Every year, the town of Tarabuco (province of Yamparáez, Chuquisaca department, Bolivia) welcomes the surrounding communities to celebrate the pujllay (from Quechua puqllay, “to play, game, play”), the Carnival of the Yampara people. The festival, which is held on the third Sunday of March, commemorates the victory at the Battle of Jumbate (1816) and, at the same time, provides a framework for the offerings made to the Pachamama (in Quechua language, “the Earth’s mother, the mother of the universe”). One of its distinctive features is the pukara, a sort of platform or altar made of wood with ribbons, balloons and food hanging from the beams (the latter is shared out amongst the people at the end of the festival). Another is the presence of both the astounding senqatanqanas (large duct flutes) and the tropa of sikus ayarichi (panpipes played in consort). In March 2011, the annual pujllay festival was nominated to UNESCO for its recognition as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
During the festival, the Yampara men wear an “almilla” or black shirt and white drill trousers on which they put another shorter black wool pair. Around their waist they wear a woven wide belt made of wool called chumpi. A short colourful striped poncho called siki unku goes on their shoulders and hangs down onto their chest and shoulder blades. They also wear a thick embossed leather belt with metal studs (that is used as pocket accessory) from which small bronze bells and cowbells tied with braided wool hang down and ring out as they move.
In addition, over the siku unku they wear another colourful poncho “pallado” (used on festive occasions) called kunka unku, and a big red or pink neckerchief. Their heads are covered with a white cloth with two “estallas” (wide embroidered bands falling down on the back) and the distinctive “montera”, a sort of helmet made of leather hardened with urine, which resembles the one used by Spanish conquerors. The montera is usually “ticachascada” (embellished with fabric flowers) and embroidered with silver threads and sequins. Finally, they put on colourful gaiters up to the knees and a pair of “ojotas” or sandals with high wooden soles (up to 10 cm) and iron spurs (“gallos” or gallu gallu). The latter work as idiophones, resounding as they dance and beating the rhythm that the senqatanqanas (duct flutes) should follow.
For their part, Yampara women wear a black “almilla” and a skirt or ajsu, and cover themselves with a beautiful and colourful llijlla tied with a tupu or silver brooch at the front. On the head they wear a flat hat (pacha montera) embellished with sequins and colourful ribbons, and a thin band (watiña) decked with coins and more ribbons on the forehead. They, as most Bolivian native women, wear the hair in plaits tied with tuymas, black woollen strings that join two plaits together.
Yampara attire is one of the main attractions of the pujllay festival. In fact, the textiles of Tarabuco (regarded as true pieces of art) have gained a deserved reputation that extends well beyond the borders of Bolivia, as proven by the many books and papers written on this issue and the increase in their overseas sales.
Pujllay de Tarabuco [es].
Article. “Pujllay”, by Marco Antonio Castro, in Bolivianísima [es].
Article. “El pujllay se baila en el carnaval de Tarabuco desde hace 191 años” ("The pujllay has been danced at the Carnival of Tarabuco since 191 years ago”), in Indymedia Argentina [es].
Article. “Pujllay, joyas de Tarabuco” (“Pujllay, Tarabuco jewels"), in La Razón [es].
Article. “Chuquisaca. Fiestas tradicionales” (“Chuquisaca, traditional celebrations”), in Pizarra: red social de educación [es].
Article. “Historia de la cultura Yampara” - subsección “Vestimenta” ("History of Yampara culture" – subsection "Clothing"), in Asociación de Fraternidades Folklóricas “Virgen de Urqupiña” [es].
Picture 01. Traditional costumes of the pujllay of Tarabuco.
Picture 02. Pujllay of Tarabuco’s spurs.
Picture 03. Pujllay of Tarabuco traditional costumes.
Picture 04. Traditional costumes and spurs detail of the pujllay of Tarabuco.
Picture 05. Tarabuco women’s attire.
Pictures gallery “Tarabuco, the home of Yampara culture and Pujllay”, in Images of the World.