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Lorena
Columbia

I am Lorena Rodriguez. I come from the western part of the Andes mountain range, from what they currently call Colombia. I was born in a place close to wetlands and moors, sounded by mountains and where it can rain any day year round. From a very young age I have worked closely with indigenous communities in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (Wiwas and Arhuacas) and also in southern Colombia (Pastos, Ingas and Kamentsa). 

Sol y Tierra

 

I come from a territory that has endured more than 60 years of armed conflict, but still holds the hope for peace and transformation. I started out as an environmental activist and my work led me to become involved in peacebuilding. I have dedicated several decades to bridging the gap between the urban and the countryside, and between ancestral wisdom and western knowledge. Through research, art, fermentation and facilitation, I have focused my efforts on helping people reclaim sovereignty over their health by promoting our attention to nature, our body and mental well-being. Read more

Sol y Tierra

What we are seeing is a tradition. It is the tradition of Chicha de Maíz. The Chicha de Maíz is a traditional drink throughout the Andean mountain range and is consumed by most of the original peoples of Abya Yala. Its origin dates back to more than 5000 BC. Despite having been marginalized and prohibited since the beginning of the colonial period, Chicha de Maíz has survived as a vital food in the diet of many Andean communities, and is an essential element for individual and collective health. Chicha de Maíz is a perfect representation of the link between cooking, nature and being, and brewing it is a ritual for many people.

Chicha de Maíz is typically made from different types of corn and each type of Maíz has its own characteristics and magic. Maíz is one of the most important plants in the Andean worldview and serves as the basis for agricultural calendars, work, diets, daily life, and celebrations. Maíz is an ancient and important agent in reciprocity, food sovereignty and health. (Network for a Transgenic-Free Latin America, 2017).

 

Chicha de Maíz is an elixir of life. One of the various nutritional values attributed to Chicha de Maíz is its high probiotic content, capable of rebuilding the intestinal flora and generating antibodies. There are many varied types of Chicha de Maíz, sweet Chicha, for example, is drunk by children and adults on a daily basis. Strong Chicha on the other hand is left to ferment for several days and is shared in rituals and celebrations (Pardo, 2015).

 

Chicha de Maíz is always present in celebrations, and also in Mingas. Minga is an expression that in the language of the Inga people means "to work collectively to achieve a result". Examples might include large community projects such as building a road or highway, building a house, or establishing living barriers to protect a sacred area; a Minga doesn’t always imply labor–holding talking circles to generate knowledge or community intellectual creation or meetings to establish consensus or community agreements are also Mingas.

The Chicha de Maíz is used as a way to build bonds of trust with people outside the community. If a new person arrives in the community, the first thing that is offered is Chicha de Maíz. If it is drunk immediately, the newcomer is welcomed in with trust and often invited to share food. If this person does not drink it or receives it with some doubt or hesitation, the community won’t trust this person and sometimes may not offer them a meal. 

 

As you can see, Chicha de Maíz is intrinsically related to the social fabric, to the relationships that exist between the people of a community and to the beings of nature. La Chicha de Maíz contains a universe of knowledge interrelated with history, art, dance, singing, gastronomy, science, agriculture, and plays a large part in understanding the world and life for the Andean peoples. 

“Lo decolonial es una moda, lo poscolonial es un    deseo, lo anticolonial es una lucha cotidiana y   permanente” Silvia Cusicanqui 

 

  English: “The decolonial is a fashion, the   postcolonial is a desire, the anticolonial is a daily and permanent struggle” Silvia Cusicanqui

Currently, Chicha de Maíz is still illegal in many Latin American countries. The persecution of Chicha began with the arrival of the colonists and was then institutionalized through a decree by General Simon Bolivar in 1820, and later through media and scientific campaigns aimed at ending the consumption of Chicha de Maíz which argued that it was unhygienic and produced violence. Those who fermented Chicha de Maíz and were discovered risked being excommunicated, tortured, imprisoned and in some cases murdered. The prohibition of Chicha de Maíz went hand in hand with the push of Dutch companies to promote the consumption of beer. There were doctors and scientists paid by these companies and the government to generate studies that claimed that Chicha de Maíz “made you stupid” (for lack of a better translation). Today, these studies are known to have no scientific validity; on the contrary, Chicha de Maíz is rich in salutary properties and benefits for health. 

 

Since the beginning of its prohibition, it has been mainly women who have continued this tradition in secrecy and in the privacy of their homes. They kept their recipes and knowledge and made it possible for Chica de Maíz to continue telling stories today. It is for this reason I shared the quote above by sociologist, feminist, historian and subaltern theorist Silvia Cusicanqui. 

For the women who do it, continuing to ferment Chicha de Maíz collectively in our cities on a daily basis means practicing anti-coloniality. It means re-signifying and re-imagining ways in which we can inhabit this planet that go beyond extractivist and violent culture. It means resuming practices and tools that can open paths to different ways of relating to ourselves, others and nature. It means questioning ourselves and relearning concepts, notions and emotions. It means entering ways of living in which we are not obsessed with "knowing it all" and that allow us to rediscover our intuition and confidence to create something. Fermenting Chica de Maíz is learning from the story that we were not told at school, and revaluing our relationship with water, fire, wind and earth. Fermenting Chicha de Maíz is a way of creating community from the dialogue between what we are today and ancestral knowledge. Making Chica de Maíz is an art, it is a trade, and it is a fun way to learn and create knowledge.

Viva la Chicha!

More info:

Next Chicha de Maíz workshop is going to be online (November 2023) if you would like to know more please send me and email to: lorena.rodriguez317@gmail.com or DM at @laurel_habitar_poetico

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Lorena (continued from top)

In the academic world I have fostered the inclusion of other forms of knowledge that come from outside from the prevailing system. I was awarded the Rotary Peace Scholarship which took me to Japan to complete my master's degree in Peace Studies. My research covered re-signified and re-imagined concepts such as: security, violence and peace, based on the ancestral knowledge of indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples. Today I am dedicated to supporting grassroots organizations in the US that work to protect water and wildlands by connecting them with funds and resources. 

 

I am passionate about music, water, ferments and poetry. Currently, I am the founder of a pedagogical and entrepreneurial project in which cooking, art and women are at the center. We see the kitchen (el fogón) as a space that serves to produce knowledge and articulate stories that build possibilities for communality and Biocultural Peace. In fact, around the time we took these photos, I was just wrapping up a workshop with a great group of people where we learned to brew Chicha de Maíz together!

 

More info at: @laurel_habitar_poetico

Roberta Alvarado is a Sacramento based multi disciplinary artist & owner of  New  Bird Studio 

with a lifelong interest in art and community. From the political scenes living in capitol of California to the deserts of the Southwest, Mexico, Nicaragua, and on, Roberta is a fine art documentary photographer with a focus on American culture.

A few of her work highlights  have been being featured in Paramount Picture's "The Big Short", exhibited at The California Museum, solo exhibits at The Consulate General of Mexico, Sacramento, The Brickhouse Art Gallery, published in VoyageLA, Bold Journey.

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