Customs, Food Culture

The Yunza Tree Thrills Cuzco for Carnival

Cutting down the Yunza Tree (Photo: Walter Coraza Morveli)

The yunza, or brush cutting (corta monte) as it is also called, is a tree that has great meaning in our culture.  This tree can be a cypress, a eucalyptus, or a capulí.  Of course it can also be another kind of tree, depending on whether it can be obtained for the fiesta.

The celebration is the responsability of someone we call the mayor domo.  He and his spouse are in charge of obtaining the yunza tree, with all the gifts and decorations that are tied on it.  The couple also takes charge of making food for everyone.  In this case the food is our thimpu or puchero, a special carnival stew of a diversity of ingredients all cooked in water.  It is the traditional food of carnival.

There must always be lots of chicha and beer.  The couples who are selected to dance have a costume that is different from that of other people. They are traditional costumes that are similar to those of the mestiza collacha, or to the maqta andino.

Dancing around the Yunza Tree (Walter Coraza Morveli)
Dancing around the Yunza Tree (Hebert Edgardo Huamani Jara)

The yunza can be compared to the piñata, since the routine is similar.  With the piñata the children dance around it and then strike it until they break it open and then all run to get some of what is inside it.

Instead of being an enclosed and decorated container hanging in a room, the yunza stands tall in a visible area.  Everyone who accompanies the ronda, the group of dancers, takes a hatchet or machete in hand and tries to cut the tree.  Already, before the tree falls, they have their eyes placed on an object that hangs from the branches of the tree.

Others, who are not interested in obtaining something from the tree, try to slow down the process with their balloons filled with water, cans of foam, and of course colored flours.  In the moment when the yunza falls, people run to grab something while others cover them with water balloons and buckets of water.

The couple who finally brings down the tree now has the responsibility of carrying out the yunazada, the yunza feast, the next year.  They are the new mayordomos of the feast.

Performing the Yunzada (Photo: Walter Coraza Morveli)
Performing the Yunzada

To the sound of beautiful melodies whose sound reaches out far and wide to call people, they say “Let’s begin.  Let’s go to the yunza.”  And, in the company of their family and friends they go and live this delightful feast held during carnival.

You will generally find a yunza on the main day of carnival as well as on the closing Sunday, the remate or cacharpaya, when the feast concludes.  You will find one in almost all the neighborhoods of Cuzco.

If you have the chance to participate in a yunza during carnivals, it is recommended that you enjoy it by dancing and eating the delicious food that is typical of the season.  And if you join in the cutting, maybe you will bring the tree down and then make the feast even better when you sponsor it next year.

 

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