Friday, 8 June 2007

Pachamama Festival (and Cow Wedding!)

We really had little idea what was in store when my boss invited us to his farm for something he said "you don't see often these days". Apart from knowing it had something to do with livestock and that he and his wife put on great BBQs at their country house in the hills north of Salta we were in the dark.
Basically this day is an ancient way of marking the new calves in the herd and a ceremony to protect them that is practiced in parts of Northern Argentina, Bolivia and Peru. Pachamama is the mother earth goddess worshiped since Incan times.
After a big lunch of asado, locro and tamales we all moved down to the corral. First the hole in the earth that symbolises Pachamama was opened including pulling out "cow" rocks with the lasso. Into the hole they placed offerings of food, wine, cola, cigarettes and last, but definitely not least, coca leaves. A temporary cover was put over the hole and the fun began.
One by one the calves were let into the corral from a holding pen. About 20 local guys were all standing around with their lassos and a count was kept throughout the day of who got the most. The cows were then trussed up. The first two were, to our surprise, married under a poncho. This included woolen flower garlands for their horns and confetti. They were given wine before they were branded and set free. Apparently this is supposed to signify that they will couple later in life in the herd.

The rest of the afternoon was spent sitting around chatting, drinking and watching as each calf was lassoed given woolen flower "earrings" and branded. They even had a kids run with the littlest calves which was very cute. One unusual drink they were passing around instead of standard mate was mate made with half industrial alcohol half hot water. Mate by itself is an acquired but addictive taste, the alcoholic one tasted like metho.
At the end of the day the guys were awarded a ring shaped sweet bread for each calf lassoed. The Pachamama hole was then given more food and drink before being closed and a tree branch decorated on top like a Christmas tree with the same woolen "flowers" used on the cows.
It sure was a unique experience. For more action shots see the smugmug gallery.


At 13 June 2007 at 07:29 , Blogger Flavio said...

Great story and pictures!!!!


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