During February, the month of fertility, almost all the population of Cusco celebrates the fiesta of Carnival. In it, food, drink, games, and parties are an important part as are drinks. These are the basic tools of our celebration. We drink chicha of jora (sprouted corn), beer, and the always present frutillada, a chicha blended with strawberries. It animates and refreshes with its flavor and color.
In the rural neighborhoods of the city, the carnival is celebrated with great, multicolor joy. Everyone goes out to play with foam and colored powders with which they paint their opponents in the Carnival battles of the sexes. They play on the sports ground and open places where yunzas, trees, adorned with presents, balloons, and streamers rise up. The carguyoc (sponsors) of the yunzas, share glasses of frutillada to all present who assist and at the same time have fun making jokes and sharing past experiences. Frutillada opens the feast even before the yunza is put up.
All the neighbors get together from early in the morning to share glasses of frutillada and honor the main fiesta of Carnival which we celebrate every year. The neighborhood’s men go looking for an appropriate tree to be at the center of the celebration.
The traditional frutillada is served to everyone to slake their thirst and to fulfill the feast. The men are the first to formally taste this delicious beverage that is prepared naturally.
Both the frutillada and the chicha de jora are the traditional drinks for this occasion. They are drunk in unbelievable quantity during Carnival, from its beginning to it close. Every one dances and has fun to the rhythm of music with a filled glass of frutillada close at hand.
Made from chicha de jora and fresh strawberries that grow in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, the frutillada is served up in large glasses called caporales in which we also serve our chicha de jora. Each glass has a whole strawberry in the bottom as a special gift to all.
The women responsible for serving placed one strawberry in each cup, although the liquid is made from chicha and blended strawberries. People finish drinking their very large caporales of frutillada and, then, there is an additional burst of flavor from the fresh strawberry.
Cusqueños tend to begin Carnival with a large glass of frutillada. Its sweet flavor and fruity taste is an accelerant to help you lose shyness. The drink is often fortified in the city with cañazo, distilled sugar cane alcohol. Little by little this drink inebriates all present, especially the couples who are dancing around the tree. They began to not be so firm of step and lose their shame of being seen. They show off their talents and give a great show for all who watch.
The joy, pleasure, and fun of these drinks are shared with the entire public who consumes them, as well as with the entire city of Cusco. We come together in Carnival. The chicha vendors keep this custom alive since they serve up the rich and foamy frutillada from Cusco even outside of the yunza celebrations.