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Challa; Andean ritual

Challa is a ceremony of reciprocity with the Pachamama that is based on the act of watering the earth or other material asset with alcohol and symbolic elements.

In the country, Challa includes covering the earth with flower petals and burying a pot with cooked potatoes, cigarettes, coca leaves and alcohol to feed the Pachamama. While this is done, the devotees drink and offer songs and dances.

In the city, the challa includes decorating one's property (house, business, motor vehicle, etc.) with colored streamers and sprinkling alcohol, golden grains, daisy petals and candies all around it.

A very common element of challa is the table, or apxata (a colorful altar for offerings to the Pachamama). The apxata is covered with an aguayo and fruits, candies, spices, grains, sweets, nuts, wine, alcohol, flower petals, streamers, llama fetus, etc. are spread on top.

Offerings on the table are burned and smoked with aromatic Koa and palo santo wood and then buried and delivered to the Pachamama.

It is common to set off firecrackers during the ceremony both in the city and the country because the noise will chase away bad spirits, according to the local beliefs.

The challa is carried out in August in the country since that is when the earth needs to be fortified after being worn out during the winter. Then it "opens up" to receive the offerings of Pachamama devotees. Challa is carried out in February or March during carnival in the city.

Food is the central element in challa, and each region has a certain dish that always goes with this celebration. In Cochabamba they serve Chajchu which is a dish based on fried lamb. In the city of La Paz puchero is mandatory for the challa on the Tuesday. This is a soup that has a variety of meat accompanied by garbanzo beans, cabbage, corn, turnips, potatoes, spices and a spicy onion sauce. In the rural areas of the Altiplano, they usually eat Aptapi which is an ordinary picnic where each member of the community brings some food, like potatoes, tunta, chuño, meat, corn, fava beans, etc.

Challa is a very picturesque ceremony with an abundance of colors, objects, beer and food. It is an event where participants have fun, brimming with happiness to the sounds of local rhythms while they worship, pray, thank and feed the Pachamama.


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