Friday, January 17, 2014

La Cancha, Q'owa, and dead baby llamas

I have officially survived my first trip to la cancha--the huge market, or more like market system in the southern area of Cochbamba.  Probably the best way to describe it is an extensive maze of multiple large indoor markets surrounded and connected by a multitude of outdoor street markets.  It is full of anything you could possibly want and has just as many smells and noises to go along with its extensive range of goods.  (Bridget I'm pretty sure you would have tossed your cookies walking past the rows and rows of raw meat in the butcher was an experience I will not soon forget). It is definitely organized into department-like sections, ie the artisan market, the live animal market (complete with sheep, chickens, and pigs I'm told--we didn't quite make it that far), the home goods market, the baked goods market (unfortunately lacking a gluten-free section...), the fresh produce market, etc.  I think some of you may have experienced something of this sort either in Costa Rica (with Hannah), or other places.  Below are some pictures from the web that I think best represent my experience:
Here's a good taste of what the meat section looks like (now picture rows and rows of these stands...and try not to breath the pungent smells too deeply...)--Bridget I added this picture specifically for you :)

All three of the above pictures show different sections in la cancha.  Top one is of the artisan goods, bottom left is your everyday household section (I think with some food and cooking ingredients mixed in??) and bottom right is the guitar/music section.  You can kind of get a feel for how expansive the markets feel by the seemingly endless row shown in the top picture.

Another Maryknoll Lay Missioner Mihn was my brave and knowledgable guide. However, she told me that even after having lived in Cochabamba for more than 3 years, and doing most of her shopping in la cancha for almost just as long, she still gets lost in the endless rows of wares.  She often stops and asks venders which way to a certain market area (which she did multiple times when I was with her) or which way the exit is...  I'm telling you, this is no place for anyone who has any sort of claustrophobia or does not like the idea of getting lost!

Alright.  Now onto Q'owa (pronounced koh-qah).  Let's start with the basics (ie what I learned from Mihn and some of the other Maryknoll Lay Missioners and a bit of what I filled in from researching online).  Q'owa is a Bolivian ritual from the Andean tradition used for the purpose of bringing good luck and happiness to oneself, one's home, one's business, etc.  It traditionally has been practiced on the first Friday of each month and the Tuesday in Carnival (ie Fat Tuesday), but more recently people in Cochabamba have been doing the ritual every Friday.  Q'owa is a burnt offering to the Panchamama (Mother Earth) and can be made up of a variety of things such as herbs, llama fat, coca leaves, the q'owa plant (where the ritual gets its name from), incense sticks, and small charms made of sugar (with each charm having a picture depicting a unique wish/hope such as love, success, happiness, good health, etc).  Below is a couple pictures I found on the web of Q'woa offerings.

You can find all the ingredients for a Q'owa offering in the witch market section of la cancha.  In fact, it usually comes in a nice little package complete with charcoal and sometimes even a small metal stand where the offering can be burned (see picture on the right).

AND YOU KNOW WHAT ELSE YOU CAN FIND IN THE WITCH SECTION OF LA CANCHA?!?  DEAD AND DRIED BABY LLAMAS AND LLAMA FETUSES!!  I could hardly believe my eyes when we got to this section.  Mihn kindly told me that if it was all "too much" for me, we could leave.  I reminded her that I am a nurse and have seen and cleaned up far grosser things...  However, before I go on, below is a much needed picture to help with my explanation.
And there they are folks, just as I saw them in all their glory hanging en masse from the tiendas of the witch section of la cancha.  You can only really see the dried baby llamas in this picture.  For those that are curious, the dried llama fetuses were also hanging from the tiendas--only they are much smaller and black.  And why are they sold this way you may ask?!? Dried llama fetuses and baby llamas are one of the most important parts of many offerings to Panchamama and are especially used to help protect a new building or house.  I even read on a website that an estimated 99% of Bolivian families have a dried llama fetus under the foundation of their house to help bring them luck (may or may not be true...).  And for all of you animal lovers out there, don't despair too much.  I was told that most of the dried llamas and fetuses are results of miscarriages, still births, or llamas who die young from natural causes.

Ok.  I think that's enough information for today.  Thanks for sticking with me.  I promise no talk of morose topics in my next post--and certainly no pictures of dead animal, dried or butchered :) 

1 comment:

  1. oh girl! look at you go with your blog posts. i am so proud. we miss you!