is called aqhallanthu (chicha banner), and usually hangs above the door of a chichería. They are decorated with symbols that give them a different meaning, depending on the occasion. For example, during Carnival, they are decorated with confetti and streamers. When someone dies, they are edged with a black ribbon. When the owners of a private house have prepared chicha, they place a square white flag outside their house. When the chicha is finished, the banner is simply taken down. This second type of banner is known as a soul flag or life-time flag: aqhabandera.

Chicha is an alcoholic drink. It is made out of fermented corn, and is a popular traditional drink all over Bolivia.

No research has been carried out on the development of the chichería banners and the changes that have taken place over time. Perhaps the oldest description of these banners was written in 1861 by José Manuel Cortez, who in his text “Essay on the History of Bolivia” (Sucre: Printing Beeche) said: “The rabble of Cochabamba are almost constantly celebrating, and therefore have all the addictions, all the brazenness, that drunkenness brings with it. Since the drunkenness of Sunday is taken to Monday, people have created a saint called Saint Monday. He is supposedly the patron saint of drunkards, painted above the doors of chicherías: a drunken man’s face; a jar of “chicha” that forms the body; a violin and a guitar for arms; and he has no feet, because of the difficulty with which drunken people walk. He has a jar in which chica is served as a hat; in front of him is a table covered with dice, a pack of cards and daggers, to represent the vices of the chicherías, which are real dive bars.” It is possible that prostitution was among the vices that were sheltered in some of the chicherías, although it was a taboo subject for society in those days.

Photo: Walter Sánchez
Chicha banner

In December 1873, a municipal decree was published. This message was to regulate the function of chicherías in Cochabamba. In article 8, they prohibit the use of painted canes as well as “allegorical figures” on the chichería doors. We do not know what images were painted on the canes and what the allegoric figures represent. What is clear is that the local authorities disapproved of their use, and the decree prohibiting them was introduced. Instead, chichavendors were ordered to use just a “tarja” nailed over the door which read: “Chichería”, or “Here we Sell Chica”, emphasizing that whoever disobeyed this law would have to pay a fine of two to four bolivianos. We have to take into account that in the 19th century, in the city of Cochabamba, there were many chicherías and not all of them were alike. They ranged from first rate to low class, so we can only guess at the diverse amount of devices used, based on the imagination of the owners, to attract clients– and also of the dancers and the attentiveness of the ladies who sold chicha. This definitely worried the authorities, causing them to banish chicherías from the city centre years later.

Photo: Walter Sánchez
Chicha banner.

This kind of rule must have had an effect, because allegorical advertising disappeared in the first half of the 20th century. Instead, in the formal chicherías, they used banners made of tin that contained shapes such as stars, diamonds, and arrows– some are still around today– and many decorative elements that represent the presence of chicha (jars, barrels, etc.).

Nowadays, there are two popular types of banner: The flag or banner with a piece of white fabric that hangs from a stick, which means that there is temporarily chicha in a private house, and the regular banner, that hangs constantly on the wall of the formal chicherías.

Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológias article
was translated thanks to the agreement between
Projects Abroad and the Departament of Lingüística Aplicada a la Enseñanza de Lenguas  - Faculty Advisor  Mgr. Mónica Ruiz
Translator :
Cintya Veronica
Castro Cuellar

Calendario AGOSTO 2011

> Exposición “Infierno Barroco”
Organizan: Comunidad Boliviana de Ilustradores LÁPIZ
y Alianza Francesa
Horarios: 9:00- 12:00 /15:00 – 19:00
27 de julio –10 de agosto

> En el marco del Año
Internacional de la Juventud:

Exposición fotográfica “Tengo 20
años en mi país”

12 – 19:00 Horarios de visita: 9:00- 12:00 /15:00 –19:00
12 - 24 de agosto

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