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    Land of winds > Traditions > Festival | Issue 11 (Jul.-Aug. 2012)
    By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

Carnival of Chiapa

The village of Santa María Magdalena de Chiapa (municipality of Huara, province of Iquique, First Region of Tarapacá, Chile) is an Aymara community located more than 3000 metres above the sea level in the pre-cordillera region and 200 km far from the port of Iquique.

During Carnival celebrations, its population is subdivided into two halves according to both Andean and Aymara spatial organization, forming the Arak Saya ("upper side") and the Manqha Saya ("lower side"). The two sides compete against each other by playing flour and water games, comparing the number of people in their comparsas, dancing, singing and exchanging mocking chants aimed at the opponents.

Somos los leones
de los Manqha Saya.
No como Arak Saya,
se echan a morir.

[We are the lions
of the Manqha Saya.
Unlike the Arak Saya,
(who) lie down to die]

Somos la pandilla
de los Arak Saya.
Locos Manqha Saya,
se echan a morir.

[We are the gang
of the Arak Saya.
Crazy Manqha Saya,
(who) lie down to die.]

During the celebrations, people can enjoy any type of folk music from northern Chile (dianas, cuecas and trotes played by tropas (groups) of sikus lakitas or brass bands), among which are favourite songs as the coplas. Generally speaking, these compositions consist of a fixed number of traditional stanzas (in which the verses do not necessarily rhyme) sung by a soloist letting the audience repeat the chorus. This chorus usually changes according to the circumstances: for example, at round dancing the word "wachaya" or the sentence "ay, ay, ay, vidita" (in Spanish, "oh!, oh!, oh!, dear heart") are constantly repeated, while during the kacharpaya or Carnival "farewell" the sentence is "Ay, ay, ay, se va el Carnaval" (in Spanish, "oh!, oh!, oh!, the Carnival is leaving") .

Esta cinta negra que te has colocado,
antes que me muera ya te has enlutado.
Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay, ay, se va el Carnaval.

[This black band you wear,
before my dying you are in mourning.
Oh!, oh!, oh!, oh!, oh!, oh!, the Carnival is leaving.]

The Chilean group Illapu played an important role in popularizing the musical repertoire of the Carnival of Chiapa. In 1978 the group presented in Santiago de Chile the show called "Encuentro con las raíces" (in Spanish, "encounter with the roots"), a cantata wrote by the Chilean singer and songwriter Osvaldo Torres (who was also a member of the band at the time). The composition includes several coplas from the Carnival of Chiapa, which would later appear on the album "El canto de Illapu" (1981). Two years later, some members of the group and the Conjunto Folklórico de la Universidad del Norte (COFUN) joined in the recovery and performance of the sounds original to Chiapa, and recorded the album "Carnaval en el desierto", which was released by the Chilean label Alerce.

Article. "Carnavales del pueblo de Chiapa", by Alejandro Supanta [es].

Video 01. "Carnaval de Chiapa", by Illapu.
Video 02. "Carnaval de Chiapa", by Illapu (Germany, 1982).

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