CustomsFood & Drinks

The Yunza Tree Brings Joy to Carnival in Cuzco’s Neighborhoods

The custom of the yunza also called the cortamonte, tree-cutter, involves a tree filled with gifts. It has a lot of meaning in our culture. It has been carried out from olden times down to the present.

People use various kinds of trees for this, such as syprus, eucalyptus, capulí, or a different kind of tree that grows in the area and that is easily obtained for the feast. Those in charge of the festival either cut one down or they are responsible for buying one of these trees.

The whole feast is the responsibility of a person called the mayordomo. He organizes and carries it out. The tasks include obtaining the yunza tree, the music, and the food which, since it is carnival, means a puchero—also called timpu. There should be sufficient food for all the attendees to enjoy it.

Drink, whether chicha or cerveza should not be lacking for this feast. These are what enliven the party.

At the same time people perform traditional carnival dances around the yunza tree. The principal persons who are invited to cut at the yunza tree wear traditional dress. Women are clothed as mestizos and the men as a maqta andino.

The yunza can be compared to a piñata, since the routine is similar. When we have a piñata the children dance around it and then hit it until they break it and open it. Then they run to grab up all that is in it.

Instead of hanging the yunza tree strands upright in the middle of the fiesta grounds. All the gifts are plainly visible. Everyone accompanies the round that dances and with a hatchet in hand takes strikes at the tree. Everyone already has their eyes on one object or another that is hanging from the tree. They are ready to run for it when the tree finally gives way and falls.

Other people who are not so interested prepare to make their arrival at the gift impossible. They prepare balloons filled with water and have cans of foam. Of course they also have colored flours. When the tree falls people run towards the objects and other persons throw at them the balloons and spray them with foam or toss flour on them. Others simply throw out water. In this way they make it a challenge to get any gift.

The person who breaks the tree will have the responsibility the next year to sponsor the feast of Carnival and the yunzada, as we call it. He will be the new mayordomo. Once the new host is chosen they break out cases of beer and buckets of chicha. Live music also sounds.

If you have a chance to be in a Carnival yunza it is recommended you enjoy it, dancing and eating the delicious puchero that is typical of this feast. And, if you decide to cut at the tree remember you do it so that the next year you also must be in attendance.



Brayan Coraza Morveli

Soy completamente cusqueño. Mi profesión es analista de sistemas. Me encanta escuchar y tocar la música andina tanto como bailar break. Me gusta también compartir mi experiencias como cusqueño con gente de otros lados. Una de mis metas es llegar a conocer mi cultura más profundamente y compartirla ampliamente con gente de otras generaciones tanto como con hermanos y hermanas de otros lados de nuestra planeta.

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