By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza
The dance of the ch'utas (or chutas) has its origins in La Paz (Bolivia), and is usually performed at the Carnival celebrations in the city. In fact, it is said that the music to accompany this dance (a rhythm also called "ch'utas") is the typical musical framework of this festival. The name comes from "ch'ukuta", the term used by people native to La Paz to denominate themselves, which, as it seems, would be derived from Choqueyapu (Chuqiyapu), the river that runs across the capital of Bolivia.
The male dancer wears a mask with rosy cheeks, blue eyes, beard and moustache, and is joined by two female dancers (one representing his wife in the countryside, the other representing his lover in town) dressed as "cholas", that is, in the traditional costumes of the Aymara women. The ch'uta makes flirtatious comments to both of them in a shrill voice that makes the audience laugh. This character has been labelled as cunning, jealous, vain, party-goer, "cholero" (fond of chasing women), "coquero" (takes too many coca leaf), heavy drinker and rebel: in short, a "wistu vida" (from Quechua wistu, "crooked").
The lyrics of the songs that accompany the ch'utas depict the excursions, adventures and misfortunes of these characters as well as the rejoicing, Carnival-like atmosphere that surrounds them. Fifteen years ago these songs were sung only in Aymara. At present, however, they have reached widespread popularity and Spanish is preferred.
Víctor Quispe is one of a score of people who composes songs based on the ch'utas rhythm to be danced during the Carnival in La Paz. Quispe himself is a dancer in one of the ch'utas comparsas and describes his character as being too fond of women and drink, someone who makes fun of everyone and everything, playing jokes on everybody.
"Ch'uta chukuta" (recorded by the group Hiru Hicho), "Ch'uta piropeador" (by Sapahaqui Bolivia) and "Ch'uta patrimonial" (by Markaja) are among his best known compositions.