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I remembered that during one of the breaks in the MIL farms I had told Edwin (Egidio’s son) that this was going to be the first night I stayed alone in the little house. It is right on the border between the Mistiraccay sector of the C.C. of Mullak’as-Misminay and the land that extends to MIL. A large part of the Amau family lives in this sector. We could say then, that they are our immediate neighbors. Edwin lives a little further uphill, but he was going to have a late meeting. I assume that’s why he told his dad to invite me to lunch.

The night is clear. “There are some worms that warn you” – Egidio says – “they make little hills in the ground when it’s going to clear”. We continue walking until we reach his house. When we get to his inner courtyard, Loba (his dog) starts barking. Egidio’s wife, Regina, came out of the kitchen and invited us in. I greeted her with the same affection as a few weeks ago, when we danced in that same kitchen during the carnival yunzada.

“Sit down, Dad. Here, sit down,” Egidio tells me as he arranges some sheepskins on the bench in front of the table.

The kitchen is made of adobe. The heat of the q’oncha – clay oven – in one of the corners embraces us with the smoke from the stove. I looked toward the pots and noticed that they were preparing chicha de jora and a big soup. Egidio sat by the stove until the food was served. As a guest, I am the first to be served. Egidio handed me the plate full of chicken soup, potatoes, beans, carrots, peas and rice, piping hot. He sat next to me waiting for Regina to bring him a plate of the same soup.

After eating, Egidio takes out of the teapot a dark red liquid, almost brown. He pours it into a little glass cup that took him a few minutes to find. “What is that?” I ask, “Tirillo, Pancho,” he says with a chuckle. Tirillo is normally a mixture of alcohol and water, but this one had been steeped with different herbs and a little sugar, and brought to a simmer. “On top of the food, always,” he continues, “This is our Matacuy.” The three of us burst out laughing.

Smoke from the stove and laughter fills the space in the kitchen. The conversation became more intense. After the hot drink, the tirillo, was finished, the lady bent down a little to reach the bottle of beer that was under the bench where I was sitting. She rested it on the table and started looking for a glass to serve us. Egidio’s youngest son Johan, 8 years old, joins the gathering. His dad pours him some soup. At that moment I started thinking about the choice of glasses to drink certain alcoholic beverages[1]. To have a drink or cañazo, a small glass cup is used, sometimes with colorful designs printed on the transparent glass surface. To drink beer, the glasses chosen are medium-sized, larger ones.

Inviting me beer was a way of showing appreciation. We live and interact in a jungle of symbols[2], so it is important for us to identify these gestures as symbols of our interactions with our neighbors.

That is also the reason why, as a way of thanking them for working our farms in Mil, during each day we offer chicha de jora for the members of the committees.

Shortly before the beer ran out, the chicha that was cooking on the stove was ready. Nelly (Egidio’s daughter-in-law, who works in our kitchen in Mil) came to keep us company. And we were all served chicha.

The freshly prepared chicha is very tasty: sweet, warm and very little fermented. It is drunk only in these kitchens where it is made.

What I enjoyed most about the dinner is that we were able to get to know each other a little better. We shared our aspirations, what we would like to do together, how they see the work in the fields, how they see us -those from Mil- and tell them how we see them, our neighbors. How we see our future together.

The temperature of the chicha was a great idea before leaving and heading back to the house. I walked the few meters back with the help of a flashlight. The night that had been starry and clear had suddenly become cloudy and it looked like it would rain in the night. I tried to find the mounds of earth formed by the worms that Egidio was telling me about to predict the weather but it was impossible… that night it rained non-stop.

The whole dinner was very special. The warmth of the fire, the extensive conversation, the hot chicha, the sincere laughter. I imagine that the feeling is that we are on the right path, building something good together. These face-to-face encounters, without much planning, reinforce not only the horizontality of our relationship but also the importance of interacting to get to know and share what we value with others.

To tell the truth, I was – and am – immensely grateful before I went to sleep. Tonight I realized how valuable it is to be able to share spaces, time, work, food and drinks with other people.

[1] For more information see: Castillo, Gerardo. Alcohol in the Andean South. Embriaguez y quiebre de jerarquías. Lima: Fondo Editorial PUCP, 2015
[2] Name of the book by Victor Turner where he analyzes the set of symbols that are presented in a ritual; their meanings and importance.

Francesco Dangelo
Mater team author

Anthropologist Francesco D'angelo is an anthropologist graduated from PUCP. He has conducted several research projects in peasant and native communities in Peru. His work has a participatory and communal approach. He is currently conducting visual anthropology projects focused on the peasant economy.

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