Friday, February 20, 2009


Today, we "cha'lla-ed" the UAC-CP.   Cha'lla*, an Aymaran word that can best be translated as "blessing," is the traditional act or event of giving thanks to Pachamama (Mother Earth) for the many gifts for which She provides us.  It's also a blessing upon all of our things so that goodness may come to us in the coming year. 

Cha'llas actually happen throughout the year--most often to bless new homes/buildings or cars. (In fact, a couple years ago when I was living in Minneapolis and my car was broken into/stolen twice in one week, UAC-CP Adams Intern Juan Carlos Quispe reminded me that I needed to cha'lla!)  But it is special tradition here in Bolivia to cha'lla during this time of year--during Carnaval/before Ash Wednesday. 

Gladys shows me a handful of confetti mixed with cinnamon-flavored sugar candies before tossing it along the baseboard of the office.  It is a sweet treat for Pachamama, Gladys explained. "You need to feed Her, to thank Her, so that She will continue to produce a fruitful harvest."

So today, at 10am, everyone on both campuses was responsible for "cha'lla-ing" (our gringo way of English-izing an Aymaran word since there really isn't an English--or Spanish--equivalent). Dario, one of my three office-mates, blew up balloons while I hung colorful streamers from nearly any piece of furniture that would allow it.  Gladys, another co-worker and UAC-CP thesis student, tossed confetti in the four corners of our office space and then we each took a turn pouring rubbing alcohol on the floor--all offerings to Pachamama. 

My computer after the cha'lla.

Later, we all walked around together to visit different offices to help them cha'lla.  People brought flower petals, balloons, confetti, holy water, and rubbing alcohol to add to whatever the office had already used to decorate.  Afterward, faculty and staff from both campuses met at the coffee factory to cha'lla and then share in UAC-CP coffee and meat sandwiches.

UAC-CP administrators decorate some of the coffee factory equipment for today's cha'lla.

This afternoon as I uploaded photos to my blog and wondered how I would begin to explain cha'lla, little Fatima (who I blogged about in October) stopped by my office.  "What's cha'lla?" I asked, always curious to know her interpretation of cultural things.  She paused before responding. "It's a way to keep the house happy," she said.  Perhaps the best explanation I heard all day!  Because, really,as they say:  if Pachamama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

*Cha'lla is pronounced: "Ch-ai-ya" with an emphasis on the "Ch"

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