Manioc beer is a native drink from the Amazon. It is a beverage for the male members in the community, made in a very singular way. It is the result of letting chicha, the most traditional non-alcoholic beverage in the Amazon and in all South America, out at an average temperature for more than 3 days.
Most beverages and plates in the Amazon region are made with local ingredients, and the most popular one for drinks is yucca. With yucca they prepare a beverage called chicha, and also Manioc beer. “Manioc” is “yucca” in some languages, and “nijiamanch” is the name for “manioc beer” in Achuar.
How is manioc beer prepared?
Natives select yuccas carefully. Then they peel them and cook them, and when they are completely soft, they put everything in a bowl and mash it with a huge wooden stick. They will use its flesh to prepare some typical plates such as maito (yucca will be here a side dish, because maito is made from local fish grilled inside palm leaves).
When the yucca is completely mashed, Achuar women chew it in their mouths for approximately 5 minutes. Then they spit it out, back into the bowl, and repeat it until all the content in the bowl is entirely chewed. When the process is complete, they will mix the spat yucca with water and make chicha.
When this chicha has been out for more than three days, it will ferment and turn into an alcoholic beverage, which is the manioc beer as they know it.
A representation of gender roles in native societies
Chicha and manioc beer are both a depiction of how genders play their roles in most indigenous communities: women are gardeners and harvest the plants and roots all the community will consume, and prepare foods and beverages and plates for their husbands, who go hunting and build not only their houses, but their canoes and the tools they will need to hunt and perform other tasks during the day. This fact could be probably explained with a labor shortage, which leads the community to delegate diverse tasks on each member, and this is more accurate than the fact of confronting male chauvinism.
Just as guayusa and its ritual, guayusada, is limited only to the eldest members of the tribe, the manioc beer is only for male members, and chicha is almost the only beverage limited to every member.
To finish, manioc beer is relevant not only for being part the Achuar diet, but also because it is the symbol of rituals and exchanges in the community.
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