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Native American Chicha Mythology

Chicha is a mildly alcoholic beverage made from fermented corn or manioc root which is traditional to many Central and South American tribes. The name chicha is not actually native to this region, however-- it comes from a Nahuatl word meaning "sour." Through Spanish, the name "chicha" has been borrowed into many South American languages, but variations on the Quechua and Aymara words for the drink, aswa and kusa, are also very common. In Achagua, the word for chicha is ku'liaa.

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Chicha is usually brewed by women, and is strongly associated with hospitality in many South American tribes. It is traditionally offered to guests, and in some tribes it is considered a grave insult to decline a drink of chicha. Legends involving chicha usually have to do with a person demonstrating their rudeness by being ungrateful when chicha is offered or refusing to share chicha with a visitor.

Today, although this traditional indigenous drink (or a very similar non-alcoholic version) is still made in some parts of Central and South America, the word "chicha" is also commonly used to refer to cider or any type of fruit juice in many South American dialects of Spanish, which makes the prevalence of traditional chicha use seem much higher than it actually is!

Native American Legends About Chicha

*Kamaisani, the stingy one:
    South American legend about a woman banished for failing to share chicha with her family.

Recommended Books of Related Stories from Native American Myth and Legend

Cassava and Chicha: Bread and Beer of the Amazonian Indians:
    Interesting book on the importance of manioc chicha to life in the Amazon tribes.
Food, Power, and Resistance in the Andes:
    Book about the meaning and symbolism of Andean foods to the Quechua people.
Native Plant Stories:
    Excellent collection of Native American stories about plants, by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.

Additional Resources

 Native American Indian food
 Inca mythology
 Quechua language
 Arawak languages
 Quechua words
 Languages of South America
 Amazonian tribes
 Andean cultures



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