The Pujllay Festival of Tarabuco Bolivia: the Yampara Culture of Chuquisaca
The Pujllay Festival of Tarabuco, in the state of Chuquisaca, Bolivia, is timed according to the agricultural seasons. In the Quechua language, “pujllay” means to “play or dance” and also means “happiness”. This festival takes place every year on the third Sunday in March, toward the end of the rainy season, when the harvest is plentiful. It also coincides with Bolivia’s Carnaval season which typically takes place two or three weeks earlier.
During the Pujllay ceremony, local inhabitants erect an immense wooden tower called the “pukara”. They completely cover and surround the tower from the ground up to the top with fruit, bread, “rosquetes” (a baked sweet), and other agricultural products as an offering to the Pachamama (Mother Earth), to the fertility of the earth, and in memory of deceased loved ones.
The traditional costumes and dances of the Yampara culture of this region are bright and colorful. Ponchos, shawls, and skirts are made of hand-loomed fabric and can take months to make. The "tarabuqueños" are easy to recognize by their unusual hats which resemble the helmets used by the Spanish conquistadors of Colonial times and the wide-leg, above-ankle pants worn by the men.
The locals dance around the pukara for hours. After the ceremony, the fruit and other foods are shared among all who are present.
The Yampara culture inhabits the muncipalities of Tarabuco, Yamparez, Presto, Icla, Sopachuy and Zudáñez in the department (state) of Chuquisaca about an hour from Sucre, Bolivia’s capital city.
When the Spaniards arrived hundreds of years ago and began to mine the silver-rich mountains of Potosi (about 4 hours away by car today) the people of this region were forced into slave labor in the mines. On 12 March 1816 local indigenous leaders Carrillo Calisaya and Pacori Miranda led their people into battle against the Spanish. That battle is remembered as the Battle of Cumbate. Bolivia won its independence from Spain one battle at a time and declared itself free from colonial rule in 1825.
As with many of Bolivia’s 36 cultures, some of the local traditions were lost. Locals celebrate the Pujllay to ensure their culture remains alive. Today, the Pujllay Festival of Tarabuco attracts tourists from all over the world.
Not long ago the Legislative Assembly of Tarabuco passed Law No. 00/10 declaring the Pujllay and Ayarichi festivals (the latter takes place during the dry season) as cultural, oral and immaterial heritage of the department of Chuquisaca and cultural expressions of the Yampara. An application has also been sent to UNESCO requesting they be declared cultural and oral heritage of humanity.
The municipal (city) government of Tarabuco plans the festival each year in coordination with the Prefecture (state government) of Chuquisaca. As Tarabuco is very small, accommodations are limited and sell out weeks before the festival. Tourists can stay in Sucre and go to the festival in Tarabuco which is only one hour away.
For more information you can also contact the Prefecture (State Governor's Office) of Chuquisaca.
Prefectura del Departamento de Chuquisaca Plaza 25 de Mayo Nro. 17 Tel: (591) 4 645-3105 Fax: (591) 4 645-6366 Sucre - Bolivia www.chuquisaca.gob.bo