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Morayanahuaylla (4200 m.a.s.l.) Chumpe – Lamay – Calca Rural Community

Andean man observed the behavior of nature, animals and plants. He learned from the sun, the wind, the frost, the rain, the cold, the apu and turned them into his allies. He treated them as his neighbors, he knew when they arrived, he relied on the signs of birds, insects and some plants.  He lived and lives in harmony with nature, talks with her, lives in symbiosis with her. He shares his harvest with her, builds his house, his nest and his life in her.

After much trial and error he learned every technique and preserved every gift of nature.  Wild herbs, fruits, meats and wisdom. He converted unique and special flavors through techniques to share in times of scarcity. This wisdom, still shared and practiced less and less, revives when you try one of these preserved products, the memory invades the soul, it is very familiar, it has the taste of home, the taste of history. It is the first days of July and I go to meet Juan Turpo, to get to where he is I walk an hour and a half from the Comunidad Campesina Chumpe, a community that belongs to the province of Calca. The wind feels very cold and dry, it is eight o’clock in the morning and the first rays of the sun thaw some ichus that had frozen during the night. This place is called Morayanahuaylla and is located at 4,200 meters above sea level, its Quechua name comes from Morayana which means black chuño and huaylla, wet ichu. When we arrived it was inevitable to perceive the strong smell of tocosh (potato ferment) and the water wells.

Juan Turpo – Moraya process

The moraya process begins on a cold night, when the bitter potatoes are exposed on the hillsides at this altitude. The next day, the potatoes are trodden to remove water and then placed in pits containing water from a nearby lagoon. Around and on top of the potatoes ichu is placed, forming a kind of bag, in order to avoid the presence of sun rays, then the potatoes are covered with ichu and left there for a week, while the cold water runs very slowly.

Juan has been making moraya for 10 years in this same place, in a well there are three varieties of potatoes, all varieties separated with ichu as in a kind of nest.  The moraya he obtains is used for his family’s daily diet, parboiled and in a traditional soup, widely consumed in the high Andean communities.

Juan is Fabiana’s father, she and her husband collect medicinal herbs that they sell in the Urubamba market, which we then use in the Mil Centro pairing. It is already noon, I check my backpack and take out the coke that I had brought to share, he opens his blender and takes out some cooked morayas that he has preserved since last year and a soup in a small pot.

Sharing – lunch and coca leaves

The soup is called chuño saqta, composed of chuño, moraya and dried alpaca intestines. For flavoring, they add leaves of cjuñu muña (Satureja brevicalyx Epling) that resemble oregano and grow under the ichuales to protect them from the frost and intense sun.  Normally this soup is transported in clay pots wrapped in a blanket to keep it at the right temperature. To feel something warm here is the best and if it is this soup, much more, it reminds me of the environment, the freshness of walking at this altitude, the smell of wet ichu and the taste of preservation.

Juan removes his llanquis, rolls up his pants and enters the small pools, I accompany him. The water is very cold and our feet get numb, we go out in the sun for a while to warm up and then we go back in. Juan loads the dried morayas in a blender, they are ready to be dehydrated, so he places them on the ichu that he has arranged as a kind of bed. They will be there for about a week and then they will be taken to a nearby hut. Juan stays there while he is elaborating this process. The hut is made with stones, alder branches (Alnus acuminata Kunth) and ichu on the roof, making a kind of qolqa or storehouse.

Moraya in the process of dehydration, to be stored later

Meanwhile, Mateo Callisaya, at 3810 m.a.s.l. in the Patacancha Campesino Community, is salting alpaca meat obtained from his father-in-law’s cattle. He cuts the meat in thin layers, then adds enough salt from Maras, places the salted meat in a raqui (large ceramic pot where the chicha de jora is fermented) and leaves it there for 1 day; later he spreads the meat on a cabuya (vegetable fiber) string that is tied to a chachacomo tree (Escallonia resinosa R. & P.), the last sun rays are the signal to collect the meat that the next day he again exposes to the sun after having tended to his alpacas. The same process is repeated for 15 days.

Alpaca meat and salt from Maras, ready to start the charqui process
Charqui ready to be stored

The following week, Hilda Tejada from the Huama Campesino Community which is across the street from where Juan Turpo lives, collects medicinal herbs and roots, on the way, we found many llulluchas (Nostoc commune) naturally dehydrated, we collected them one by one and placed them in a dish that Hilda had brought, we took them to her house, they hydrated and we used them in a salad as a kind of cochayuyo (seaweed).

Hilda Tejada, from the Huama Campesino Community – collecting dehydrated llulluchas at 4200 masl
Llulluchas dehydrated naturally

In the district of Maras, the Uscamayta family is in the process of sara tipy (corn stripping), this process consists of the extraction of k’ampas from the corn cobs, which are then selected and dried separating them by races. The strongest k’ampas and of different colors are separated to use them in their weavings, this association is called “Maras K’ampa” and consists of 12 women, among its leaders is Juana Vargas who accompanies me in this process and at this moment is developing work with Mater.

The rest of the k’ampas are separated, to be used as wrappers for tamales and humintas, the rest to feed their cattle and guinea pigs. The selection of k’ampas is only done once a year after the harvest, it is stored and used later. They take advantage of this season to dehydrate 100% of their pancas and also their harvest for the year.

Sara tipy (corn husking) Uscamayta Family – District of Maras

Paraqay (white) corn is used to make mote, tamales or humintas, and yellow corn (qello cossni) is used to make chicha de jora, which we serve with alcohol. This chicha has a slow fermentation of seven months and accompanies the moment of corn diversity in Mil Centro. The purple corn (ch’uspis) are toasted and are part of the breakfast along with traditional soups.

Drying of corn breeds – Uscamayta Family – District of Maras

Coca leaves and some wincos (a kind of spoon made from a type of gourd) of chicha de jora are the witnesses of these great moments. They are part of all the processes, they are the energy that contributed to the Andean man for hundreds of years and continue to do so without losing importance.

Manuel Contreras
Mater team author

Beverage Researcher He was born in Toribio Casanova, between the highlands of Perú and the Amazon. Since he was a child, he saw his father working and healing with medicinal plants, mainly from the mountain range, which he collected in the farm or in the forest. After finishing school, he travels to Lima where he works in a restaurant, and then decides to study the career of Bar, specializing in craft cocktails. He has taught in Urubamba where he gave value to the traditional drinks of the region. Today he runs Mil's bar and works with Mater Iniciativa experimenting with ferments and distillates.

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