Commentary, Traditional Food

Whimsy and History in Cusco’s Names for Chicherías and Picanterías

Chicherías and picanterías in our Imperial City carry fascinating names. In these traditional spaces local people and visitors of different social classes share tables. They do not just enjoy a drink and a plate of traditional food, they also share lived experiences and future plans. They play, joke, and toast with their caporales (big glasses) filled with fermented corn, chicha.

In these places, the taste of the chicha and the food varies according to the cooks and chicha makers as well as according to the place. Each region, province, and district have their own traditional ways of making up food and especially chicha.

In our city’s different districts, within the popular neighborhoods, there are a great variety of chicherías and picanterías, each with its own style and decorations. Behind each is lies a story which takes form in its name. The reason is simple. They are not equal.

Sharing Chicha (Walter Coraza Morveli)
Sharing Chicha at  (Walter Coraza Morveli)

 

The chichería known as the female fox (la Zorra) is found in the neighborhood of San Blas. It had no sign outside identifying it, but people arrive since it is very well known for its competitions in sapo and of cards. The people who come here say that luck and good fortune is found in this establishment. For that reason they gave it the name of La Zorra.

The picantería called La Purureñita is another well known establishment much frequented by the people of San Blas. Its name comes from Señora Tomasa who makes the chicha and the food. She is from Paruro and the chicha she makes is done in the fashion common in her locality. That is why it has its name.

The picantería La Chuccha is located in the traditional neighborhood of Santa Ana. Its name comes from its owner who has long hair that is thick and well braided. People say it is one of the oldest establishments in the neighborhood and the woman has been working there for many years.

The Lunareja Chichería is located in the district of Wanchaq. Its name comes from the three moles (lunares) on the face of the casera (vendor) who makes up the chicha.

Chicha
Chicha

You can also find the picantería Las Manuelitas. It is located in the neighborhood of Tawantinsuyo. It is well known by locals and every day prepares a great variety of extras (main dishes). For many years now it has served the public. It began with a small chichería, now its space is much bigger and its specialty is its main dishes. It is named for the women named Manuela who work there.

Just as you find these five establishments, there are many more dispersed throughout the region of Cusco. Some take the names of their streets or some peculiarity of the person who makes the chicha. Whether because of its locality, its appearance, or its form of making the ancestral drink, each has a particular and interesting name.

The fundamental role, in these places, is taken by women who make up the chicha, provide service and elaborate the chicha.

The majority of chicherías and picanterías open their doors at noon. From that moment on people arrive in order to slake their thirst or calm their hunger, as well as to have a good time with others there while listening to chicha music, as well as huaynos, and cumbias.

In some of the places, beginning at 3 pm the women begin adding a bit of distilled cane alcohol (cañazo) to the chicha in order to animate the people or to get them drunk so they consume more.

Our chicherías and picanterías are places where people consume chicha, frutillada, and beer. There, they also enjoy traditional dishes. These are spaces of energy, good food, and a combination of scents all joined on dishes and in big glasses.

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