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The Tarabuco

explaining their weavings:

farming scenes




palm sunday

all saints day

pujllay festival

virgin celebrations


tarabuco axsu

tarabuco "mini" Weavings

tarabuco bags

Tarabuco belts

Tarabuco cushions

Tarabuco placemats and throws

tarabuco bookmarkers

male tapestries

male bookmarkers

male tapestry bags

alpaca wool cushions

alpaca wool shawls and scarves



tarabuco weavings
farming scenes
  Harvesting wheat and corn

Many Tarabuco pallays show farming scenes, such as harvesting corn or maize, ploughing using oxen, sowing seeds or making hay. Agriculture is one of the major forms of income and food for the region, an activity which is largely the work of the men, but involves the whole family.


Many of the Tarabuco pallays show farming animals, such as oxen, horses, goats and fowls. A large majority of Tarabuco households will own livestock, generally for their own consumption, or as a means to provide eggs, milk and wool.

A farmer at his plough with oxen  
  Preparing Chica  

Chicha is an alcoholic drink, invented in the pre-Columbian age. The chief drink at every fiesta and ritual, chica is often depicted in Tarabuco pallays, shown as small cups, or being made in large vats. Relatively simple to brew, it is prepared by firstly dissolving maize flour in the mouth, mixing it with saliva until it has formed a paste called “ muku ”. This paste is then dried in the sun, whereby the suns rays facilitate the chemical transformation of the starches into sugar, or glucose, a process vital for the later fermentation. The dried paste, or muku, is then mixed with warm water and a gentle acidic agent, where it is left for several hours, until it has developed a sweet taste, a substance known as “ hupi ”. The remaining sediment, or “ arrope ”, is extracted and boiled with warm water until it has formed a sweet cloudy paste. This paste and the liquid hupi are both cooled, before being once again mixed and poured into earthenware containers, where they are left to ferment for 15 days. It is during this time that the liquid gains into characteristic yellow colour and alcoholic content, and can be called chicha. This process is so simple and widely practiced that houses selling chica in villages are often marked by white flags outside their doors. Chicha can be found through out the Chuquisaca and Cochabamba provinces.




Marriage for the Tarabuqueños, is a deeply ceremonial event, which must always follow the same set rituals. The couple about to be married, firstly buy firewood and maize, before choosing their “helpers”, their best-man and bridesmaids. Once they have decided and asked, both the couple and their companions will journey to the local mill, where they all help to prepare chica, the traditional alcohol drunk at celebrations. The following day the couple will visit their families, to inform them of the wedding, before baking bread. On the day of the wedding itself, invited family and friends will accompany the couple to the church for the civil ceremony, before returning to the Bridegroom's house, where they wait with a group of Pujllay dancers, to celebrate. The couple must pass undera series of arches leading up to the house, prepared by the couple's closest relations and adorned with old notes, drinking a toast under each arch. Directly outside the front door is the largest arch - this scene is often woven in chronological order so that the first scene (above) is of the newly weds passing through the arc with the bridesmaid and best-man at either side. After passing through the arches the party begins and one can see guests dancing and playing music (drums, accordions, charangos), small pukaras and Pujllay dancers. Figures can also be seen serving chicha and preparing it in large vats. Traditionally weddings are open events, in which the whole co0mmunity is invited.

typical wedding scenes, with the preparation of chicha and bread above, and the wedding arch and fstive pucara below  
palm sunday
  A church at Palm Sunday, surrounded by worshippers

A holy week in April, Saints week commences with Palm Sunday , six days prior to Jesus' death, and continues through his believed death and resurrection. The scene shows people going to the church with their ramos (braided palm leaves) which are then blessed by the priest and kept in their houses often hung on the inside of their doors or windows till the following year. It is said that the ramoses are also used to salute and wave to Jesus on that holy Sunday. The religion of Tarabuco is largely Catholic, due to the Hispanic influence, though there also remains a lasting belief in “Pacha Mama”, or Mother Earth; thus, the Tarabuco pallays both show Catholic rituals, such as Palm Sunday and the Fiesta of the Virgin of Rosario (see below), and traditional festivals such as Pujllay and tata pukara, which celebrate Pacha Mama.

All saints day

The 2 nd of November is the festival of Todos Santos , the day that Bolivians believe that the souls of the dead return to earth, and a ritual often woven in Tarabuco mourning pallays. Families will visit the graves of their relatives, and prepare in their houses “ the table of the deceased ”, setting up a table on which they will place small figures made from maize flour, bread, cigarettes, coca leaves and white clay cups containing chicha. Next to the mantel they will always place a small wooden cross, decorated with small chains of white, black and brown paper, as well as a photograph of the deceased. At midnight , the relatives will raise a toast, inviting their dead to “ have the table of the soul”. Accordingly, Tarabuqeños used to believe that food tasted different on Todos Santos, because the souls absorbed the salt and sugar from the food. The relations will then place items on the table appropriate to the deceased, such as agricultural instruments if the relative was male, or beauty items if the relative was female, as well as the relative's favourite foods.

Pallays of Todos Santos are clearly recognised by their use of mourning colours, and central representation of the cemetery. On this day Tarabuqeños will wear mourning clothes , using this type of pallay. If Todos Santos falls on a Tuesday it used to be taken as a bad omen by Tarabuqeños, foretelling of wars, plagues and death. However, if a person dies on Todos Santos itself this is seen as good luck, as their soul can then “journey” in company to the afterlife.

A cementry at Todos Santos  
pujllay festival
  A Pukara at Pujillay, surrounded by festive dancers

Celebrated on the third Sunday of March, the carnival or festival Pujllay is one of the most important festivities in the Tarabuco region, reuniting more than eighty communities. With the word Pujillay meaning “games”, the festival celebrates both Pacha Mama (mother earth), and the souls of those who have died from an accidental or violent death. During Pujllay, Tarabuqueños will wear traditional festival clothing, even more brightly coloured than usual. As well as white and black trousers, and unusually high shoes, one of the most striking additions to the male everyday wear is the “ cofia ”, a type of white coarse cotton stole, heavily decorated with embroidery, and worn in-between the head and the montera, which flows down to the rear in two parts.

During the Pujllay groups of men will dance, with the leader sporting a white flag, directing twelve others, playing traditional instruments. These figures are clearly recognizable in the pallays, by their large size, and clearly drawn cofias and instruments. Men will also hire horses especially for Pujllay, another motif depicted in the pallays. Confetti will be thrown, instruments played, jokes sung between men and women, and games played, as well as Pukaras erected. The pukara is a type of altar in celebration of Pacha Mama, and in memorance of those who have died, which is decorated with fruits, bread, flowers and alcoholic drinks, such as chicha.


virgin celebrations

  The fiestas of the virgin Mary have numerous names, such as Candelaria (from Candelaria), Rosario (Tarabuco), and Guadelupe ( Sucre ) and are celebrated at different times of the year depending on the region.

Fiestas for the virgins are recognizable in the pallays by the clear statue of the virgin, with kneeling followers to one side, and small candles and cups of chicha in front. You can also often see the festival clothes, such as cofias (see “Pujllay"), and people playing instruments, such as pincillos (large flutes made of wood) and drums, as well as motifs of bulls.

Virgin celebrations  


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