Customs, Food Culture

The City where Beer Makes Life Flow

¡Cheers ! (Photo: Walter Coraza Morveli)

As the annual cycle of fiestas rolls through Cuzco, like troupes of dancers through the plaza, Cuzqueños take much pride. They celebrate them with vigor and joy. The people of the city and region are always up to date on the feasts and their happenings since they are important to them and to the city. While they celebrate them, they also live them.

Different typical foods accompany these celebrations; each feast has its own special dish. Nevertheless, in all of them you find the same drink, beer. Though not indigenous, this beverage has become typical in Cuzco. It is always present not just in the big fiestas but also in all kinds of events, including birthdays, which we celebrate.

Everyone who puts together a celebration of a fiesta in our different neighborhoods follows the custom of preparing delicious food to share with their guests. Then, they place in the middle of the room a case of bottled beer so that everyone can toast to good fortune and soften their throats with the golden drink until it is all gone.

The city of Cuzco is known as the ciudad chelera, the City-of-Beer-Drinkers. This is because of all the fiestas we have and because each one ends with the people drunk from all the beer.

Besides the traditional feasts and celebrations, beer also finds a place in ordinary social interaction. Whenever friends get together or when you need to close a contract at work or settle an agreement for a job, people toast the event with beer. We call this brindar.

Sharing a Glass of Beer During the Carnival feast in Cuzco (Photo: Walter Coraza Moreli)
Sharing a Glass of Beer During the Carnival feast in Cuzco (Photo: Walter Coraza Moreli)

Beer is very popular among construction workers and among masons. They seem to drink more beer than anyone else. Some people drink because they like to while others drink because in that way they can obtain more work during the week.

Beer is used in the city as a smoke curtain, as a symbolic gift. You give it to someone only so that you can receive benefits. For example, people do not generally chose to assume the burden of leading a fiesta, taking on a cargo. Instead, people choose them. Once chosen people go to them with jurqa breads and bottles of beer. Afterwards the jurqados, those who had to accept because of this treatment, must take on a great responsibility for the feast. We call that a cargo, a burden.

Finally, through this delicious brew made from barley, the people of Cuzco enter into the ambiente, the space and attitude of a feast or of a request, they become more sociable and solidary. They will do what you wish, so long as you lubricate the way with beer. You must always have a beer in your hand.

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