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Street Ciro Alegria H-13, Urb. Santa Monica - Wanchaq
Postal code Nº 567, Cusco - Peru
Phone: 51-84-245021
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The National Potato Day 2017
2017-06-06

The National Potato Day was celebrated on Tuesday May 30th, in Chawaytire, Cusco, Peru - one of the 5 communities that make up the Potato Park. For the members of the Potato Park, this day represents a very special opportunity to welcome visitors with open arms, offering everyone the best of their Andean hospitality in a celebration of the potato, a symbol of the biocultural heritage of the millenium-old Andean culture. This year, the celebration was attended by special guestas including a representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, the director from the National Insitute of Agrarian Development (INIA), the Managing Director and steering comitee of the International Potato Center (CIP), and representatives from the Regional Directorate for Foreign Trade and Tourism (Dircetur) were present.

The communities of the Potato Park handle the largest in-situ concentration of potatoes in the world. They use potato as a charismatic species, and in preserving the potatoes diversity, they maintain traditional knowledge and practices, and forge an integrated model of rural development with identity based on community, reciprocity, diversity, resilience, nutrition, culinary art, conservation and an inclusive economy.

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May 30th has a very special meaning for the Potato Park as in 2005, it was formally established as National Potato Day in Peru. Law No. 25395 is the result of a request from the Potato Park to the national government to highlight the biological, economic and cultural importance of agro-biodiversity. This year, members of the communities of Amaru, Chawaytire, Pampallaqta, Paru Paru and Sacaca, celebrated National Potato Day with rituals in honor of the potato, traditional Watia contests, fallow, the peeling of Q'achun Waqachi potatoes, the use of Traditional Knowledge in the identification of native potatoes, and poetry.

The celebrations began with a traditional reception of the distinguished guests with flowers and native music, and after with the inauguration of the event with the words of Aniceto Ccoyo Ccoyo, a local technician from the community of Sacaca. The president of the Potato Park: Geronimo Mamani Puclli, the General Director of International Potato Center: Dr. Bárbara Wells, the Director of the Board od Direcotrs of the International Potato Centre, and the Program Director of Asociación ANDES gave their own opening remarks soon after. Guided by a procession with dances and colorful traditional costumes, the communities arrived at the phina papa (piles of potatoes) awaited with a cross made of flowers, and were accompanied by chaquitacllas (agricultural tool used to sow potatoes), and taques (small sotrage units) made from straw. The Papa Watay ceremony was carried out and led by the traditional authorities (varayoq), honoring the symbolism of tying of the spirit of the potato to the earth.

At the end of the ceremony, participants enjoyed great food prepared from local produce and then began the competitions related to knowledge and techniques for the production and consumption of potatoes, including preparation of huatia (a ground oven for cooking potatoes), the peeling of the Q'achun Waqachi patato (the one that makes the daughter–in–law cry), a presentation of potato diversity, and poetry that expressed the affection that the communities feel towards the potato. The celebration closed with the awarding of the prizes to the winning communities.

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Delegaction of the International Potato Center

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The ritual of Potato Watay

The central ceremony in honor of the National Potato Day is inspired by the Papa Watay. This end-of-harvest ritual is usually performed the night before Corpus Christi, although the exact date may vary according to the family's agricultural calendar. The ceremony is based on the symbolism of tying down the spirit of the potato to prevent a trip to a foreign ayllu or towards the Hanan Pacha (Upper World).

Lino Mamani, Mariano Sutta and Nazario Quispe recall the story of their grandparents, who said that some small potatoes that remained in the farm after the harvest presented themselves before God. The small potatoes argued they were large enough to be harvested, and complained of the disdain they received by the farmers. A little bird intervened in the conversation, indicating that he had already eaten a few of these potatoes, attesting to their small size. The little potato liars were sent back to the farm, where they stayed just to feed the little birds. The ceremony will tie the spirit of the potato to the chakra, so that it does not travel up to Hanan Pacha, causing damages in the following harvests.

To maintain the spirit of the freshly harvested potatoes in a community, each family protects the tubers collected in their yard with wheat or alfalfa straws and by tying the piles together with llama wool rope. After arranging the ropes in circles surrounding the phina papa (piles of potatoes), they attract the spirit of the potato with the smell of incense and the fat burnt guinea pig. The harvest is then sprinkled with chicha and different flowers. Dressed in their most beautiful ponchos, the families pray to the Apus and the Pachamama in hopes that the potatoes keep their spirit during the process of storage. As Lino Mamani explains, by not tying his potatoes, the producer runs the risk of losing this variety or having little production. Thus, each pile must be tied to maintain the diversity and to ensure an abundance of production of the beloved native potatoes.

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Street Ciro Alegria H-13, Urb. Santa Monica - Wanchaq
Postal code Nº 567, Cusco - Peru
Phone: 51-84-245021
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