DAY 38 – The royal quinoa legends of the salt flats

DAY 38 – The royal quinoa legends of the salt flats

Jacha Inti founder, Sergio Nunez, with a sheath of quinoa - yet to be processed.

Jacha Inti founder, Sergio Nunez, with colorful sheaths of quinoa.

Here is the legend of where Royal Quinoa came from:

In ancient times the Bolivian people lived like fisherman, eating the fish from the vast, deep inland seas that covered the altiplano.  Then one day they dried up andante people and nothing to eat.  They were sick, starving and prayed to the gods for help.  They claimed mounting and begged forgiveness.  The ancient goddess Quiua took pity on them and said not to work she would send them a plant that did everything – it would serve as bread, soup, meat, salad and rice.  She sent her beautiful daughter down to help plant the seeds.  The girls walked around the dread seabed and soon tiny green plants began appearing where she had walked.  The princess/daughter loved to dance and would spend the afternoons dancing around her tiny green plants, her skirts a different color each day: organic, golden yellow, maroon, light pink.  One afternoon the princess disappeared and was seen no more.  The huge, tall seed heads of the plants she left behind turned the colors of her skirts and thus the magnificent colors of the quinoa were made.

Another story:

tunupa

The Uyuni salt flats as seen from Fish island.

Uyuni means “resting place” in the local language of Aymara.

Quinoa Grower Gladys Caral’s grandfather remembers the times before electricity, cars and money – where the quinoa was the currency which people traded for other foods – the “grain of gold” as it’s known.  At different time of the year, farmers would load up their llamas with blocks of salt cut from the salt flats and sacks of quinoa.  Llamas can only carry about 60 pounds so long trains of 10-50 llamas driven by 1-3 families would be readied with their cargo.  The farmers would walk with their llamas for about a week to reach the Chilean towns where they traded their quinoa and salt for pears. Two weeks later, the children of the quinoa lands would run and greet their fathers returning with vast cargos of delicious fruit.  Other times farmers would load up their llamas and take salt and quinoa to Argentina in exchange for flour or to Tupiza in Bolivia in exchange for corn.  Thus Uyuni was the resting place – where all would return from their trades.

To prepare the llamas for crossing the salt flats, tiny leather shoes were made which would be wet and slipped over the llama’s delicate feet to protect them from the salt.  When dry they would shrink to the form of the llama’s foot.  In addition, to protect the llamas from the harsh sun glare of the white salt flats, the hair around their eyes was painted black – making it look like there were wearing sunglasses (which did not exist in that time).  Donkeys were also used to carry loads but did not need the black eye protection since they were already black.  They did not need boots either since their feet were harder and fitted with iron horseshoes.

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