Memories of the Uyantza 2015: four days of gratitude, brotherhood and joy

 Every two years, the Amazonian Kichwa community of Sarayaku celebrates the Uyantza Festival in honor and thanks to the Pachamama, and during its four days, each and every one of the inhabitants of this town plays a fundamental role in carrying out and perpetuating actions and customs. that have been inherited from generation to generation.

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Ancestrally, the Uyantza was held every year, but with the new Sarayaku management plan, which seeks to give the forest a prudent time so that the species reproduce after the abundant hunting and fishing, it is a biannual celebration that possibly become three-yearly depending on the need of the land. Preparations for the party begin two weeks before the date indicated, which in this case was Friday, February 13. Thirteen days before, the men went hunting in the mountains and the women stayed in the community, harvesting the fields, preparing the girl and weaving the pottery that would be used in the festival. During these two weeks the days pass calm and in silence, although everyone knows that this calm will soon be replaced by an incessant drumming that will bring with it unity and joy.

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That Friday, Shaminkichu day (you're coming) the hunters arrived, divided into four groups according to the prioste they help, and the women were waiting for them happily with small jars of the best chicha to welcome them. That day each group advances to the house of their prioste where they leave the animals that the land has given them for hunting and to the rhythm of the drums and the flavor of the typical drink, the smoked and cured meats are hung around the house, on ceilings and wooden columns, as a sign of the generosity received and the success achieved. That day the party consists of that and at sunset, the music slowly turns off and the men finally rest in their homes after so many days of effort.

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On Saturday, the day of Sisa Kamari (branches and flowers), the community gets up early to collect plants from nature and bring them as an offering to the house of the priostes. The women make bouquets of flowers and the men carry large palm leaves, and at home they receive a generous ration of chicha in return; Whoever doesn't drink is showered on him and whoever does too, as if for justice. Some return home to take a good bath and others prefer to spend the day bathed in chicha and playing from party to party. Later, around noon, each prioste with his assistants take the offerings they have received to the main square: the palms are nailed in a circle around the space and the flowers are taken to the church to adorn the virgin. Within this great circumference the men play the drums, the grandparents the flute and the women dance tirelessly, swaying their long and shiny hair from one side to the other, in the midst of a family atmosphere, harmonies and very solid, which reflects the pride that the Sarayaku people have for their history and identity. People walk home again when the sun goes down and there they prepare for the next day: the big feast.

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On Sunday, the day of Kamari (great meal), the women cook the meat in large pots and at the same time prepare yucca and plantain to complement the banquet. While lunch is ready, which they will offer to the entire community and to visitors, the virgin who has been adorned with flowers is taken from the church to the square where a short procession of a few turns takes place, accompanied by the almost omnipresent notes of the drums. They return her to her place again, where on this occasion a special event was celebrated: the marriage of a young couple from the town. Music again, dances again and this time, delicious and varied food among which there was monkey meat, birds, fish, tapirs, among others. In addition, tonight there is one last party in which the music and movements are more intercultural, although traditions such as drinking chicha and respect are maintained. The party is ending and everyone is happy since the days have passed quietly.

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On Monday, closing day, there are two main acts with which the people of Sarayaku finish thanking the land and their brothers for abundance, strength and blessings. First, each prioste walks with his helpers to the house of his companions, wearing all the furs and feathers of the animals that they successfully hunted and with pleasure and gratitude ate. Then, as an offering to the great mother, these vestiges of life are returned to the river so that they serve as food for other animals and can be transformed into new lives. While they do so, men and women of all ages get into the river and thus finish the Uyantza, delivering what they have received with detachment. Back home, the small jars that have been woven for these dates are thrown onto the roofs in the hope that some will remain intact as a good omen that Pachamama will continue to bless them in the coming years.

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