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Peruvian Yawar festivals threaten the Andean Condor's future

Dramatic Yawar festivals are designed to show the triumph of indigenous culture over colonial influence, but the number of condors injured and killed raises fears for the species' survival
Located in Cotabambas, Peru, this sculpture represents the Yawar Fiesta

Yawar Fiesta sculpture

Located in Cotabambas, Peru, this sculpture represents the Yawar Fiesta

The spectacle is dramatic, comic and tragic at the same time. While the bull provides the sound and fury, the Andean condor on its back cuts a ridiculous and pathetic sight as it flails wildly back and forth, beating its wings to retain balance on a bucking perch.

The ritual appears designed to show the triumph of indigenous culture over colonial influence.

The Andean bird rides the symbol of Spanish virility and is then released, while the bulls are often slaughtered.

The Yawar festival is a noisy, two-day affair fueled by the fermented maize drink chicha and marked by no little blood.

One bull is dispatched in the arena and then has its throat cut and hooves carved off in the middle of the crowd. 

The gory glory of the Yawar was made famous by the 1941 novel of the same name, subtitled Fiesta de Sangre (Festival of Blood) by José María Arguedas, an author, anthropologist and champion of Quechua culture known as the Hemingway of the Andes.

His book barely mentions the condor, but an image of the bird is almost always on the cover.

Partly as a result, communities that had never used a condor in their Yawar festivals now do so with increasing frequency.

 "This has changed an awful lot in the past 40 years. Many people because of their beliefs in the importance culturally of the Yawar fiesta – because of Arguedes' book – have begun to do Yawar festivals," says Williams. "Many of these towns who say it is a very important tradition have actually only been doing it for 20, 30 or 40 years." 

Peru's booming economy is adding to the pressures.


Read the full article:  The Guardian