"Valicha" A Tale of My Mother's Famed Chicha Brewery in the Andes Mountains
by Vidal Jaquehua
(edited for punctuation and minor changes for clarity by Jacquie Whitt)
Valicha is a popular name for a girl in the Andean Mountains of Peru. Comes from "Valentina," (around here we like to short the names), so probably people short it to Vale. At the same time, we do use a lot of diminutives for our names too, and in Quechua (our old lunguage) the word "Cha" is added at the end of the word so become to be like "the little Valentina." So, the word dady or papi, become to be papicha. Your moom or mami, become to be mamicha, and Valentina, Vale, become to be Valicha.
One of the most popular songs in the Peruvian Andes Mountains is called "Valicha." And in this song you can find the story of an entrepreneur; a girl who ventures from the highlands into the Qosqo valley. (Qosqo is the Qechua word for what is known today as Cusco) Even though Qosqo is located at 11,000 feet altitude, around here is consider the lowlands; one of the valleys of the Andes.
The song starts with a question about Valicha; where they ask about her, "Where did you meet Valicha?" And the answer for it says, for sure that she is already down in the valley of Qosqo,... flirting with some boys. Then right away comes other question where they ask "once in Cusco what will she do?" Then the answer for it comes, and says, for sure that she will go to a local corn brewery, and she'll be grinding corn. The questions keep coming and the next one says,
"You think that thats all that Valicha is doing?" The answer comes and says, for sure that she is down by the barracks stealing some hearts of the those boys.
Here are the lirics of the song (in Quechua)
Valicha, lisa p'asñawan, niñachay deveras,
Qosqo uraypiñachá, niñachay deveras,
Qosqoman chayaruspari, niñachay deveras,
Sapanca Aqha wasikunapi, niñachay deveras,
Chayllataraqchus ruwanman, niñachay deveras,
Cuartel punkukunapis, niñachay deveras,
Photograph by: Denis Jaquehua
This popular song remains me a lot my moom Trinidad. She was born in the highlands in Yanaoca, a small town up in the mountains at 13,000 feet altitude.
And she did grow up helping her parents on the farm and with the small business that my grandma use to have. She use to sell coffee in the main square of the town, so there was people from the town that use to come, and from other villages too. However, once that she grow her feathers and was ready to take off, she did venture into the lowlands, to a bigger city in the Qosqo Valley with more business oportunities for an entrepreneur lady ready to conquer it. Togetter with my father Bonifacio, they start their lives.
They did choose to live in a traditional area in the city, in San Blas, a neighborhood with a lot of artisans and a good variety of people from different villages. We grow up there, 6 children helping moom and dad. The people in the neighborhood know my mather as Trini and right away she become to be a well known lady, becouse she use to bring some crops from the highlands like potatoes, faba beans quinua, etc. We use to deliver it to our neighbors; this was one of the business of my mother. But this use to keep her bussy just over the weekends. During the week she use to cook some traditional dishes, and we use to deliver it to the different workers in town. Still not happy with all that work, she also use to brew corn beer known as "Chicha," a popular alcoholic drink in the Andes.
Mama Trini keep us kids bussy in San Blas. We use to help around, and luckly learn about all those business. Just like our parents we did grow our feathers and take off ...luckly we all stay in Qosqo city. We got an education, and we were able to go to the school or university, and some of us even learn to speck another language, and start with our lifes, (is amazing what you can do once you get an education)
Over the years Mama Trini's 6 children grew up, so we thought that she shoud slow down on her activities, because once that we have some years on top, our bodies doesn't really handle our daly rutine as before. The first tought was that she shouldn't go much to the countryside (back to Yanaoca and work on the farming filds), But little by little you realize that there is a lot of people that is looking to have Mama Trini over there because she does provide jobs to the people in the area. We did manage that we could work some filds and in that way the people get jobs too.
The next plan was to stop the brewery, because it is a lot of work for few pennies. The fact of growing up in a bar you have to learn to coexist with some drunk people around, and now that we own the land in the city we could build a house and rent rooms to the people in the area. So the idea was to change the business. It did work slowly. We start having some local clients and some of them even foreigners. The idea of a bed and breckfast was born in San Blas.
Finally Mama Trini had her income, and the family could life without the drunk people around. So the family had to learn to deal with people from all over and most of them didn't really speack any Spanish or Quechua. The Jaquehua Family had a big change because as the time was going there was more people asking for more rooms in the house and eventually the Blue House Hostel was born. The work in the Blue House was mostly during the moorning; to set up a breackfast, clean up the rooms, check outs, check ins... what a change of riddom!!
We tought that Papa Boni and Mama Trini were happy at home; with a bed and breackfast in their house in San Blas, and with thier kids on their lives. They didn't have to worry about the bills (like electricity, water, internet... etc) We thought that eveyithing was good. But talking to Boni we did realize that they were missing their friends; (human beings, we are gregarious; we need to talk to people, we need to talk about our lifes, about our kids, neighbors etc...) So in the afternoons, secretly my parents were working on their old project, the "chicha" brewery, and their friends were gathering again with Papa Boni and Mama Trini. Every Thursday, the gattering place was the back of their house (people really need to climb a lot of stairs to get to their house; because is build in the middle of the mountain where you dont have car access) However, the local music and the homemade chicha could do more than just some stip stairs.
From that moment people did realize that Mama Trini was back in business and they did start looking for her because the chicha that she brews is just amazing. Nowadays my sisters Ayde and Yemi are taking care of Mama Trini, the small traditional corn beer brewery In Qosqo.
If you would like to visit our family chicheria, just ask Jacquie. She will set it up when you have time in Cusco.