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    Land of winds > The people > Language | Issue 11 (Jul.-Aug. 2012)
    By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

Carnival vocabulary


Carnival vocabulary

All through the Andes there is a wide range of terms (either from Spanish and local indigenous languages) closely related to Carnival. Although the following list is far from exhaustive, it will introduce readers to this area’s linguistic heritage, which is worth noticing in the lyrics of Carnival songs.

Anata is the most common term in the south of Peru, Bolivian Altiplano, north of Chile and north-western Argentina to refer to this festival. The term has origins in the Aymara language, from the verb anataña, "to take pleasure, to enjoy, to play". Another word with a similar meaning is the Quechua verb puqllay. This term (usually written "pujllay") is used through the ancient lands of the Tawantinsuyu or Inca Empire, to denote both the festival (e.g. in the Carnival that takes place in the village of Tarabuco, province of Yamparáez, department of Chuquisaca, Bolivia) and the characters who embody it (e.g. in the Humahuaca Carnival, Jujuy province, Argentina, or in the Carnival of Arapa, Azángaro province, department of Puno, Peru).

From the Quechua language also derives the term raymi, "festival". In many places of the Andes this word is used (combined with other words) to denote Carnival celebrations, e.g. jatun raymi ("big festival") or pawqar raymi ("festival of colours").

Within the local Spanish language there have been coined the verb "carnavalear", meaning to take part in the Carnival, and the adjective "carnavalero", which refers to all the activities connected with celebrations. One of the main activities consists in "vidalear", "bagualear" or "coplear", which means singing traditional vidalas, bagualas and coplas.

Another activity (portrayed in many songs) consists in drinking. To denote the fact of getting drunk there are a number of terms like "macharse" (from the Quechua verb mach'ay, "to hit"), "chumarse" (maybe derived from the Quechua verb ch'umay, "to drip-dry") or the regional term "chuparse". The verb ch'allay (in Quechua, "to spill") designs the custom of spilling a small amount of chicha on the floor to honour Pachamama and, sometimes, the Apus, protective deities connected to mountains, rivers or lakes. The derived, local Spanish term "challa", written as "chaya", has given name to the Carnival celebrated in the province La Rioja (Argentina), while the adjective "chayero" (which refers to what is characteristic of the "chaya" time) may qualify both singers and a number of instruments (e.g. the caja).

The "cacharpaya" (from Quechua kacharpaya, kacharpari, "farewell") takes place just before the end of Carnival. Hopefully this is a temporary goodbye since the festival will return next year. Happiness and joy will be back after twelve moons as well as the terms that allow people to name them.


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